Safia Aidid

It is with grave concern that we, the undersigned Somali academics, researchers, students, writers, activists, community members and our non-Somali academic and activist allies, write to you today.

We are deeply troubled by the extraordinary omission of Somali academics and researchers from the board of editors, international advisory board, and published authors of the newly launched academic journal Somaliland Journal of African Studies (SJAS). We are further disturbed by comments made publicly on Facebook by advisory board member and social anthropologist Dr. Markus Hoehne in response to and dismissive of the Somali-led critique of academic exclusion and Western dominance in SJAS and the field of Somali Studies more generally.

In its recent inaugural issue, the Somaliland Journal of African Studies described itself as an academic journal “covering African affairs at large, but with a particular focus on East Africa and the Horn.” It also stated that the journal was the product of collaboration “with students and scholars of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies of the University of Hargeisa.” It was brought to our collective attention in late March that the editorial and advisory boards do not reflect this supposed partnership with UofH. Not a single Somali student or scholar from Hargeisa, the broader Somali region, or the vast Somali diaspora is represented in SJAS. Instead, the editorial and advisory board is made up of 9 Europe and US based academics - as well as two graduate student editors - and three Ethiopian academics affiliated with Addis Ababa University.

In response to this exclusion of Somali researchers and scholars from SJAS, there were conversations on Facebook between young Somali academics and activists on how to respond, and the announcement of a Twitter-based discussion on March 26th under the hashtag #CadaanStudies. “Cadaan” is the Somali term for whiteness, and the hashtag was intended to capture important questions of power, authority and knowledge production about the Somali territories, and how Somalis continue to be marginalized in academic and policy discussions concerning them.

It was in one of these Facebook conversation threads that Dr. Markus Hoehne entered in defense of SJAS and dismissal of this critique. It is necessary to quote his words at length:

"I did NOT come accross [sic] many younger Somalis who would qualify as serious SCHOLARS - not because they lack access to sources, but because they seem not to value scholarship as such. Sorry to say, but to become a successful political scientist, social anthropologist, sociologist or human geographer, you study many years without an economically promising end in sight. You have to work hard before you get out one piece of text and even then, you often get more criticism than praise. You certainly do not become rich quickly as a social scientist, at least if you have to pay your bills in Europe or Northamerica. Now, where are all the 'marginalised' Somalis who do not get their share in academia? I guess you would have to first find all the young Somalis who are willing to sit on their butt for 8 hours a day and read and write for months to get one piece of text out. Okay, before you 'crucify' me now for my neo-colonial racist male writing, I ADMIT that given the lack of good quality higher education in social sciences INSIDE Somalia, one cannot enter into a fair competition between cadaan iyo madow [black] scholars here. BUT, there are many young Somalis in UK, USA and continental Europe who have a chance to get a degree from a well-established university in social sciences and become master analysts of Somali and other affairs (where are Somali sociologists who work on issues of discrimination or inequality in the USA or Europe, where are Somali religious scholars who engage in the debate about Islam in Europe? Sometimes you have to look beyond your Somali navel). But in my life, I met only very FEW diaspora Somalis who seriously pursued such a career (in social sciences). So, your activism is good, but what you actually would have to do - instead of getting outraged at cadaan scholars, is to sit down and get your analysis out and criticise not cadaan for writing sth, but your own brothers and sisters for not writing better stuff!"

He continued to argue back and forth with over 30 educated Somalis, stating “there is not enough good and serious scholarship in the form of articles and books coming from Somali social scientists,” that he “did not see many young Somalis seriously engaging in social sciences,” and demanded they prove their existence to him: “Please send me the references to articles and books written by young Somali social scientists that have been published in well-established journals and with reputable publishers.”

When Hoehne was asked to leave the thread by many who felt patronized and attacked by his comments, he crudely responded in broken Somali translating to: “Fine. I will go. You and your friends can talk about a stupid white man who is colonizing you, but I think that when you are finished talking about colonialism, you will go back to your Somali tribalism.” In subsequent discussions on other Somali Facebook pages following the successful #CadaanStudies Twitter discussion, he continued to comment in incredibly divisive ways, questioning the authenticity of diaspora Somalis who participated in Twitter activism and reducing the critique of knowledge production and systemic power to one that pitted individual white against black, us (non-Somali Somali Studies scholars) versus them (Somalis, who he viewed as lacking the credentials and discipline to produce academic work and participate in the field). He positioned himself, a German anthropologist, as more in touch with Somali reality than the Somalis who were challenging him online, while continuing to argue that the conversations taking place online was not "real debate":

"You all seem to be in the diaspora. INSIDE Somalia, I have never encountered this type of flat reaction towards me. Some people hated me for certain opinions, many challenged me - but there was a real debate about THE MATTER, not flat accusations of racism and white supremacy. In my subjective opinion, Somalis in Somalia had a much more constructive and interesting way of debating than many of you (whoever ‘you’ exactly is) in the diaspora, who have so many means compared to your brothers and sisters who never left the motherland. Maybe you should get your equation right: If I am a white supremacist, you are a black supremacist compared to your brothers and sisters back in Somalia who have not all the high quality education and economic means you can access."

We are appalled by the words of Dr. Markus Hoehne, his lack of self-awareness regarding the seriousness and violence of his comments and thinking, and his inability and unwillingness to engage. We are concerned that these words should come from an academic who considers himself an expert on Somalis and has power in both the field of Somali Studies as well as policy about and within the Somali territories, evidenced by the decision to commission him for the project “Community Safety Forums & Community Police Dialogues in Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia” by the Danish Demining Group and funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

It is our collective belief that what Dr. Markus Hoehne’s comments and the exclusionary Somaliland Journal of Somali Studies show us is the necessity and urgency of discussing and deconstructing issues of power and authority in Somali Studies, and thinking through how this has shaped academic knowledge production about Somalis historically and into the present. We are keenly aware that Somali Studies emerged alongside the colonization of the Somali territories, and that inextricably linked to the expansion of European power in the Horn of Africa was the production of cultural and historical information about Somalis. In the postcolonial present, the production of knowledge about the Horn of Africa remains largely in the hands of European and American academics and analysts, increasingly linked to the informational needs of neocolonialism and the War on Terror. There is too much at stake for our voices and concerns to be dismissed.


Safia Aidid, PhD Candidate in History, Harvard University
Ilyas Abukar, PhD Candidate in American Studies, University of Maryland-College Park
Cawo Abdi, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota
Abdi Latif Ega, author of "Guban" and PhD Candidate, Columbia University
Yusuf Dirie, Teaching Fellow in Innovation and PhD Researcher, University of Sussex
Hodan Mohamed, Co-Founder of Sahan Literary Forum and PhD Candidate in Population Health, University of Ottawa
Fowsia Abdulkadir, PhD Candidate in Canadian Studies, Carleton University
Ahmed Ibrahim, PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology, City University of New York
Hared Mah, PhD Student in Economics, Southern Illinois University
Fadumo Dayib, PhD Student, University of Helsinki, Mid-Career Masters of Public Administration and Mason Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School
Jamal Adam, PhD Candidate in Education, University of Minnesota
Sumaya Mohamed, Researcher, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington
Safia Gahayr, poet, trade unionist, educator and PhD Candidate in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, OISE, University of Toronto
Sofia Samatar, Assistant Professor of Literature and Writing, California State University Channel Islands
Ifrah Abdullahi, PhD Candidate in Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Western Australia
Maimuna Mohamud, Researcher at the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (Mogadishu). Masters, Refugee & Forced Migration Studies, Oxford and Masters, Global Gender Studies, University at Buffalo
Saeed Abdulkadir Said (Naji), PhD Candidate in Federation University Australia, Ex-Director of Training and Consultancy of Simad University, Mogadishu
Mohammed Ibrahim Shire, author, documentary filmmaker and PhD Candidate in Management Science, Loughborough University
Abdiwasa Abdilahi Bade, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Addis Ababa University
Zamzam Ahmed Abdi, PhD Candidate in International Development Studies, Utrecht University Netherlands
Ifrah Magan, MSW University of Chicago, PhD Candidate  , University of Illinois at Chicago
Sahro Ahmed Koshin, Activist, Author, Poet, MA Cultural Anthropology, Leiden University, MA Advanced Development Studies, Radboud University, PhD Candidate at the University of Nairobi
Mohamed Guudle, MSc in Economics, Bilgi University Turkey, incoming PhD Student
Sharmaarke Abdullahi, MA Public Policy, Professor at Algonquin College Social Services Department and Business Consultant with the City of Ottawa
Nasra Giama, Assistant Professor and DNP in Nursing, University of Minnesota
Ismail Warsame, M.Ed., Somali Narrative Project, University of Maine
Ahmed Abdulhalim (Naaji), Banker, Researcher, Masters in Islamic Finance Practice, INCEIF Malaysia, incoming PhD Student in Political Economics, United Nations' African Institute for Economic Development and Planning
Aurala Uarsama, MA, M.Ed. University of Alberta, Independent Researcher
Hawa Y. Mire, Masters in Environmental Studies, York University
Mohammed Omar, MA Candidate in Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
Dirie Yusuf, graduate student, St. Cloud State University
Hodan A. Mohamed, MA, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Hudda Ibrahim, Editor-in-Chief of Somalicurrent, graduate student in Peace Studies/Policy Analysis & Political Change, University of Notre Dame
Amina Musa, graduate student in International Development and Social Change, Clark University
Guled Jama, MB BChir Candidate, University of Cambridge and Researcher at King's Centre for Global Health
Abdi Aidid, JD Candidate, Yale University
Ifrah F. Ahmed, JD Candidate, CUNY School of Law and Co-Founder and Editor of Araweelo Abroad Magazine
Mahdi Hussein, JD Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Subban Jama, JD Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Yasin Ahmed Ismail, BA Politics & International Affairs, Wake Forest University and incoming JD Candidate
Asha Noor, MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
Abdi Egal, MPA/MSPS, Suffolk University
Warsan Noor, Masters in Spanish/Bilingual and Multicultural Studies, George Mason University
Ayaan Moussa, Masters in Gender and Women's Studies, George Mason University
Mohamed Noor, Masters in Economics/Finance from American University.
Iftin Fatah, Masters in Public Policy and International Commerce, George Mason University
Omar Fateh, Masters in Public Administration, George Mason University
Sadia Aden, Masters in Health Informatics, George Mason University
Shakur Ali, MA International Politics and Human Rights, City University London
Ahmed A. Abdullahi, MA Peace and Conflict Studies, Coventry University UK
Ahmed Ahmed, M.Ed Candidate, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Zenab Abdirahman, MA Educational Planning, Economics and International Development, UCL Institute of Education, University of London and Co-Founder of Somali Heritage and Academic Network
Abdi Egal, MPA/MSPS, Suffolk University
Amira Adawe, MPH, Public Health Practitioner and Researcher. Environmental Health instructor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
Bashir Ali, MSc in Public Policy and Administration, London School of Economics
Abderazzaq Noor, Masters in Media Studies and Communication, Monash University Melbourne,
Abdullahi Abdisalan, BA Political Science, MA International Development Studies, Kampala International University and writer/humanitarian expert
Sumaya Abdulkadir Shoole, MA Candidate in History, Fatoni University and Founder of
Muna Ali, Masters Student in Interdisciplinary Studies, York University and Co-Founder and Managing Director of Gashanti Unity
Idil Isse, BA in Political Science, Concordia University and incoming MA Student, Albert Ludwig University
Sagal Abdulle, English and Linguistics, Nottingham Trent University, Co-Founder and Editor of Araweelo Abroad Magazine
Hannah Wolff, BA City University of New York, Colin Powell Public Policy Fellowship, MSc LSE Health and Population
Mahad Gelle, MBA in Financial Management from University of Mysore
Hamdi Ali, MD Student, Windsor University School of Medicine
Nasra Jimale, BA Psychology, Masters of Social Work Candidate, Minnesota State University
Sadia Hassan, BA Candidate African and African American Studies, Dartmouth College
Huda Yusuf, human rights activist and MSc in Chemistry, University of Victoria
Abdulqadir Bashir Hussein, BSc Urban, Energy and Environmental Planning, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, Aalberg University Copenhagen
Hoda Samater, MSW, RSW, Community Activist, Therapist, Begin to Heal Counselling Services
Shiffo Farah, BA, BSW, Masters in Social Work, RSW, Faculty Advisor York University School of Social Work
Salaad Sh.Yusuf Caddow, student at Sakarya University Turkey, researcher and writer
Batula Mohamed Mursal, BA Social Science and Linguistics, Jaamacada Ummada Mogadishu 1987 and human rights activist (Somalia)
Muhammad Dirie Muhammad, BA Sociology and Armed Conflict Studies, University of Nairobi
Muna Sheekh Maxamud, MSW, University of Toronto and blogger
Ikram Jama, storyteller, community activist, co-founder of Sahan Literary Forum, Masters in Political Science, Carleton University
Khalid Bashir, DePaul University
Sumaya Ugas, student, International Development and African Studies, McGill University and columnist at Ezibota
Zeinab Aidid, student, Anthropology and Equity Studies, University of Toronto
Iman Mohamed, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service-Qatar
Surer Qassim Mohamed, University of Western Ontario
Abdirahman Aydarus Yussuf, student, Politics, Philosophy and Economics, University of Washington
Huda Ismail, Brunel University (UK) Creator and collector of Xalwo Crafts
Yasmin Yousof, undergraduate in Politics and Education, Brandeis University
Mohamed Jama, Toronto community activist and organizer
Shukri Harbi, BA English, BA Sociology, University of Utah
Abdinasir Elmi, BA Sociology, Moi University
Faiza Kanyare, BSc International Politics, Brunel University UK
Saharla Musa, student, Paediatric Nursing, Middlesex University
Dirir Abdullahi, student, Neurobiology and Chemistry, University of Washington
Nimo Hussein Farah, 2014 Bush Fellow and Co-Founder of SALLI Arts, Independent Artist/Activist
Samiya Abdi, Health Promotion Consultant, Public Health Ontario
Marian Yusuf, MSc., Registered Dietitian and Public Health Nutrition Consultant
Ahmed Busury, Biomedical Scientist/Specialist, Director of Public Health Agency of Jubaland State Somalia, MSc Cellular Pathology, University of Westminister
Ayaan H Affan, Masters in Nursing and Postgraduate Family Nurse Practitioner, Winona State University
Deeko O. Hassan, Pharm D. Candidate, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Hanaansan Jasmin, Public Health and Infection Control Policy, Anglia Ruskin University, Public Health Practitioner at National Health Service (NHS)
Fatuma Abdullahi, writer, digital publisher and founder, Warya Post
Zahra Jibril, BA Politics and International Relations, MA International Development Management University of Westminster. Co-Founder of Horizon Institute, Somaliland and Kenya
Mohamed Ali, Toronto artist, The Control Group Art Collective
Magan Muhumed, spoken word artist, political and human rights activist
Hali Farah, Corporate Talent Advisor, Aon
Sadia Abdullahi, Senior Youth Outreach Worker, Boys and Girls Club Ottawa
Mohamud Mumin, photographer and visual storyteller, Hundred Miles Pictures
Kowthar Omar, photographer, education researcher and educator, Toronto District School Board
Leyla Bile, Filmmaker
Khadra Ali, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Gashanti Unity, Co-Creator and Co-Executive Producer of Refuge Productions
Kinsi Abdulleh, visual artist, founder of NUMBI Arts and editor of literary arts magazine SCARF
Riya Jama, artist and founder of Artivists of Somalia
Huda Hassan, writer, University of Toronto
Lali Mohamed, health equity provider and non-profit leader
Edil Ayan, writer
Abdi Osman, MFA documentary media, Ryerson University
Saynab Mohamud, community activist, antiracist campaigner and co-founder of Hawa's Haven
Hibaq Gelle, community activist, Toronto
Amran Ali, Co-Founder of Sahan Literary Forum and Community Activist
Muna Mohamed, Health and Safety Advisor and Co-Founder of Idylcollective
Khadija Ahmed, English teacher, BA International Development Studies, York University
Somali Students' Association, University of Toronto, Mississauga
Adan Mohamed, Head, English Broadcasting Section, Somaliland National Television and BA (Hons) Journalism and Communication, Middlesex University London
Ubax Cristina Ali Farah, writer
Mahad Yusuf, Executive Director of Midaynta Community Services
Abdi Roble, Documentary Photographer/Archivist, Founder of Somali Documentary Project

In Solidarity
Rinaldo Walcott, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, OISE, University of Toronto
Allison Taylor, PhD Brandeis, sociocultural anthropologist
Sean Hawkins, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto
Antoinette Handley, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto
Rima Berns-McGown, Associate Director, Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures, Simon Frasier University
John Comaroff, Professor of African and African American Studies and Anthropology, Harvard University
Jean Comaroff, Professor of African and African American Studies and Anthropology, Harvard University
Laura Correa Ochoa, PhD Student in History, Harvard University
John Gee, PhD Candidate in History, Harvard University
Rita Nketiah, PhD Student in Women's Studies, University of Western Ontario
Tshweu Moleme, Political Science researcher, Munk School at the University of Toronto
Rachel Thompson, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, Harvard University
Juliane Okot Bitek, poet and PhD Candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia
Ryan Kelpin, MA Political Science at York University and Executive DIrector, Cities First
Kelly-Mae Saville, Student Chair for Sociology and Policy, Aston University UK
Tendisai Cromwell, writer and filmmaker
Sakinah Hasib, student, University of Waterloo
Binyavanga Wainaina, writer
Melissa Finn, Lecturer in Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
Erin MacLeod, PhD, Lecturer, University of West Indies, Mona Campus
Jasmine Zine, Associate Professor of Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University
Elleni Centime Zeleke, Lecturer and PhD Candidate, Social and Political Thought, York University
Amber Young, Graduate Student, Social Work, University of Calgary
Harry Verhoeven, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, Associate Member of Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford University, Convener of Oxford China-Africa Network
Yolande Bouka, PhD, Researcher, Institute of Security Studies Nairobi
Bethlehem Seifu Belaineh, student, activist, community organizer and Racial Minority Senator, Brandeis University
Rowa Mohamed, University of Western Ontario
Tracian Meikle, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, Planning, and International Development, University of Amsterdam
Benjamin Dix, PhD Candidate in the Anthropology of Violence, Director of PositiveNegatives
Kariima Ali, BSc Psychology, Goldsmiths University UK
Netta Kornberg, Research Assistant, Faculty of Education, York University
Juliane Hammer, Associate Professor, Department of Religions Studies, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Denise Spitzer, PhD, Canada Research Chair, University of Ottawa
Caroline Elkins, Professor of African and African American Studies and History, Harvard University
Monica Fagioli-Ndlovu, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, The New School for Social Research
Mulugeta Hailemariam Zegeye, BA Applied Sociology Addis Ababa University, MSc Science and Technology Policy (Development Economy) University of Glasgow, Former Member of Ethiopian Parliament (Chairman of Budget Committee) and Fmr Chairman of Ethiopian Athletics, African Languages Program, Harvard University
Jamilla Davis, student in Anthropology and Educational Studies, Bates College
Hawa Noor, writer, BA International Relations and African Studies, University of Toronto
Jacqueline Russel, MA, Health Research Specialist, Toronto Public Health
Sarah Kennedy Bates, PhD Candidate in History, Harvard University
Alemayehu Weldemariam, former Professor at Suffolk University, graduate studies George Mason University
Shirin Ramzanali Fazel, writer and member of the advisory board of Transnationalizing Modern Languages, University of Warwick
Nakanyike Musisi, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto
Yannick Marshall, poet, PhD Candidate, Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University
James J.T. Roane, PhD Candidate in History, Columbia University
Axelle Karera, PhD Candidate in Philosophy, Penn State University
Tiffany Tsantsoulas, PhD Student in Philosophy, Penn State University
Ricky Varghese, PhD, RSW, psychotherapist, art critic and writer, University of Toronto
Kathy Kiloh, PhD, Instructor, OCAD University
Vasuki Shanmuganathan, PhD Candidate in German and Women and Gender Studies, University of Toronto
Ajamu Nangwaya, PhD, Instructor, Seneca College
Rachael Hill, PhD Candidate in African History, Stanford University
Lena Weber, MSc Candidate in Human Ecology, Lund University Sweden
Bhakti Shringarpure, editor-in-chief Warscapes Magazine and Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut
Hillina Seife, PhD Candidate in History, University of Michigan
Natasha Issa Shivji, Lecturer, Department of History, University of Dodoma, Tanzaniaand PhD Candidate in History, New York University
Natasha Obiri, blogger, BA History and Philosophy, University of Toronto
Keguro Macharia, Independent Scholar, Nairobi
Stephanie Belmer, PhD, Instructor, Vanier College
Kay Kaufman Shelemay, G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
Alessandra Di Maio, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities, University of Palermo, Italy
Efe Levent, National Chiao Tung University, PhD Institute of Applied Arts
Andrew Pope, PhD Candidate, Harvard University
Chambi Chachage, PhD Candidate, Harvard University
Andreas Admasie, PhD Candidate, University of Basel
Alula Eshete, MBA Candidate, Harvard Business School
Molefi Kete Asante, Professor, Temple University
Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies
Afrocentricity International Inc.
Maxi Schoeman, Professor and Head of Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
David McGraw Schuchman, MSW, LICSW, Clinical Social Worker, Minneapolis
Michael Busch, Senior Editor of Warscapes Magazine, and Doctoral Candidate in Political Science, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Aaron Bady, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas, Austin

Names are being continuously added (see here for updated list). To add your name, please post in the comments or email

Image via Rice University blog.