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Nigerian Appointed As First Black African Rhodes Professor At Oxford University

Oxford University has announced the appointment of a U.S.-based Nigerian, Wale Adebanwi, to the prestigious Rhodes Professorship in Race Relations in the School of African and Interdisciplinary Area Studies.

The appointment was recently announced in the university gazette. Mr. Adebanwi who is currently a professor at the University of California, Davis, United States, will also be a Fellow of the St. Anthony’s College, Oxford effective July 1. Oxford University is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second oldest university in continuous operation. The university has produced 28 Nobel laureates, 27 British Prime Ministers and many foreign heads of state. 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 at Oxford. Mr. Adebanwi is the first black scholar to be appointed to the endowed Chair since it was created more than 60 years ago. He was preceded by three distinguished scholars.

The new Rhodes Professor was a Bill and Melinda Gates Scholar at Cambridge University. He holds two PhDs, one in political science from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and the other in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge, UK. In September 2014, alongside three other former Gates Scholars, his “amazing success” since graduating from Cambridge was acknowledged by the world’s richest man, Bill Gates, who funded his scholarship at Cambridge more than a decade ago. Gates’s acknowledgement of Mr. 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. Mr. 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, Mr. 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.

The newly appointed Rhodes Professor is the editor or co-editor of 10 books. 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. Adebanwi, who was 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 a Rockefeller fellowship for Academic Writing Residency at its Bellagio Centre, Italy. In 2005, he was a co-winner of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Research grant.

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