Building Peace and Democracy in Africa: Why Open Access Knowledge is Vital

Dr Joseph and students with Jimmy Carter

Northwestern student researchers and Professor Joseph with President Jimmy Carter

In conjunction with Open Access Week, which raises awareness of making scholarship publicly available online, Northwestern Libraries will host Dr. Richard Joseph, Professor of Political Science and African Studies at Northwestern University. Professor Joseph will give a talk on his work studying politics in Africa and why access to information is crucial to democratic governance.

In his October 24 talk, Joseph will trace how immersive learning and open access publications have been central to his life and professional career. Included will be observations from the late 1950s of the independence movement in his native Trinidad-and-Tobago; experiences in the 1960s in the American Civil Rights movement; pioneering research on Cameroon and Nigeria in the 1970s; and continued engagement as a scholar, teacher, and policy analyst.

“After sustained efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and civil society organizations in Africa, “patrimonial autocracy” once again characterizes most governments,” notes Joseph. “The gap is also widening in scholarship, teaching, and learning between richer and poorer countries. Northwestern Libraries’ Arch, an open access digital repository, helps to address these related challenges.”

Several of Joseph’s publications are already available on Arch: Africa Demos (1990-1995), a Carter Center bulletin that monitored democratic openings; AfricaPlus (2012-2017), a blog that covered peace, democracy and development in the continent, including essays by other scholars; and the in-progress publication The Nigerian Crucible: Politics and Governance in a Conglomerate Nation, 1977-2017. When completed in 2018, The Nigerian Crucible will include more than 50 articles, book chapters, essays, and lectures by Prof. Joseph and all of it will be freely available to anyone with internet access.

Joseph is planning to publish a fourth series on Arch, Freedom Gates: Building Peace and Democracy in Africa, which, like their predecessors, involves extensive contributions from student-researchers. Over this past summer as part of a pilot project, six Northwestern students worked with Joseph to make available on Arch primary documentation on Carter Center initiatives in Africa. The pilot project culminated in meetings at the Carter Center on September 12 and a candid conversation with former president Jimmy Carter.

Additional details about the October 24 talk can be found on the Planit Purple event page.