50 Years, and Counting: A Conversation with Professors Wole Soyinka, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr | Cambridge University Alumni

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Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah and Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr are leading academic voices and hugely influential in their fields of expertise. But had they not met at the University of Cambridge 50 years ago, their lives may have looked very different.

Join us as they reunite, in Cambridge once again, for a fascinating insight into their long-lasting friendship. In a panel discussion moderated by Gillian Tett, they will look back over the last 50 years, consider how they have influenced each other, and share reflections on their lived experiences.

Speakers

Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah

Clare 1972

Kwame Anthony Appiah was born in London and shortly after moved to Ghana with his family. Following an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Clare College Cambridge, he taught at the University of Ghana, then returned to Cambridge to undertake a PhD.

Since studying at Cambridge, Professor Appiah has taught at Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Harvard universities, and lectured at many other institutions in the USA, France, Germany, Ghana, and South Africa. He is an honorary Fellow at Clare College, and has recently been appointed President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He has published widely in literary and cultural studies, with a focus on African and African-American culture. His current interests range over African and African-American intellectual history and literary studies, ethics, the connections between moral philosophy and psychology, and political philosophy and the philosophy of the social sciences; and he has also taught regularly about African traditional religions.

Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Clare 1973

Henry Louis Gates Jr. grew up in West Virginia, and graduated from Yale as a scholar of the house in history. The first African American to be awarded a Paul Mellon Fellowship, Gates studied for a PhD in English literature at Clare College Cambridge.

He taught at Yale, Cornell, and Duke before moving to Harvard in 1991, where he is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University.

He is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder. He has also produced and hosted more than 20 documentary films and published more than 20 books with a focus on African American and African culture. He is an honorary fellow at Clare College, Cambridge.

Professor Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria to Yoruba parentage, whose culture has influenced his works. After studying in Nigeria and the UK, Soyinka directed two theatre companies in Nigeria after a spell as dramaturge at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Soyinka is best known as a playwright, but his works also include poetry, novels, and essays. He has worked extensively abroad, primarily in the USA, where he has held professorships at several universities.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, considered a writer ‘who, in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence.’ He is also an Honorary Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge.

Dr Gillian Tett (Chair)

Clare 1986

Dr Gillian Tett is Chair of the Editorial Board and Editor-at-Large, US of the Financial Times. She writes weekly columns, covering a range of economic, financial, political and social issues, and also founded Moral Money, the FT’s sustainability platform. In 2014, she was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards, after earlier winning Journalist of the Year.

She has a PhD in cultural anthropology from Cambridge University, was the first recipient of the Royal Anthropological Institute Marsh Award and has received the President’s Medal from the American Anthropological Association. She has written four books, winning the Spear’s Financial Book of the Year, the Porchlight Book of the Year on Business Culture and the Columbia University Eccles Prize.

Tett’s past roles at the FT have included US managing editor, assistant editor, capital markets editor, deputy editor of the Lex column, Tokyo bureau chief, and a reporter in Russia and Brussels.

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