Andrea Johnson: Why Humanities Scholarship Matters in Africa


While renewed support for higher education on the part of African governments and international donors is welcome, in practice, this support often translates into calls for an almost complete emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.  Of course STEM is important, but we cannot lose sight of the critical contributions of humanities scholarship—the study of people and culture. Knowledge of culture is valuable in its own right, but I would argue that failure to understand and appreciate the cultural context in which efforts to advance economic, political, and social well-being take place, frequently results in failed interventions.  The scholars presenting their work here—all fellows of the African Humanities Program—reveal the humanity of former child soldiers in Liberia; the interplay among the arts, religion, and gender in combating HIV/AIDS in Tanzania; and the human ramifications of legal reform in Uganda.  All original contributions to scholarship, and all filled with indispensable knowledge to inform practical application. Learn more about the African Humanities Program.