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ACSUS celebrates four years of excellence

- Wits University

ACSUS at Wits commits to Global South scholarship on the superpower’s emerging futures.

The first research hub on the African continent to turn its gaze on the US, the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS), based at Wits University, marked its fourth-year anniversary with a renewed vigour to study the US in the context of precarious emerging futures.

ACSUS was launched in March 2018 and has since rapidly grown to become the definitive hub for Africa-generated knowledge and nuanced understandings of the US as a nation and society.

Both locally and globally, deepening inequality and poverty, as well as climate change, have significant impacts on Africa. These are influenced by US politics, culture and society in ways tangible and opaque.

It was for this reason that ACSUS was formed, with the purpose of serving as an intellectual base for studying the US and particularly that country’s relationship to Africa.

 The Centre prioritises scholarship about the US and its complicated history to allow Africans to understand themselves better.

Opening the four-year anniversary celebrations at the Wits Club on Thursday, 31 March was Professor Gilbert Khadiagala, director at ACSUS and the Jan Smuts Professor of International Relations at Wits. He noted that humanity learns through comparison and that studying other regions is critical for understanding one’s own politics and culture.

Mr Vincent Spera, the US Consul General, said that the US Embassy has sustained a relationship with Wits University for many years, which indicates a strong relationship between the US’s political structures and academia.

“It’s not enough to work in our silos. The more collaboration the better. And this extends to government, NGOs and other academic partners,” he said.

Professor Lynn Morris, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation at the University of the Witwatersrand, extended congratulations to ACSUS on its fourth anniversary.

“As many of you know, Wits celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. I’d like to take this opportunity to locate ACSUS in the context of Wits University’s research footprint, which I believe makes the University a jewel in the African crown,” said Morris. “Wits owns part of a World Heritage Site, a rural campus, a private teaching hospital that produces the most specialists in the country, two commercial companies with one having over 70 divisions undertaking vaccine trials and strengthening health systems, sports teams, a world-class art museum, and a planetarium. Wits’ doctors work throughout the public sector. Wits’ reach and contribution to society is immense, and its impact is often unmeasurable.”

Morris echoed Wits’ Vice-Chancellor, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi’s vision for Wits to form part of a formidable, international network, to ensure flexible staff-student exchanges, and collaborative research projects to address real world problems.

Khadiagala noted that by gaining an understanding of America’s culture, including its history and cultural origins, we can understand how that superpower influenced other nations and continues to have a formidable, dominating presence on the global stage.

“Wits is excited for the future of the African Centre and knows that it will leave an inspired and indelible mark on broader society. May ACSUS continue to harness its impressive resources for the betterment of us all,” concluded Morris.