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Building peace and democracy in Africa

Northwestern professor Richard Joseph will discuss his work studying politics in Africa

EVANSTON - Richard Joseph, professor of political science and African Studies at Northwestern University, will give a talk on his work studying politics in Africa and why access to information is crucial to democratic governance.

In conjunction with Open Access Week, an international event promoting the practice of making scholarship publicly available online, Joseph’s talk, hosted by Northwestern University Libraries, will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 at the University Library, Forum Room, 1970 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Joseph has advised former Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter on U.S.-Africa policy.

In his talk, Joseph will trace how immersive learning and Open Access have been central to his life and professional career. Included will be observations from the late 1950s of the independence movement in his native Trinidad-and-Tobago; experiences in the 1960s in the American civil rights movement; pioneering research on Cameroon and Nigeria in the 1970s; and continued engagement as a scholar, teacher and policy analyst.

After sustained efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and civil society organizations in Africa, “patrimonial autocracy” once again characterizes most governments, although multiparty elections may be regularly held, Joseph said. The gap also is widening in scholarship, teaching and learning between richer and poorer countries. Northwestern’s Arch Library is building a digital repository that makes it possible to address these related challenges.

Already available on its site is “Africa Demos” (1990-1995), a Carter Center bulletin that monitored democratic openings, and “AfricaPlus” (2012-2017), a blog that covered peace, democracy and development in the continent. The latter also includes essays by other scholars. A third digital publication was started this year on Arch: “The Nigerian Crucible: Politics and Governance in a Conglomerate Nation, 1977-2017.” When the five parts are completed in 2018, more than 50 articles, book chapters, essays and lectures by Joseph will be freely available to anyone with Internet access.

A fourth series, “Freedom Gates: Building Peace and Democracy in Africa,” like their predecessors, involves extensive contributions from student-researchers.

Over the summer, Joseph made his personal archives from the Carter Center -- a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter --  available in a pilot project to Northwestern student-researchers. Joseph served as a fellow of the Carter Center from 1988-1994 and was the founding director of its African Governance Program.

While visiting the Center in September, the students had the opportunity to meet with President Carter and listen to his vivid recollection of past political events. He also gave a candid assessment of several African leaders with whom he negotiated and was able to offer insight to the students on some of their research projects.

Topics: Global, Libraries

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