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African Studies Association Meeting

20 November 2011

I’m in Washington, DC about to board a flight after attending the annual meeting of the African Studies Association. I was originally coming to present on some co-authored work with Jeremy Horowitz on government transfers in Malawi, particularly the Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme. At the last minute, I was also added to a panel whose theme was on eroding political rights and growing state power. I presented some of our preliminary findings about the July 20 Malawi protests.

The best part of the conference for me — as per usual — is meeting and seeing other scholars with interests in Africa. In addition to seeing old friends from grad school (i.e. @kimfoulds), I get to hang out with other tweeps, with whom I often coverse online (i.e. @texasinafrica and @africasacountry). This is the first academic conference, however, that I’ve spent considerable time with Malawian scholars. The best presentation I’ve been to was one where Blessings Chinsinga was presenting on a paper about the political economy of the Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme (yes, the very same policy Jeremy and I are studying!). Blessings was travelling with Boniface Dulani, a postdoctoral fellow at Michigan State University, who writes a very interesting blog that discusses Malawian politics.

Blessings Chinsinga, presenting at ASA 2011

Generally, the panels I’ve attended seem to have much stronger scholarship (and better author/audience attendance) than I remember from my last ASA in 2007. I recommend looking out for interesting work by Leo Arriola and Chelsea Johnson from UC Berkeley on election violence in democratizing states. Their interesting conclusion is that corruption/clientelism could be a means for reducing the probability of violence in democratizing countries. There was also a great paper by Dan Young and Peter VonDoepp about attacks on the media in Africa. Dan and Peter have done some incredible work collecting data on media attacks across 23 African countries. Their paper suggests major protests and regime moves to change the constitution are associated with increased media harassment. There was also some interesting work presented by Adrienne LeBas that deals with taxation and representation in urban Nigeria.

Click here for the program to see the lineup of presentations.

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