Who We Are

The APCG promotes the recognition of the theoretical and methodological contributions of Africa-focused research to the discipline of political science; it works to expand the presence and profile of Africanist political science within African Studies; and, each year, it acknowledges the best research in African politics. A brief history and timeline of the organization are provided below.


The impetus to form the African Politics Conference Group was the widely shared perception among African politics specialists that scholarship on the subject had long needed and deserved far more visibility and coverage in our professional associations than it had been receiving.

The opportunity to act came in 1999 when the American Political Science Association became concerned that its membership growth had reached a plateau. It reached out to the African Studies Association and other area studies associations in an effort to attract political scientists working in these areas who were not members of APSA. The APSA invited each area studies associations to designate a representative to serve on its newly formed Area Studies Liaison Group. The African Studies Association Board appointed John Harbeson, Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York, as its representative.  


Harbeson noted that other area studies association, notably the Latin American Studies Association, were already organized as APSA Related Groups, entitling them to at least one panel at APSA annual meetings. Related groups could be recognized when they had as few as 50 paid APSA member affiliates, whereas the organized sections required a much higher number of numbers (at that time, 200; currently, 250 paid members).


With encouragement from both APSA and ASA, Harbeson initiated a call to Africanist political scientists to assist in the formation of an APSA related group. Approximately eighty political scientists signed a petition for the formation of the group. After the drafting of a statement of purpose and a provisional set of bylaws, Harbeson’s guidance led to the formation in 2001 of the African Politics Conference Group as an related group of APSA. For the first four years, an informal steering committee worked to develop APCG as an organization and expand its presence at APSA and other conferences. This group included Harbeson, Nelson Kasfir of Dartmouth College, Catherine Boone of the University of Texas at Austin, Anne Pitcher of the University of Michigan, and Gretchen Bauer of the University of Delaware.


The preamble to APCG’s Bylaws stated its purpose as drafted: “To promote recognition within professional associations of the theoretical and methodological contributions to the disciple of political scientists whose research and professional interests center largely or in part upon sub-Saharan Africa.”  Formation of the APCG advanced APSA’s growing interest in internationalizing its membership and professional focus with the end of the Cold War. APCG’s formation increased opportunities for Africa specialists to establish their contributions to broadening and enriching the field of political science   


APCG was always viewed as a group that would enhance the profile and influence of Africanist Political Science within APSA and other conferences. At one of APCG’s very first meetings at the African Studies Association annual meeting in 2002, the membership voted to seek coordinate organization status with ASA in order to increase a focus on politics in its annual meeting panels and roundtables. ASA approved the application in 2002, which allowed APCG to organize at two panels at each ASA annual meeting. This panel allocation has increased in subsequent years. Also at its first business meetings at ASA and APSA, the membership voted to seek Cooperating Organization status with the International Studies Association, which then guaranteed APCG at least two panels at ISA’s annual meetings. Attendance at APCG panels was strong from the beginning and contributed to the organization’s expanding membership, which included an increasing number of graduate students, reflecting expanding interest in sub-Saharan Africa within the discipline of political science.


APCG has sought from the outset to enable more scholars from Africa to participate in its activities. Within the first three years, APCG’s membership grew to over 200 members, as scholars responded strongly to these newly enhanced opportunities to discuss with each other both the study and the teaching of African politics.  Beginning about 2003, APCG established a dues requirement and began to make dues payment a requirement for participation in its annual meeting panels.  


The following timeline represents some of the key moments in the organization’s evolution.

2004APCG presents first best book and best article awards at ASA.
2005Inauguration of APCG’s Newsletter, initially edited by Staffan Lindberg of the University of Florida, and its website, initially managed by Dennis Galvan of the University of Oregon.

APCG conducts its first elections for officers, which were installed at the ASA meetings in New Orleans in November. John Harbeson was selected as first chair; Nelson Kasfir as vice chair; Catherine Boone as secretary; Anne Pitcher as treasurer; and Gretchen Bauer as at-large member of the steering committee.
2008APCG members work with APSA president Ira Katznelson to secure a three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation to fund annual workshops in sub-Saharan Africa to allow for intensive training on topical issues for approximately 20 African scholars and a smaller number of US-based participants. The workshops were held in Dakar, Gabarone, Nairobi, and several other African cities. The Mellon Foundation covered the full costs of travel and lodging for program participants, and APSA extended three-year memberships to African participants.
2009APCG establishes a mentoring program for graduate students and younger scholars under the leadership of Elke Zuern, Sandra Joireman, and Keisha Haywood. In 2011, following negotiations with APSA spearheaded by Sandra Joireman, APCG decides to work through APSA’s mentoring program.

Dennis Galvan establishes new website. Among its new features are a members’ discussion forum and a teaching forum, include members’ African politics-related course syllabi.

APCG establishes a new award for the best graduate student paper presented at ASA, APSA, and ISA meetings.
2010APSA’s Africa Workshop Program, supported by the Mellon Foundation, is extended for a further four years. APCG members have been active in all of these workshops, both as participants and as workshop leaders.

APCG creates a Facebook page.
2011Lynne Rienner, of Lynne Rienner Publishers endows an annual award for the best dissertation completed each year.

The journal African Affairs endows an annual award for the best paper presented by a graduate student in the previous year.
2012APCG’s newsletter features its first symposia co-edited by Ali Mari Tripp and Gretchen Bauer on New Directions in Gender and Politics Scholarship: Transforming the Study of African Politics.

APCG sponsors its first panel at the Midwest Political Science meetings in Chicago, consolidating cooperation with the MPSA African Politics section, which continues to the present.
2013APCG graduates from being a Related Group in APSA to an of organized section of the American Political Science Association. This gives APCG more panels and roundtables at APSA annual meetings, as well as expanded involvement in organizational decision-making. APCG’s affiliations with ISA and ASA continue.
2014APCG publishes its initial African Politics Conference Group Handbook.
2015In 2015, APCG inaugurates its Distinguished Africanist award, named it for its founding chair, John Harbeson. Harbeson was named the first recipient.