Foremost African Historian, Toyin Falola Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Professor Toyin Falola, a Nigerian prominent historian based in the United States, was received the esteemed Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) on Wednesday, May 31st, 2023, for his contributions to African Studies.The entire hall was buzzing with excitement, and word on the street was that this was one of CAAS’s best judgments ever.

CAAS is the umbrella organization for scholars and practitioners dedicated to promoting the study of Africa in Canada, and according to its website, the Lifetime Achievement Award is the Association’s highest honor, given to senior scholars who have been actively involved in CAAS and have retired or are about to retire.

In the words of Prof Nduka OtionoPresident of the Association, “this esteemed accolade recognizes your exceptional contributions, unwavering dedication, and profound impact on the field of African Studies in Canada and beyond.

According to the CAAS website, the selection of Falola for this prestigious award was on the merit of three criteria: (1) a lifetime of sound scholarship, (2) accomplishments (research, teaching and mentoring awards, etc.) and (3) involvement in the activities of CAAS.

The prize was formally awarded to him at the CAAS Annual General Meeting and Conference, which was held at York University, where Toyin Falola had been a professor between 1990 and 1991. Prof Falola joins an outstanding list of former honorees, which includes Prof Paul Lovejoy. The CAAS Distinguished Lifetime Award was given to a scholar for the first time in almost five years.

Toyin Falola is a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities. He was previously the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor of History, which he held from 1995 until 2012.His research interests include African history during the nineteenth century, the African Diaspora, epistemologies, theories, and methods.

Professor Toyin Falola’s contributions to the fields of African Studies and African History have helped to keep Africa on the world map. Falola’s scholarship is not only internationally known, but he is also committed to mentoring a new generation of young and emerging scholars in the social sciences, arts, and humanities.

He also convenes the Annual Africa Conference, a platform for knowledge exchange between scholars from Africa and the diaspora. I had the honour of attending the Africa Conference in 2012, where Falola generously accommodated me in his house after the conference along with other guests from Africa. As a postgraduate student attending the conference from South Africa, this short period of interaction would eventually shape my resolve to aspire to greater heights within the academic space.

Prof Falola received his doctorate in history from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1981, with his thesis titled “The Political Economy of Ibadan, c.1830-1900.”Professor Falola received a D.Litt in African Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2020, more than 40 years after receiving his initial PhD. Professor Falola has received 16 honorary doctorates and more than 40 lifetime honors from various universities and countries.

A brief list includes Monmouth University(2007),City University of New York (2013),Lincoln University (2015),University of Jos (2015), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (2018)Redeemer’s University, Nigeria (2017Federal University, Lokoja(2021)among others.

Falola has also previously been appointed to several distinguished honours, honorary professorships and visiting fellowships at various universities, including the University of Cape Town, South AfricaCentre for African Studies (2018-2022)Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, National Open University, Abuja (2019-2021), Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, Library of Congress (2016)PontifíciaUniversidadeCatólica De São Paulo, Brazil (2007); Humanities Research Council, Australian National University in 1995.

Interestingly, Falola assisted in the organization of the CAAS conference at York University in 1991, where he began his career in North America.He had previously delivered a keynote lecture at the CAAS Conference in 1991, as well as at the recently finished CAAS Conference in 2023.

In the more than 40 years since he left Canada for the United States, Falola has continued to have an impact on the Canadian and North American academic landscapes in general by serving as an external examiner to major Canadian universities such as Queen’s University, York University, Trent University, Dalhousie University, and the University of Toronto, helping to shape the academic depth of African Studies programs in Canada, and being a mentor.

Notably, Falola has supervised over 100 Master’s and Doctoral theses in History and African Studies, as well as reviewed innumerable theses and dissertations.CAAS also recognises and respects Falola’s significant service as a reviewer for the Canadian Journal of African Studies, as well as his longstanding role as a member of the editorial board of York University’s Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora.

Given his excellent and distinguished scholarship and its impact across disciplines, it is not surprising that this is not the first such prestigious lifetime award that Prof Falola has received. Some of his previous awards include the Distinguished Africanist Award in 2011 by the African Studies Association (ASA), which is the largest global Association by scholars of Africa, Nigeria’s highest National Merit Award – Member of Order of the Niger (MON) awarded by former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2022, Award of Excellence in recognition of support of tertiary education by Lagos State University in August 2022, Distinguished Award for Intellectual Contributions to Knowledge and Scholarship, University of Abuja, Nigeria(July 2021), Distinguished Award for Scholarship and Mentorship, Babcock University, (June 2021), Distinguished Africana Award, University of North Carolina, Charlotte (April 2011) among many others.

Several commemorative legacies and honors have also been established in memory of Falola’s outstanding commitment and scholarship to African Studies. The University of Ibadan Cultural Group (ICSG) established the Toyin Falola Annual Conference on Africa and the African Diaspora (TOFAC) in 2011. TOFAC is a large annual conference held in an African institution on many topics.
The Association of Global South Studies also administers the Toyin Falola Book Award for the finest book on Africa. The Toyin Falola Literary Prize, named after him for his contributions to the advancement of African cultures, people, and histories, is also awarded by Lunaris Review. Falola has also served on various Book Prize Committees and as Series Editor for at least a dozen monographs and Encyclopaedias.

Professor Falola has also served as President of important academic associations, including the African Studies Association (2014-2015) and the Nigerian Studies Association (2005-2007). He has also been given various traditional titles, including the Bobagbimo of Ugboland in 2014, the Agbakin of Kusela-Ibadan in 2022, and the NiiK pani Ashaabla 1 of Adabraka Otukpai Palace in Accra, Ghana.

Falola expressed his gratitude to the Board and Members of the Association after receiving the Award at the CAAS conference’s closing ceremony, considering the acknowledgment as a responsibility to do more to expand the boundaries of African epistemic traditions.

Falola applauds the Association for forging the intellectual path for the global advancement of African Studies by creating opportunities for critical debates, research engagements, knowledge exchange, and interactive space between academia, government, and other non-state actors to drive policies, as well as a commitment to ensuring that the systemic issues that Africans and Africans face are confronted through meaningful scholarship.

Professor Falola is being honored today because he has been an integral and memorable element of CAAS’s contribution to African Studies. Prof Falola is deeply humble, and both old and new scholars in the field can learn a lot from his humanism, simplicity, and genuine concern for everyone’s academic well-being.

By: Olusola Ogunnubi – Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University, Canada

Meet Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Nigerian Who Co-Founded Firms Valued At Over $1bn

Ekiti Chef Begins 120-hour Cook-a-thon to Break Guinness Records