A Nigerian scholar, Wale Adebanwi, has been appointed to the prestigious Rhodes Professorship in Race Relations in the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
Adebanwi, who is currently a professor at the University of California, Davis, United States, will also be a Fellow of St Anthony’s College, Oxford, effective July 1 and the next Director of the African Studies Centre of Britain’s oldest university.
The Rhodes Professorship in Race Relations is named for Cecil Rhodes, British businessman, mining magnate and politician in South Africa who served as Prime Minister of Cape Colony from 1890-1896. The professorship was established by the Rhodesian Selection Trust Mining Company in 1954.
Based on the position announcement, the Rhodes Professor is adjudged “a scholar of international distinction with an outstanding record of research publications in the field of African (sub Saharan) Studies and a proven track record of leadership in research and teaching.”
Adebanwi, 47, is the first black African scholar to be appointed to the endowed Chair since it was created more than 60 years ago. His predecessors are Professor Kenneth Kirkwood, who occupied the chair for 32 years, Professor Terence Ranger, and Professor William Beinart, who retired from the position in 2015.
Dr Adebanwi holds a BSc in mass communication from the University of Lagos, M.Sc and Ph. D. in political science from the University of Ibadan, as well as MPhil and Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge.
Recently, Dr Adebanwi was one of four former Gates Scholars whose “amazing successes” were acknowledged by the Microsoft chief, Bill Gates, who funded his scholarship at Cambridge more than a decade ago. Gates’s acknowledgement of Adebanwi was part of the video message he sent to a gathering of current and former Gate Scholars at Cambridge University during the Gates Cambridge Biennial 2016.
A prolific and versatile scholar, Adebanwi has published widely in the areas of nationalism and ethnic Studies, media and communication, corruption and politics, democracy and democratization, cultural politics, spatial politics, urban studies, and social theory and social thought. In his most recent book Nation as Grand Narrative: The Nigerian Press and the Politics of Meaning, published in 2016, Adebanwi focuses his multi-disciplinary scholarship on salient issues in Nigeria’s troubled history, examining how debates in the newspaper press shaped the narratives as well as the configuration of power.
His influential book, Yoruba Elites and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria: Obafemi Awolowo and Corporate Agency was published by Cambridge University in 2014. His 2012 book Authority Stealing: Anti-corruption War and Democratic Politics in Post-Military Nigeria was selected as one of the three “Best Books on Africa in 2013” by the journal, Foreign Affairs.
Author, editor or co-editor of 10 books, Adebanwi has also published book chapters and many articles in some of the most prestigious journals of social science and humanities scholarship. He has served as co-editor of Journal of Contemporary African Studies and is currently co-editor of Africa: Journal of the International African Institute.
The new Rhodes Professor, formerly a lecturer in political science at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, is a visiting professor at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. He has held visiting fellowships at St Anthony’s College, Oxford, and the Centre for African Studies in Leiden, The Netherlands, and was awarded a Rockefeller fellowship for Academic Writing Residency at its Bellagio Centre, Italy. In 2005, he was a co-winner of a $100, 000 MacArthur Foundation Research grant.
Previously, Dr Adebanwi served as reporter, writer and columnist for various publications in Nigeria, among them Nigerian Tribune, The Punch and TheNEWS, the weekly newsmagazine that was at the spearhead of the resistance to military dictatorship in Nigeria. His 2008 book Trials and Triumphs: The Story of TheNEWS, renders a vivid account of that period.
A keen student of African and international literature, he writes poetry and remains an engaged contributor to the policy dialogue in Nigeria.