Pius Adesanmi, 1972-2019

Tributes paid to victim of Ethiopian Airlines crash

March 21, 2019
Pius Adesanmi
Source: June Creighton Payne/Carleton University

An “avidly read” scholar and commentator on African culture and politics has died.

Pius Adesanmi was born in Isanlu, Nigeria, in February 1972 and studied for a bachelor’s degree at the University of Ilorin (1992) followed by a master’s in French studies at the University of Ibadan (1998). He left Nigeria to pursue a PhD in French studies at the University of British Columbia (2002), published The Wayfarer and Other Poems (2001) and served as assistant professor of comparative literature at Pennsylvania State University (2002-05). He returned to Canada in 2006 as professor of literature and African studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, where he was also pivotal in establishing the Institute of African Studies and became its director.

Widely regarded as one of the most prominent thinkers of the African diaspora, Professor Adesanmi was an expert in African and black literatures in both English and French as well as being closely engaged in African politics. He was the author of a wide-ranging and award-winning collection of essays, You’re Not a Country, Africa: A Personal History of the African Present (2011), and a bold analysis of his native Nigeria, Naija No Dey Carry Last: Thoughts on a Nation in Progress (2015).

Although based in Canada, Professor Adesanmi remained deeply engaged with African life and education. He produced many often sharply satirical newspaper columns, a recent example mocking the 54-year-old Emir of Kano’s marriage to an 18-year-old. He was a Carnegie diaspora visiting professor of African studies at the University of Ghana, where he created an African Thinkers’ Program and helped to facilitate an annual series of seminars at the Pan-African Doctoral Academy. He was also a foundation faculty member at the Abiola Irele School of Theory and Criticism at Kwara State University, Nigeria.

Committed to the ideal of a pan-African future, Professor Adesanmi was an enthusiastic believer in the power of social media to bring people together and delivered a 2015 TEDx talk titled “Africa is the forward that the world needs to face”.

“What was truly amazing” about him, said John Osborne, former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Carleton, “was the impact he had in Africa. Through his writing and blogging, he reached an audience…in the millions in his native Nigeria and beyond, becoming one of the most avidly read commentators on contemporary life and politics on the continent.”

Professor Adesanmi died on 10 March on the way to an African Union conference when his plane crashed at Addis Ababa airport. He was among 157 victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. He leaves a wife, Muyiwa Adesanmi, and daughter Tise.


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Reader's comments (1)

RIP Prof.