The Fage and Oliver Prize

The ASAUK presents the Fage & OIiver Prize to the author of an outstanding original scholarly work published on Africa during the preceding 2 years.

John Donnelly Fage (1921-2002) and Roland Oliver (1923-2014) were pioneers of British African Studies.  After a decade teaching in the University of the Gold Coast, Fage spent the rest of his career at Birmingham University where he founded the Centre for West African Studies (CWAS).  With Oliver he founded The Journal of African History (1960).  Oliver taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies (1948 -1986).  He was one of the founders of the African Studies Association of the United Kingdom (1963) and played a major role in the establishment of the British Institute in Eastern Africa.

The winner of the 2018 Fage and Oliver Prize is Francis B Nyamnjoh, for #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa (Bamenda: Langaa RPCIG, 2016)

This was announced at the Biennial ASAUK Conference in Birmingham in 2018. 

Professor Nyamnjoh attended the 2018 ASAUK conference at the University of Birmingham. He offered the following thoughts on his award:

“Let me start by thanking the organisers of ASAUK 2018 – Dr Insa Nolte and her team at the University of Birmingham, as well as the members of the committee for the Fage & Oliver Prize for 2018. I felt truly honoured and inspired by the Fage & Oliver Prize for my 2016 monograph, #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa. I accepted the award in recognition of the pioneering emphasis by John Donnelly Fage and Roland Oliver on rich ethnographic accounts of a dynamic Africa in conversation with a nimble-footed world of unequal encounters. In light of the challenges highlighted by the RhodesMustFall student movement at UCT, across South Africa, and in Oxford and beyond, I see the award as an emphatic encouragement for me to continue to research and encourage research on the challenges and need to bring into productive conversations of different traditions of knowing and knowledge production in our quest to understand Africa and Africans in their nuanced complexities. In this regard, the need to invest in critical intergenerational conversations on the meaning of Africa in historical perspective that is sensitive to the multiple sensibilities of being and becoming African, cannot be overstated. Doing justice to such a weighty imperative requires an alertness to the normalcy of the humility of incompleteness and the universality of mobility.

Lastly, I see the award as a recognition for the study of interconnections. Among many an ordinary African in many a community in rural and urban Africa, the belief in interconnections and in inclusivity is deep and strong. Individuals are actively encouraged to stay connected in and with their humanity, whatever their personal achievements, and whatever the challenges or predicaments confronting them. African students and scholars interested in rethinking African social sciences and humanities could maximise and capitalise upon the currency of conviviality in popular African ideas of reality and social action. Conviviality invites us to celebrate and preserve incompleteness and mitigate delusions of grandeur that come with ambitions and claims of perfection. As I have argued in #RhodesMustFall, nothing short of convivial scholarship would do justice to the legitimate quest for a reconfiguration of African universities and disciplines of knowledge championed by the student movements of 2015.

A truly convivial scholarship doesn’t seek, the way Cecil Rhodes and Paul Kruger did, to define and confine Africans into particular territories or geographies, racial and ethnic categories, classes, genders, generations, religions or whatever other identity marker is in vogue. Convivial scholarship confronts and humbles the challenge of over-prescription, over-standardisation and over-prediction. It is critical and evidence-based, just as it is critical of the sources of evidence. It is a scholarship that sees the local in the global and the global in the local. It brings them into informed conversations, conscious of the hierarchies and power relations at play at both the micro and macro levels of being and becoming. Convivial scholarship challenges us – however grounded we may be in our disciplines and their logics of practice – to cultivate the disposition to be present everywhere at the same time. It’s a scholarship that cautions disciplines, their borders and gatekeepers to open up and embrace differences. With convivial scholarship, there are no final answers. Only permanent questions and ever exciting new angles of questioning.

I dedicate this award to the all the students of the #RhodesMustFall Movement, whose words and actions provided much ethnographic food for thought.”


The two winners of the inaugural Fage & Oliver Prize, for a book published in 2014 or 2015, were Deborah James for Money from Nothing: indebtedness and aspiration in South Africa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015)  and Terri Ochiagha for Achebe and Friends at Umuahia: the making of a literary elite (Oxford: James Currey, 2015).


This was announced at the Biennial ASAUK Conference, held at the University of Cambridge, 7-9 September 2016.

Deborah James, Money from Nothing: indebtedness and aspiration in South Africa. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.
This timely, empirically rich, and theoretically innovative study explores the upsurge in consumer indebtedness, and its flipside, accessible credit in South Africa, following the post-1994 government’s initiative to abolish “credit apartheid” and “bank the unbanked”. It reveals a complex, contradictory and multi-faceted picture of ordinary people’s experiences of debt, and their efforts to keep a grip on expenditure while meeting family obligations and investing in a better future through education and training. It shows the significance of debt for a growing African middle class, and the complex forms that private ownership of property amongst African families has increasingly been taking. Based on original research, it is illuminated with captivating individual case studies while speaking authoritatively to a whole domain of comparative and theoretical work on popular economies, the formal and informal sectors, and the meaning of indebtedness.

Terri Ochiagha, Achebe and Friends at Umuahia: the making of a literary elite. Oxford: James Currey, 2015.
In this book, new light is shed on an iconic figure. In the last decades of colonial rule, Government College Umuahia in Eastern Nigeria produced an extraordinary cohort of creative writers – among them Chinua Achebe, doyen of African novelists. This study is an original exploration of the formation of this elite and the reasons for their adoption of fiction and poetry as their mode of expression. It traces the role of individual British teachers in their interactions with the young Nigerian writers-to-be, thus vividly illustrating the more culturally creative aspects of the colonial encounter. Ochiagha draws on interviews, memoirs and hitherto unknown archival sources, including school magazines, photographs and letters revealing the life and ethos of this prestigious school, to trace the emergence of a new literature. Elegantly written, this is a historical sociology of literature of a kind rare in African Studies.