Kelly Askew

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Kelly Askew

Professor of Anthropology and Afroamerican and African Studies

201-B West Hall, 1085 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1107

Office Location(s): 201-B West Hall
Phone: 734.647.4434

  • Affiliation(s)
    • African Studies Center
  • About

    Kelly Askew is Director of the African Studies Center and Professor of Anthropology and DAAS. She has worked for over two decades in Tanzania and Kenya. Her writings and film projects span two primary research areas: poetic arts as vehicles for populist engagement with politics, and the formalization of property rights. Recent film projects include: (1) Poetry in Motion: 100 Years of Zanzibar’s Nadi Ikhwan Safaa (Buda Musique, forthcoming 2015) on Zanzibar’s oldest taarab orchestra; and (2) The Chairman and the Lions (Documentary Educational Resources, 2013), which won 1st place at the ETNOFilm Festival (Croatia, 2013) and a Special Jury Award at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (Tanzania, 2013). She is currently in post-production on a new film entitled Maasai Remix about indigenous creativity in addressing challenges to Maasai pastoralist livelihoods.


    In addition to her research in East Africa on performance, nationalism, media, postsocialism, and the privatization of property rights, Dr. Askew has pursued various film and video projects. Most recently, Dr. Askew has worked on a four-part video documentary series, Rhythms from Africa (Tomas Film/Acacia Productions, 2004), which explores music in South Africa and in Zanzibar, and a full-length feature documentary film Poetry in Motion: 100 Years of Zanzibar’s Nadi Ikhwan Safaa (Jahazi Media, 2011) covering the history of Zanzibar’s oldest taarab orchestra.


    Dr. Askew is the recipient of numerous awards, including being selected as a Fellow for the Berlin Institute of Advanced Studies (to be held during the 2012-13 academic year), the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award, and research fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Ford Foundation, Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and Fulbright Association. She is Co-Principal Investigator on a $1.5 million grant from USAID to strengthen engineering education in Liberia, part of an $18.5 million effort titled Excellence in Higher Education for Liberian Development (EHELD), which constitutes a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Rutgers, North Carolina State, Kwame Nkrumah University for Science and Technology and RTI International.

  • Education
    • PhD 1997 Harvard University
  • Research Areas of Interest
    • Socialism/postsocialism
    • privatization of property rights and land conflicts
    • performance, music, and media
    • cultural politics and nationalism
    • Swahili studies
    • Tanzania, East Africa