16 A Moral Commitment | Paschal Kyoore

The criterion for scholarship requires that a candidate for promotion be an established scholar.   A few years, the Modern Language Association (MLA) — the biggest professional association of English and foreign language teachers of the USA—set up a special committee which came out with a document entitled “Rethinking Tenure—And Much More” (December 2006). The committee outlined the makings of a revolution in the way English and foreign language professors might be hired, evaluated, and promoted” (emphasis theirs).  MLA urged institutions to consider non-published manuscripts as scholarship, and commented on the positive reaction by colleges and universities to the recommendations of the Association.

I have published one book, which is a study on the African and Caribbean historical novel, and I am currently completing a book, Verbal Art of the Dagara: An African Tradition. I have a great deal of satisfaction about what I was able to accomplish with the  publication of my first book. There is a lot of interest for the book because (to the best of my knowledge) there was no book on the historical novel covering both the African continent and the Caribbean region. I am humbled when a colleague from another institution tells me at a conference: “Paschal, I see your book wherever I go”.  She then goes on to suggest to me that I should write a book on Ahmadou Kourouma—a writer from Côte d’Ivoire. I am humbled because the colleague in question has been teaching in the field longer than I have, and has also  published more than me.  It is very gratifying to know that there is a great deal of interest for my book because of the subject matter that it addresses. It is also very gratifying to me when an English major at Gustavus tells me that he found some material in my book on Harlem Renaissance that was very helpful for a class he was taking. It tells me that my book is not gathering Minnesota dust (or should I say Minnesota snow) in our beautiful library. All I want to emphasize here is the contribution that I made to scholarship with the publication of that book.

I have several research projects that will keep me busy for many years to come, if it is the will of God. My work in progress includes an article on the Guadeloupean writer Raphael Confiant. In fact, if I am able to publish my manuscript on Dagara Verbal Art, my next book project will be a book-length study of the novels of Raphael Confiant. Assuming that we will still have the Research and Scholarship grants, I hope I can have the chance to travel to the Caribbean to interview the author. Additionally, I have recently discovered the works of a writer from Gabon, and I cannot wait to start doing some research on her novels, especially after I met her personally during a meeting of  a jury of the Pan-African Writers Association, and served as an interpreter/translator for her. She is called Sylvie Ntsame and is currently the president of the Gabon Writers Association. I also plan to continue my research on folklore of the Dagara and other ethnic groups of West Africa. In research, we all have our preferences in terms of the sort of things we work on and how we want to publish them. I am more inclined to work on book projects. Obviously, they have a longer gestation period than articles. Yet I focus more on working on book projects because among other reasons, I believe that books are more accessible to people in some countries because they are not privileged enough to have easy access to refereed journals.

One other research topic I plan on exploring is in the field of public administration. In graduate school, I wrote an Alternative Plan paper on public policy using what is called the Mazmanier-Sabatier theory of public policy. I want to try out that theory (which I find fascinating) on a decentralization policy that was put in place in Ghana some years ago. The research project would focus on how effectively District Assemblies involve rural people in the creation, implementation, and evaluation of public policies. I would be asking a lot of questions about public policy at the grassroots level in a so-called developing country. The research project would require traveling to Ghana to collect material and to interview stakeholders, and as has been the case with projects I have carried out in the past, I will be relying on our summer Research and Creativity Grant for the financial support.

Because of my passion for social justice, I plan to continue research on Ahmadou Kourouma and other African or Caribbean writers who have written novels dealing with issues of dictatorship and social and economic justice. My article on Kourouma was republished in an on-line journal on request of the editor of that journal. He was particularly interested in the article because it talks about the civil wars that occurred in Sierra Leone and Liberia respectively and how among other things it impacted child-soldiers. For the editor of the journal, it was important that my article was not just academic but dealt with social justice and governance. He was proud to tell me how many thousand hits there were on my article a few days after he published it in their journal. The year I was hired at Gustuvus Adolphus College, my former Spanish teacher and mentor Dr. Joseph Kubayanda died. It was a big loss for me not just personally but also professionally because I am sure that we would have done some work together given our common interest for issues of social justice. His book on the novel of dictatorship in Latin America and Africa came out posthumously. I have a moral commitment to continue to pursue research in our area of common interest.