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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

UNZA’s Sishuwa wins top international research prize

General News UNZA’s Sishuwa wins top international research prize

UNIVERSITY of Zambia (UNZA) lecturer Sishuwa Sishuwa has been named the winner of the 2020 Terence Ranger Prize, awarded annually by the UK-based top ranked Journal of Southern African Studies (JSAS) for the best article by a first-time author in the journal during the previous year. Dr Sishuwa becomes the first Zambian to win the award.

JSAS is an international publication for work of high academic quality on issues of interest and concern in the region of Southern Africa. In its 14th year, the prize is awarded for articles from any discipline.

The prestigious academic honour is named after the late Terence Ranger, a distinguished scholar on History in Africa, leading political activist in Zimbabwe during the colonial rule, and long-time editor of JSAS who died in 2015, aged 85.

Dr Sishuwa won the award for his 2019 article, “‘A White Man Will Never Be a Zambian’: Racialised Nationalism, the Rule of Law, and Competing Visions of Independent Zambia in the Case of Justice James Skinner, 1964–1969” published in JSAS volume 45 issue number 3.

Dr Sishuwa’s article considers the case of James Skinner, a white Zambian of Irish descent and head of the country’s judiciary, who in July 1969 was forced to resign after he supported the decision of a white High Court judge to acquit two white Portuguese soldiers who had illegally crossed into Zambia from Angola. The soldiers had earlier been found guilty by a black magistrate.

In the article, which can be read freely from the JSAS website, the UNZA academic demonstrates how the Skinner incident served as a touchstone for divergent intra-party visions of Zambia as an independent nation, visions that played out through racial and regional security considerations. Slogans deployed during the campaign to oust Skinner, most notably ‘A white man will never be a Zambian’, shed light, he argues, on how the construction of Zambian political attitudes, national identity and citizenship became closely aligned with racial identities in the early years after the achievement of independence in 1964.

Praising Dr Sishuwa’s article, the judges commented that “’Racialised Nationalism, the Rule of Law, and Competing Visions of Independent Zambia in the Case of Justice James Skinner, 1964–1969’ is an exceptional article in terms of, among others, the ability to maintain coherence whilst not being afraid of probing for various levels of complexity in the material. It is also a huge contribution to our understanding of the complexity of the history of racial politics in Zambia and in Southern Africa in general.”

In his acceptance remarks, Dr Sishuwa said he was delighted to have the honour of receiving the Prize “named after a superstar historian who dedicated his academic life to the study of southern Africa”.

“And while it should not matter, I cannot help noting our shared past. Ranger studied history, as I did, and at the same place – Oxford. Additionally, Southern Africa was the field of his research activities, as it is for me. Most importantly, the award comes at a time of rising nationalism, and with identity and belonging at the forefront of leading conversations. The story of Ranger mirrors in some way that of the central subject of my article, James Skinner, an Irish-born lawyer who served as Chief Justice of newly independent Zambia in the 1960s. Both remind us that these discussions on race are not new”, he said.

“Ranger, like Skinner, was itinerant, leaving the United Kingdom for southern Africa in the 1950s. Unlike the itinerant who leaves little trace of themselves, he and Skinner forged strong ties and collaborative relationships in the places they settled. Both made themselves useful to the causes that catalysed that era – the struggle for independence and racial equality – risking the censure of the society they were expected to belong to whilst seeking legitimacy amongst the people whose cause they sought to join. They could be described as both insiders and outsiders to the society and social settings they found themselves in, at any particular time. This award, as does their example, challenges us to understand people within their peculiar individual circumstances and characteristics rather than treating them as representatives of particular identity groups. I am grateful to JSAS for the recognition and for organising the 2018 Early Career Writing Workshop in Malawi, where the wining article was presented”, Dr Sishuwa said.

Dr Sishuwa attended school in rural Western Province. He then won a government bursary that enabled him to study history at the University of Zambia where he graduated with distinction. He was then awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship by the Rhodes Trust to read for his master’s degree in African Studies at University of Oxford (St Antony’s College). He graduated in 2011 and his dissertation on opposition politics was awarded the African Studies Prize for the most outstanding dissertation research.

He completed his doctoral studies in Zambian politics and history in 2016, also at University of Oxford (St Cross). Dr Sishuwa was immediately appointed to a lectureship position at the University of Zambia, where he has been teaching for the last four years. Last year, the University of Cape Town awarded him a two-year Research Fellowship to study political parties and elections in southern Africa.

“From the first time I met him at Oxford, Sishuwa exuded a quiet authority. Since then, he has grown into a powerful thinker, a principled human being and a force for good in the world”, said Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy at the University of Birmingham.

“When you get a student like Sishuwa to supervise, you don’t so much teach them as help them to find their own voice”, added Cheeseman, who is also a former Director of the African Studies Centre and Lecturer in African politics at the University of Oxford where he supervised Dr Sishuwa.

Dr Dorothy Mwansa, Head of the Department of History at UNZA, said she was not surprised by the award.

“I have seen Dr Sishuwa develop into an incisive thinker, unrivalled analyst, and passionate and prolific scholar. His recent writings not only question many long-standing interpretations of the country’s political history but also yield new insights into a wide range of topics. He is an exceptionally promising early career scholar and has made the Department of Historical and Archaeological Studies proud.”

Jeremy Seekings, Professor of Political Studies and Sociology at the University of Cape Town said Dr Sishuwa brings integrity and courage to his work.

“How wonderful that this Prize has been awarded to Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa. I myself have learnt so much from Sishuwa, his encyclopaedic knowledge of Zambian political history and his fine analytic mind. Terry Ranger would surely have been delighted that the prize in his name has been awarded to a young African scholar who not only grapples in his scholarly work with the important roles played by individual political leaders – buffeted, shaped and incentivized by their contexts – but also uses his scholarship to challenge these political leaders in well-informed and closely-argued contributions to public debate. Sishuwa brings exemplary scholarship, integrity and courage to his work”, said Professor Seekings, who is also Director of the UCT Institute for Democracy, Citizenship, and Public Policy in Africa where Dr Sishuwa currently serves as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow.


  1. Although we are aware that you are a paid upnd cadre we would like to congratulate you on this. We wish you could mature in your publications and become more objective.

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  3. It is true, a white man will not be a Zambian.
    Show me a white man in Edgar’s PF government.
    A son of a white man can be a Zambian, but will never be a president. Lubinda still fighting for his rights of birth in Bill 10, unfortunately.

  4. It’s such recognition of UNZA’s dons that will help it to rise in the continental league table of African universities. Congratulations SS. For the record, the late Terence Ranger is a former lecturer of history at UNZA and also the University of Zimbabwe. He was a strong critic of the racist Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith. He died a few years ago.

  5. Congratulations Sishuwa Sishuwa, you put a spot light on Zambia to the world in the midst the suffering of the Zambian people and embarrassment of default to pay debts to international bondholders. Flicker of hope that Zambia has still capable people to manage ourselves better than the current irresponsible leadership.

  6. Congratulations Sishuwa Sishuwa, you put a spot light on Zambia to the world in the midst the suffering of the Zambian people and embarrassment of default to pay debts to international bondholders. Flicker of hope that Zambia has still capable people to manage ourselves better than the current irresponsible leadership. Well done mate.

  7. Dr. Sishuwa writes like no other; he opens people’s thinking. For example, when he said migration problems are as a result of failures by our African leaders, it so true. I really look forward to a book by him.

  8. When Dr. Sishuwa Sishuwa was tearing each other with Sunday Chanda on the topic ‘Lungu should cut his term of office, not the salaries of public officers’, some of us gave the Dr top-notch for the way he presented his arguments. Now even outsiders have seen how intelligent this young man is.

  9. Way to go Dr Sishuwa, congratulations on this great achievement, very inspiring. Keep raising the bar higher and higher, you are the man!

  10. The only reason majority of diasporans are congratulating this cadre is because he is pro upnd and anti upnd. Let us be objective for once zambians. If this was won by a pf sympathiser these f00ls wouldn’t say a single congrats. This is what differentiates us from the childish upnd supporters.

  11. How can you know that? The country has defaulted, what solutions do you have for Zambia?

    The roads are one season strong? The funds are being plundered every other day.

    The country thought the thief from chawama had changed! How wrong we were..

    Mwila bwatabwata fye. Solutions son!

  12. Look at that UK based silly childish impostor, he sees nothing beyond his two parties ie PF and UPND…Zambia is bigger than your silly parties you Internet keyboard jockey #knobhead

  13. Ba Kaisala Sulu Naimwe ikaleni fye! Does PF have any Doctor who can articulate issues at that level apart from Cadres and Grade 7s. A part full of amafontini yeka yeka. The only thing they know is bootlicking and corruption

  14. Ba Kaisala Sulu Naimwe ikaleni fye! Does PF have any Doctor who can articulate issues at that level apart from Cadres and Grade 7s. A party full of amafontini yeka yeka. The only thing they know is bootlicking and corruption

  15. Congratulations doc. I enjoy your well researched articles. Your analysis is always genuine and to the point. May God continue blessing you with the abundant wisdom and intelligence that you have continued showing. I salute you sir.

  16. Birds of the same feather flock together. A rhodes scholar being presented the award by Nic Cheeseman!! This is the guy who wrote scathing articles about the PF and the country in 2015 and 2016 in The conversation magazine. To say Sishupu is a powerful thinker?? Please, these are just imperialists and their surrogates pampering each other and driving colonialist and regime change agendas. Such an award can never be given to a pan-Africanist like Dr. Chihombori-Quao.

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