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  • Reflections on The GSA @30
  • Ben Talton (bio)

I attended my first GSA (GSC at the time) meeting during the 1998 African Studies Association conference in Chicago. I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago at the time and attended the annual meeting only because, as a volunteer at the registration booths, ASA waived my registration fee. The GSC meeting was serious business. I recall sitting in the back of the room excited to be among so many scholars whose articles and books I had read that very year. I quickly learned that apart from the staid nature of its proceedings, this small, but vibrant and productive, intellectual community derived strength from the dedicated support of its members.

During the past ten years, the Ghana Studies Association has built itself into a truly global organization. As president from 2007 to 2011, Dennis Laumann was instrumental in expanding the association's presence beyond the annual meeting and the journal Ghana Studies, and he formalized an executive board of past presidents, which institutionalized oversight and a sense of continuity of leadership. By stabilizing the association's finances and membership, and generally improving its core programs, he laid the foundation for the association to pursue more creative initiatives. The GSA was markedly different at the end of Professor Laumann's tenure, in ways beneficial to the association's long-term health. And he made the meetings fun; even at times, one might say, rambunctious.

Although not all years have generated equally robust and generous support, it has been exciting to witness and be a part of the GSA's efforts to enhance, and in some cases institutionalize, mechanisms for engagement and collaboration among members, including the Ghana Studies journal, the annual research grant, sponsored panels during the ASA conference, and more recently our triennial GSA conference and social media presence. [End Page 133] And we also now contribute to debates over what constitutes important and high-level research through our Outstanding Article Award that we inaugurated in 2016.

In 2011, I was fortunate to follow Professor Laumann as president and inherit the momentum and growth he was central to generating for the association. During the next three years we strove to build on the GSA's many strengths. We continued to cultivate avenues to support our members' intellectual engagement locally (whether in Ghana, the United States, or Europe) and internationally. Our growing online presence was a strong boost to this effort. For over a decade, Professor Larry Yarak hosted and maintained the GSA/GSC website. He also founded and for many years edited Ghana Studies. In this and other less heralded ways, Professor Yarak was a critical part of setting the organization's collective intellectual work in motion.

In 2012, we hired a GSA member to work with Professor Yarak to upgrade the webpage to its current domain. Between the new website and the GSA Facebook page set up two years earlier, the GSA emerged with a member-driven social media platform. Previously, the annual newsletter carried news and announcements, and the annual GSA meeting centered on updates on initiatives, membership, and finances. Our new easy-to-manage website and the control that members maintain over Facebook page content have provided the GSA with a more inclusive, dynamic, and member-centered quality. An example of this dynamism is the prominence that the discourse and images related to popular culture in Ghana have gained on the Ghana Studies Facebook page, due in large part to the attentive curation of GSA member Joseph Frimpong.

The GSA's triennial conference also provides a forum for GSA members' engagement and collaboration outside of the annual meeting. The germ for the conferences came from a series of conversations I had with GSA member Nate Plageman in 2010 and 2011. We mulled over what it would take to hold a biennial conference but decided that triennial conferences would allow more time for planning and would not undermine existing GSA programs and initiatives. We also decided that the location should rotate to a different city in Ghana with each conference. For the first triennial conference, at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Dr...


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