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Berry, Sara S. (1940–) - African History

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Sara Berry was born on March 21, 1940, in Washington, D.C., and attended public and private schools in western Massachusetts and southern California. Her mother worked full time as a homemaker; her father worked as a professor. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in history from Radcliffe College in 1961, Berry went on to pursue graduate work in economics, earning a master’s degree and then a doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan. But her search for what she calls an “effective academic niche” from which she could pursue interdisciplinary interests led her to the field of history.

Berry started her teaching career in 1967, at Indiana University, as a lecturer, then assistant, then associate professor of economics. She worked as visiting professor at the University of Ife in Nigeria and at Virginia Commonwealth and Boston Universities. In 1978 she accepted a position as associate professor of history and economics at Boston University, a position she held until 1991. While at Boston University Berry served one year as acting associate director of the African Studies Center and spent a year as a Noyes Fellow at Radcliffe College’s Bunting Institute. She left Boston University to accept an appointment as professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, a position she held until 1995, when she accepted a position as Melville J. Herskovits Professor of African Affairs at Northwestern University.

Berry’s three books and more than thirty-five scholarly articles explore agricultural policy and economic development in Africa. Her most recent book, No Condition Is Permanent: The Social Dynamics of Agrarian Change in Sub-Saharan Africa , explores the conflicts that have led to a drop rather than the expected increase in per-capita food production in Africa. Reviewer Leroy Vail argued that if Berry’s book “is received as it deserves to be, it will serve as a signal blow against the ever-present tendency to deny to Africans historical change and to posit for them a blind adherence, close to irrationality, to unchanging customs.” Sara Berry’s second book, Fathers Work for Their Sons: Accumulation, Mobility and Class Formation in an Extended Yoruba Community , won her the Herskovits Award from the African Studies Association for the best book on Africa published in 1985.

Berry has also contributed a great deal to her field through her consulting activities, which include serving as consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation, first to evaluate applications for a program of fellowships entitled Exploring the Long-term Implications of Changing Gender Roles, and then to review the state of the art on socioeconomics of cassava cultivation in Africa. Berry was commissioned to write review papers on agricultural change in Africa for the Joint Committee on African Studies, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Ford-Rockefeller Foundation. She has also received fellowships or awards from the Fulbright Senior Scholars Program, the Social Science Research Council, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. Her professional service includes serving on review panels for the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Herskovits Book Awards Committee. In keeping with her interdisciplinary approach to her work, Berry has supervised over forty Ph.D. theses in history, economics, anthropology, political science, and sociology.

Berry, Walter [next] [back] Berry, Mary Frances (1938–) - U.S. Constitutional History

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