By Jean Roth
Allen F. Roberts to Head James S. Coleman African Studies Center
Allen F. Roberts has been named director of the UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center.
At UCLA he has taught courses through World Arts and Cultures on global identities; myth, magic and mind; theories of performance; and visual cultures.
Allen F. Roberts has been named director of the UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center, a center at International Studies and Overseas Programs (ISOP), effective July 1. Roberts, a cultural anthropologist and professor in the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures, succeeds Edmond Keller, who directed the center for nine years.
Roberts was welcomed in his new position by Geoffrey Garrett, the new vice provost for ISOP. “I look forward to working with Allen and continuing the already distinguished work of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center,” Garrett said. “Allen’s expertise in the impact of globalization on cultures and identities is particularly appealing to me in my efforts to enhance collaborative cross-regional work among ISOP centers.”
Garrett also acknowledged the excellent work of Keller in his term as director. “UCLA is very fortunate to have had Ed Keller as director of the African Studies Center for nearly a decade,” he said. “Ed was instrumental in furthering African studies by securing major funding, and creating strong community outreach programs encompassing international business conferences and public information forums. We all thank him for his years of tireless service.”
Allen Roberts has extensive experience in symbolic anthropology and art history, local-level politics, comparative religion, development and applied anthropology, and public health. At UCLA he has taught courses through World Arts and Cultures on global identities; myth, magic and mind; theories of performance; and visual cultures.
Prior to his appointment as director of the center, Roberts served as vice chair of World Arts and Cultures, helping to launch a new M.A./Ph.D. program in Culture and Performance. He also serves on the advisory boards of Islamic Studies, the Center for the Study of Religion and the Folklore Program.
“While encouraging the James S. Coleman African Studies Center’s brilliant heritage in anthropology, economics, education, ethnomusicology, folklore, history, African languages and linguistics, political science, public health, and other fields, I hope to emphasize UCLA’s growing strength in African arts and humanities,” Roberts said.
Roberts said that a number of recent hires in several departments across campus have added significant strength to UCLA’s already important resources in African humanities, which include the African Arts journal, the vast collections of African materials at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History and UCLA’s celebrated, arts-interested Africanist faculty.
Roberts, who is fluent in French and Swahili, has lived and conducted research in francophone Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabon, Mali, Senegal and Democratic Republic of Congo/Zaire) for more than a dozen years, and has also worked in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
His doctoral research focused on the cultural history, political economy and cosmology of the Tabwa people of southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Roberts has collaborated on a number of books and innovative exhibitions of African art with his wife Polly (aka Dr. Mary Nooter Roberts, deputy director and chief curator at the Fowler Museum), including “Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History” in 1996, which won the College Art Association’s Alfred Barr Award for Museum Scholarship, the first Africanist book to be so honored.
Their current research, based upon studies conducted in Dakar since 1994, is leading to “Passport to Paradise: Sufi Arts of Senegal and Beyond,” a major exhibition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities that will open at the Fowler in early 2003.
The James S. Coleman African Studies Center was established in 1959 in response to the growing national interest in the region, and to develop outreach, academic and research programs on Africa. Increased national demand for new language and area skills soon led to its designation as one of ISOP’s several National Resource Centers. For more information on the center please visit www.isop.ucla.edu/jscasc.
Published: Wednesday, August 08, 2001