Haverford Scholarship Highlight: Susanna Wing
Wing, Susanna D. (2013). “Mali: Politics of a Crisis.” African Affairs, 112(448): 476-485.
Wing, Susanna D. (2013). “Making Sense of Mali: The Real Stakes of the War Rocking West Africa.” ForeignAffairs.com (Best of Web in 2013).
In the aftermath of the March 2012 coup in Mali, I was invited to contribute to numerous conversations seeking to shed light on how the fortunes of a “donor darling” and “model democracy” had plummeted so quickly. “Mali: Politics of a Crisis” appeared in the influential journal African Affairs as one of a series of briefings on the sudden coup and ensuing crisis. My article on political dynamics and democracy was presented alongside a piece on military intervention and another on the religious context for the current violence. Each of us was asked to integrate the others’ articles into our thinking to increase the impact of the briefings as a whole.
“Making Sense of Mali: The Real Stakes of the War Rocking West Africa” appeared on ForeignAffairs.com and was selected for inclusion in The Best of 2013: Our Favorites from Print and Web. Where “Mali” focused more broadly on the underlying problems that led to the coup and explained why the democratic collapse in the country should not have come as a surprise to local or international communities this piece addressed the French intervention, ethnic and religious politics at play, and journalistic coverage of the crisis.
Given the complexity of the political situation in Mali, the challenge for both of these pieces was how to provide a snapshot for the reader that balanced essential background information with analysis that would inform academics, policy makers and non-specialists all at once. My goal in each article was to add to the conversation something important that was being excluded from the current analyses. In Foreign Affairs, in particular, I sought to emphasize the dangers of over-simplifying the actors involved, an issue that was rampant in the media, and to directly address misunderstandings about the scope and effects of French intervention. All in less than 1300 words.
When the international media turned its attention to the Sahel, I was asked to contribute to these conversations in print, radio (BBC, RFI, NPR) and television (Al Jazeera) journalism. I suddenly found myself learning how to translate my academic training and research experience for audiences far beyond those within academic communities. These various appearances, and the two articles on display here, represent the most exciting aspect of my profession, the opportunity to bring together my experiences and scholarship in ways that reach global audiences and, hopefully, make a difference.
Susanna Wing is Associate Professor of Political Science.