Professor Caroline Elkins, founding director of the Center for African Studies, has been named the Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Center for African Studies at Harvard University, in honor of Jonathan and Jennifer (’89 and J.D. ’93) Oppenheimer. They are long-time supporters of Africa-related initiatives at Harvard, and are also strong advocates of increasing opportunities for African scholars.
Elkins was appointed faculty chair of the Committee on African Studies in 2009. She then oversaw the transformation of the committee into a center with a vastly expanded program and staff, and became the center’s founding director in 2014. Elkins, professor of history and of African and African American Studies, specializes in the history of colonialism in Africa, and is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya.”
“I could not be more proud to serve as the inaugural Oppenheimer Faculty Director,” said Elkins. “The Center for African Studies aims to be the pre-eminent center for the study and teaching of Africa in the world, and the Oppenheimers’ generous support and pioneering vision has been an essential part of that process.”
The Center for African Studies is Harvard’s University-wide hub for resources and opportunities related to Africa. These include postdoctoral and visiting scholar programs; language, travel, and research grants for undergraduates and graduate students; support for conferences, events, and outreach; and fellowships and faculty-led initiatives. In addition, the center generates collaborative research and teaching and learning opportunities around five thematic initiatives: Africa and China; Islam and Africa; Africa and the Global South; Global Public Health and Human Rights; and African Humanities in the Twenty-First Century. Harvard currently has nearly 500 faculty members teaching and doing research on Africa, more than 400 Africa-related courses, and instruction in 39 African languages. The U.S. Department of Education named the Center a National Resource Center for African Studies from 2010 through 2017.