Kenyan pastoralists, an Ethiopian emperor, 9/11 are lecture topics

Contact: Margaret von Steinen

KALAMAZOO--Three nationally and internationally recognized scholars will give campus presentations beginning this month as part of the spring 2012 Distinguished Lectures on Africa Series.

The talks, which are free and open to the public, are being hosted by Western Michigan University's Center for African Development Policy Research.

Photo of Bilinda .


Dr. Bilinda Straight, WMU associate professor of anthropology, will present "Health Outcomes of Inter-community Violence in Three Northern Kenyan Pastoralist Communities" from 3 to 4:30 p.m., Monday, March 12, in Room 2028 of Brown Hall. Straight works with Samburu pastoralists in northern Kenya, examining consciousness, cosmology, material culture, gender, health and violence.

A cultural anthropologist, she has received numerous grants and awards from such organizations as the Fulbright program and National Science Foundation. Her scholarly work has been published in a variety of journals and edited volumes. She wrote the 2007 book, "Miracles and Extraordinary Experience in Northern Kenya," and edited the 2005 book, "Women on the Verge of Home."

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Dr. Theodore Vestal, professor emeritus of political science at Oklahoma State University, will present "Ethiopian-American Relations during the Reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, 1930-1974" from 3 to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 28, in Room 2028 of Brown Hall. Vestal has served as an expert witness in more than 115 political asylum cases of Ethiopians and Eritreans since 1996.

He served as a Peace Corps executive in Ethiopia from 1964 to 1966 and has maintained an academic interest in the country and its people ever since. Vestal wrote the 2011 book, "The Lion of Judah in the New World: Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the Shaping of Americans' Attitudes toward Africa," and the 1999 book, "Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State."

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Dr. David Wiley, professor of sociology and former director of the African Studies Center at Michigan State University, will present "Africa After 9/11: Rethinking U.S. Definitions and Policies" from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., Thursday, April 12, in Room 2028 Brown Hall. Wiley served as director of the African Studies Center at MSU from 1978 to 2008 and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1972 to 1977.

He is conducting research on militarization in Africa. His previous research has focused on internationalization and less commonly taught languages in the United States and, while a Fulbright-Hays Senior Fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natalas, on urban housing and development in Zambia, race relations and religious movements in Zimbabwe, participatory fisheries management in Kenya, and urban environment in South Africa. Most recently, Wiley co-edited the 2010 book, "International and Language Education for a Global Future: Fifty Years of the U.S. Title VI and Fulbright-Hays Programs."

The Center for African Development Policy Research lecture series is being co-sponsored by WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education; departments of Anthropology, Economics, Foreign Languages, History, Political Science, Sociology and Spanish; Timothy Light Center for Chinese Studies; Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion; University Center for the Humanities; and Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations.

For more information about the series, contact Dr. Sisay Asefa, director of the African development policy research center and professor of economics, at or (269) 387-5556. Visit for more about the center.