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A Changing of the Editorial Guard


Incoming editor Lorelle Semley shares a fresh approach to History in Africa

Lorelle Semley, College of the Holy Cross, is a member of the incoming editorial team at History in Africa along with Teresa Barnes, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Bayo Holsey, Emory University, Egodi Uchendu, University of Nigeria.

What do you anticipate will be the most exciting part of becoming an editor for History in Africa? What will be the most challenging?

It will be most exciting to learnabout the latest developments inthe field from emerging scholarsas well as hear from moreestablished scholars who aretaking their research in newdirections. One challenge --that I rather think of as anopportunity – is expanding thereach of History in Africa whichmay seem like a niche orspecialist journal. Because of itsmethodological focus, History inAfrica does enjoy somereadership beyond the Africanistcommunity; we would like toexpand that reach.

As a scholar, the courses you teach are interdisciplinary by design. How do you think this mindset will impact your work as an editor?

First, while interdisciplinarity hasbeen a buzz word for some time,I don’t think that all scholars arenot able to work acrossdisciplines and methods as muchas they would like. AsAfricanists, we are often trainedin interdisciplinary ways thatshape our development asscholars. Because Iregularly engage with literature,anthropology, political scienceand the arts in the classroom, Iam interested in bringing inscholars from other disciplinesand offering a space tohistorians who are exploringinterdisciplinary approaches intheir own work.

Are there any aspects of History as a discipline, or scholars who present history, that you feel are underrepresented and thus hope to champion as an incoming editor?

I think that one aspect of historical work that could be addressed and explored is the style of historical writing. I would like to support innovative narrative approaches to history. By inviting a range of historical articles including typical essays as well as interviews and other thought pieces, we can think more intentionally about the dynamic between how we research and how we write.

The editorial team chose digital humanities as the first themed issue under your tenure. Why was this particular topic selected and what themes do you hope the issue will discuss?

Digital Humanities is aburgeoning field across all ofacademia and Africanists havebeen addressing the innovativeuses and the problematic aspectsof the “digital turn” for sometime.

On one hand, we want toremind our colleagues of thislong-term focus on digitalhumanities in African Studies. Onthe other hand, by addressingboth the practical and ethicalaspects of digital humanities inAfrican history, we can highlighthow Africanists are at theforefront of these questions inour discipline.

HiA is subtitled “A Journal of Debates, Methods, and Source Analysis” – do you see any emerging debates in the field that will appear in upcoming editions of the journal?

Together with the other membersof the editorial team, we havediscussed a range of otheroptions for future CFPs and wewant to think carefully aboutfuture themes that are distinctand cutting edge. Many of thethings that have beenfashionable in recent years suchas transnationalism or decolonialapproaches have had a longhistory in Africanist scholarshipso we want to identify newfrontiers rather than revisit oldones. But for now, it may be bestto say “stay tuned” as we are stillplanning.

As the print publishing landscape continues to shift, what opportunities do you see for the future of academic journals broadly?

As print publishing engages withnew strategies, it will beimportant to think creatively interms of ways to expand ourdomestic and internationalaudiences.

In your opinion, what sets History in Africa apart from other academic journals?

As a journal focused on methodsand debate from an Africanistperspective, we have thepotential to bridge regional andthematic differences in ourdiscipline while modelling thecore approaches that define usas historians.