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Sir David Adjaye, Professor Ato Quayson, elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Sir David Adjaye, one of two distinguished figures (with Professor Ato Quayson) newly elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

David Adjaye

Two prominent Ghanaian professionals, the architect David Adjaye and Professor Ato Quayson, have been elected as members of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The architect David Adjaye was elected a member of the Academy in the visual arts category and Professor Ato Quayson for his work in literature and language studies.

The president of the Academy, David W Oxtoby, and the chair of the board of directors, Nancy C. Andrews, in a post on the Academy’s website (, announced that 269 outstanding individuals have been elected to the Academy in 2023.

The new members were listed in alphabetical order, followed by members according to area and specialty.

Sir David Adjaye

David Adjaye OM OBE, the first of the two newly elected Ghanaian members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is an award-winning Ghanaian-British architect known to infuse community-driven projects with his artistic sensibility and ethos.

His ingenious use of materials, his bespoke designs and his visionary sensibilities have set him apart as one of the leading architects of his generation.

In 2000, he founded his own practice, Adjaye Associates, which today operates globally, with studios in Accra, London and New York taking on projects that span the globe.

The firm’s work ranges from private houses, bespoke furniture collections, product design, exhibitions and temporary pavilions to major arts centres, civic buildings and masterplans.

His largest project to date – the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC – opened on the National Mall in Washington in 2016. The opening was named the Cultural Event of the Year by the New York Times.

In 2017, Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and recognised as one of the 100 most influential people of the year by TIME Magazine. Adjaye is also a recipient of the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, considered one of the highest honours in British architecture, awarded for significant contributions to the field internationally.

In 2022, Adjaye was appointed to the Order of Merit, selected by Her Majesty the Queen, in recognition of distinguished service in his field. He is also the recipient of the World Economic Forum’s 27th Annual Crystal Award, which recognises his “leadership in serving communities, cities and the environment”.

Professor Ato Quayson

Professor Ato Quayson, the second of the two members elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was recently appointed by the board of trustees of Stanford University as the launch head of the newly approved Department of African and African American Studies.

Ato Quayson, whose research interests include African postcolonial literature, modern diasporan studies and urban studies, will become chair of the new department when it officially opens in January 2024.

Ato Quayson is the Jean G and Morris M Doyle Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies and Professor of English at Stanford University.

Professor Ato Quayson

He studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Ghana and took his PhD from the University of Cambridge, after which he held a junior research fellowship at Wolfson College, Oxford, before returning to Cambridge to become the reader in Commonwealth and postcolonial literature in the Faculty of English from 1995-2005.

He was also the director of the Centre for African Studies and a fellow of Pembroke College while at Cambridge. Before Stanford, he was professor of African and postcolonial literature at New York University (2017-2019) and professor of English and the inaugural director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto (2005-2017).

In 2016 he was appointed University Professor at the University of Toronto, the highest distinction that the university can bestow. Professor Quayson has published six monographs and eight edited volumes.

His monographs include Strategic Transformations in Nigerian Writing (1997), Postcolonialism: Theory, Practice, or Process? (2000), Calibrations: Reading for the Social (2003) and Aesthetic Nervousness: Disability and the Crisis of Representation (2007).

Amon books he has edited are Relocating Postcolonialism (with David Goldberg, 2001), African Literary Theory: An Anthology of Literary Criticism and Theory (with Tejumola Olaniyan, 2007), Fathers and Daughters: An Anthology of Exploration (2008), Labor Migration, Human Trafficking, and Multinational Corporations (with Antonela Arhin, 2012), The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature (2 volumes, 2012), A Companion to Diaspora and Transnational Studies (with Girish Daswani, 2013) and The Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel (2016).

He also wrote a new introduction and notes to Nelson Mandela’s No Easy Walk to Freedom (2003).

Works-in-progress include: New York, A Writer’s City (Cambridge University Press), Accra Chic: A Locational History of Fashion in Accra (with Grace Tolequé; Intellect Books and Chicago University Press), The Cambridge Companion City in World Literature (with Jini Kim Watson; Cambridge University Press) and Decolonising English Literary Studies (with Ankhi Mukherjee; Cambridge University Press).

Professor Quayson was a Cambridge Commonwealth Scholar (1991-94), chief examiner in English for the International Baccalaureate (2005-2007) and member of the European Research Council (2010-2017). He has also held fellowships at the Du Bois Institute for African-American Studies at Harvard (2004) and the Research Centre in the Humanities at Australian National University (2015).

He was the 2011-12 Cornille Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College and is the founding editor of the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry.

He has lectured widely in Africa, Europe, Canada, the United States, Singapore, Turkey, Hong Kong, Australia, and various other places.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is both an honorary society that recognises and celebrates the excellence of its members and an independent research centre convening leaders from across disciplines, professions and perspectives to address significant challenges.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honours excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavour to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the United States and the world, and work together “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people”.

The Academy is guided by its commitment to the following values: advancing the common good, upholding democratic ideals, elevating the use of evidence and knowledge, fostering deliberative discourse, preserving independence, embracing diversity and inclusivity and celebrating excellence.

Reporting by Wilberforce Asare

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