Let’s talk about the research that you are currently conducting in Leipzig. What is the focus of your work?
Temitope Oriola: My research focuses on the constellation of state and non-state actors in the kidnapping landscape, particularly in Africa. I am interested in developing an empirically informed theory of kidnapping that may be useful for understanding kidnapping patterns and trajectories across the world. I also hope to contribute to national and international anti-kidnapping and security policies.
What additional insights do you expect to gain through a transregional and comparative inquiry?
Kidnapping is a relatively under-studied area. Most books on kidnapping are written by journalists and/or victims of kidnapping. They tend to be autobiographical while presenting crucial contextually dependent information. Academic research on kidnapping tends to focus on single country-level analyses. There is limited transregional and comparative inquiry. My hope is that by selecting multiple countries across various world regions, I can contribute to illuminating the kidnapping phenomenon across boundaries while being respectful of the nuances and subtleties of various contexts. This has potential to generate knowledge that may be useful to multifarious stakeholders across the globe.
As joint editor-in-chief of African Security, one of the leading academic journals in the field, how do you see the field developing; what are the major trends, and do you see any changes in terms of knowledge production from and within the Global South?
We are highly privileged at African Security to receive several cutting-edge state-of-the-art papers. Knowledge production in the Global South is developing. For example, we have seen tremendous growth in the sheer volume of submissions from developing countries. The acceptance rate of African Security is currently 13 per cent, which means we accept just over one out of every 10 papers submitted for peer review.
The field is growing, and new insights are being produced at a breathtaking pace. Violent extremism and terrorism (VET) as well as activities of extra-state actors continue to be one of the dominant themes. This speaks to security concerns and issues of human rights. The role of international state actors in Africa is also a popular theme. The response of multilateral organizations to unconstitutional changes government (UCG) is another theme. This speaks to issues around constitutional tampering and self-serving amendments by leaders. This theme has not necessarily replaced research on coups d’état or coup avoidance but the texture of democracy is being problematized. The ramification of elections continues to be popular — conduct, legitimacy, competitiveness (or lack thereof) and concomitant violence. I would like to see more research funding for scholars based in Africa and other developing countries to aid their tremendous efforts.
In your faculty, you are currently the Associate Dean (Undergraduate). What is the state of the #BlackLivesMatter debate in Canada in general, and at the University of Alberta in particular?
There has been significant social awareness in Canada regarding equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) since the ascendance of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The daylight assassination of George Floyd [on 25 May 2020] remains a potent reference point on the reality of social conditions for marginalized members of society. Reputable organizations across many sectors are examining their policies and practices to recognize social harms due to exclusion and address them effectively. Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians is also a fundamental issue in Canada. This is at the heart of addressing the historical injustices that predated the founding of Canada. The University of Alberta is signatory to the 2021 Scarborough Charter aimed at fighting anti-Black racism and ensure inclusion of Black people in higher education. Black excellence cohort hires are happening across Canada. One such was done at the University of Alberta between 2021 and 2022.
Much work has been done; a lot remains to be done. Overall, several Canadian universities are beginning to ask questions and attempt to address the lack of diversity in the professoriate. Why is the professoriate monolithic while the student body is increasingly diverse? The position of the University of Alberta’s Black Faculty Collective, a group that represents full-time tenured/tenure track academics, is that there are many qualified persons out there. We simply need to ensure they get a fair chance. That can only be done by removing obstacles preventing them from entering the professoriate.
Finally, you are also the president of the Canadian Sociological Association (CSA). What are the main lines of debate in the discipline, and how has it changed over the last decade or so? And what is the place of criminology in this?
The discipline of Sociology in Canada is eclectic, methodologically diverse, theoretically sophisticated and transnational. I am honoured to be the president of the association of such outstanding scholars across the nearly 100 universities in Canada. Any response regarding the main lines of debate is bound to be partial. The discipline addresses many of the core issues of society: social inequality, immigration and integration, various forms of hate, including anti-Black racism, anti-Asian hate, homophobia, ableism, etc. The discipline is also illuminating institutions, including elementary, secondary schools and universities as sites of social inquiry. Colleagues are engaged in award-winning impactful research. The place of sociology in contributing to a more inclusive society is one innervating point. I emphasized the need for sociologists to engage in bringing about positive change in my October 2020 CSA presentation during global protests over George Floyd’s murder.
Criminology continues to grow at a tremendous pace. It is easily a dominant sub-field in many sociology departments. There is also an increasing number of standalone criminology programs. That had been the case in the US for decades. Criminology is facing a reckoning of its own as a historically conservative discipline. Canadian criminology tends to be quite critical. More needs to be done to ensure we do not decouple criminology from sociology, its parent-discipline. We also need to continue to be cognizant of the manner of knowledge we are producing and the kind of society we are creating through our work.