[Mansa-l] Some suggestions

Martin Klein martin.klein at utoronto.ca
Thu Dec 4 11:21:02 CST 2008

Dear colleagues,

I would like to congratulate Kassim and Barbara on their election. I 
would also like make some suggestions about process. David Conrad has 
functioned brilliantly for 22 years as a democratically elected monarch. 
We all appreciate his devoted leadership. Nevertheless, when a king 
yields to a republican form of government, we have to ask what rules we 
want. The present rules are inadequate.

First, there should be a secret ballot. To vote, I had to write three 
members of the electoral committee, all of whom know how I voted.

Second, there should be an automatic succession from vice-president to 
president. There should be an election every two years for 
vice-president. The vice-president should then automatically succeed to 
the presidency. Power in academic organizations is evanescent. Whatever 
program the candidate has, it is over before he or she can do anything. 
The automatic success guarantees that the incoming president is 
experienced and that there is an orderly process of succession. This is 
how most academic organizations function.

Third, there is a problem of our different constituencies. We consist of 
three groups. Mansa sometimes functions as an American organization. It 
meets annually at the ASA meeting and Americans dominate the planning 
for our international meetings. The second group is European. Some 
attend the ASA and many attend our international meetings. There should 
be someone, perhaps Jan, who can coordinate events within Europe. Are 
there Mansa panels at the Aegis meeting? Two years ago, I heard Petr 
Skolnik plead with Russian colleagues at a Moscow conference to get 
involved with Aegis. Perhaps, European members of Mansa should do 
likewise. Maybe, they should have an information network on events in 
Europe dealing with Mande history and culture. The third constituency is 
those who come from the areas we study. We all know the problems they 
have funding research and travel, but there are organizations and 
meetings within Africa. Perhaps, through WARA or CODESRIA, they can 
become a more autonomous group functioning within the MAnde homelands. 
This relates to a larger question that should be of concern to all of 
us, that agendas within all scholarly disciplines are determined by 
people outside Africa. We have tried to facilitate participation by our 
African brethren in our international meetings, but this is probably not 
enough. There are organizations that can articulate African agendas. The 
recognition of a group within Mansa could contribute to that goal.

These ideas are to stimulate discussion. I hope that others pick up on them.

Martin Klein

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