UP awards honorary doctorate to renowned African Studies and History scholar Professor Toyin Falola

Posted on May 15, 2024

The University of Pretoria (UP) has honoured globally acclaimed African Studies and History scholar Professor Toyin Falola with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his distinguished academic achievements and outstanding contributions as a public intellectual.

Prof Falola is a Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, an Extraordinary Professor of Politics at UP, and Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at Lead City University in Ibadan, Nigeria. He serves as an Honorary Professor at the University of the Free State and is on the International Advisory Board of the Thabo Mbeki African School of Public and International Affairs (TM-School) at the University of South Africa (Unisa). He is also a founding Advisory Board Member of the African Centre for the Study of the United States at UP (ACSUS-UP).

In his response, Prof Falola said he is “honoured” by UP’s recognition of his work and career, and reiterated, “This acknowledgement is an affirmation of our shared commitment to co-create knowledge that advances our understanding of the humanities in the past, present and future with the intention of enhancing the human experience."

Prof Falola is regarded as one of Africa’s most distinguished historians, and has authored and edited over 200 books. His academic career started in 1973 at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria, where he graduated with a PhD in History in 1981.

“Within the same decade, Prof Falola rose to become a full professor and a distinguished scholar. Within four years of completing his PhD, he had produced major essays and two award-winning books,” said Professor Christopher Isike, Acting Head of UP’s Department of Political Sciences and Director of ACSUS-UP.

Prof Falola’s impact on the discipline and the academy was described in 1988 by West Africa, a leading international journal, as “meteoric, and nothing short of a revolution.”

“What is more compelling is his innovative contributions not only to African history, African Studies, and the humanities broadly, but also his demonstrated contributions as a renowned public intellectual to Africa’s development from both home and abroad the continent,” Prof Isike said.

“Through painstaking research and publications, Prof Falola has expanded the frontier of knowledge on Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in many pioneering works. He has produced a large body of new empirical data which has been used to fill major gaps in the literature, such as the understanding of power relations, status, gender, class and ideology; the development of the indigenous economies in the context of global expansion; the creation of new cultures in the light of the penetration of Christianity, Islam and Western influences; and the possibility of drawing on African ideas to formulate important frameworks and models not just to understand Africa, but the discipline of history itself.”

These solid academic accomplishments have made Prof Falola one of the most prolific historians of African origin, and the most cited of his time. His work and influence have led to him contributing to the activities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on matters related to refugees, peace-making and conflict resolution.

“Overall, Prof Falola’s contributions to African history are solid, enduring, impressive and monumental,” Prof Isike concluded. “Besides his outstanding academic achievements, his life has been that of service to the university, the larger community, the academic world, and the continent. The University of Pretoria is honoured to recognise his selflessness to scholarship and research, his passion for the transformation of the continent, his pan-Africanist spirit, and a future that will produce more original works through Falola and other Africans to come.”

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