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Bright Gyamfi

PhD Candidate in the Department of History

Bright Gyamfi

As my father always reminds me, true enrichment comes when your life can empower others. I can think of no more enriching career than that of an educator.”

Bright Gyamfi is a PhD candidate in the Department of History in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Previously, he received a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an MSc from the University of Oxford. His research focuses on West African and African Diaspora intellectual history, nationalism, Pan-Africanism, Black Internationalism, and economic development. In 2020, Bright received Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship and Fulbright Fellowship to support his research work in Grenada, Suriname, Ghana, Senegal, and England.

Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.

My research is not simply an intellectual exercise; it is and remains a deeply personal project. Here is an interview I conducted at the University of Oxford where I spoke about what inspires my research.

Whom do you admire in your field and otherwise, and why?

I admire my PhD adviser Professor Sean Hanretta and Professor Barnor Hesse. Both Professor Hanretta, an expert in Anglophone and Francophone West African intellectual and cultural history, and Professor Hesse, an authority on the development of Black Political Thought, have been instrumental in my intellectual development by challenging me to broaden my project and refine my ideas and my conceptual methods. Most importantly, I admire them because of the dedication and commitment that they have shown to me.

What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?

My dissertation presents a new multi-sited history of the development of Black thought in Africa and its diaspora through the lives and works of Ghanaian intellectuals in exile. These scholars saw themselves as reactivating a pan-Africanist intellectual politics that prioritized mobilizing members of the diaspora to secure political, economic, and cultural liberation in Africa. Their work and lived experiences provide a more comprehensive history of the development of Black Studies in the U.S. by highlighting Africans’ contributions to the field. Their stories help us illuminate the unexplored intellectual impact of African scholars in the 1970s and 1980s outside of Africa on Black internationalism. Furthermore, their narratives enable us to trace the circuit of Black internationalism as it moves from the diaspora to Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana and back to the diaspora.

How do you unwind after a long day?

Take an hour-long walk, cook some rice, and listen to Skip and Shannon: Undisputed.

What books are on your bedside table?

Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism by Kwame Nkrumah, the Bible, A Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah, and Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Bradley Hope and Tom Wright, and Becoming by Michelle Obama.

What inspires you?

My goal in life is to change the face of academia by mentoring and exposing students from underrepresented groups to educational careers and opportunities that they might not have been aware of. Given my experiences, I am committed to making sure that I am accessible to students and that they feel comfortable enough in my classroom to express themselves and explore different ideas. Giving back is my way of showing appreciation for the sacrifices my family, mentors, and institutions have made to help me succeed. As my father always reminds me, true enrichment comes when your life can empower others. I can think of no more enriching career than that of an educator.

What did you originally want to be when you grew up?

Like most young Ghanaians around my age, I wanted to become a soccer player. As a little boy, all my role models were soccer players from Didier Drogba to Stephen “Tornado” Appiah. I aspire to become like them. Every time I came back from school, I quickly rush to my room to change and then went to play soccer.

Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you.

In 2019, I was named the winner of the Ghana Studies Association’s Conference Paper Prize for Emerging Scholars at the African Studies Association Conference in Boston. My first article was recently accepted for publication by the Journal of African American History, the oldest and leading scholarly journal in the field of African American history.

Published: February 2, 2021 


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