African cinema scholar Professor Kenneth Harrow has passed on at the age of 80. He died on April 14, 2024 in the company of his dear wife Elizabeth Harrow.

Harrow’s passing is a great loss to the African literary and scholarly community. His research in African cinema and postcolonial studies has impacted the space of African literary and cultural studies greatly, along with his generous mentorship toward his graduate students and colleagues. According to the African Studies Association (ASA), Harrow published six single-authored books, 10 edited and co-edited volumes, and approximately 100 articles and book chapters during his lifetime.

Born in 1943 in New York, Harrow was the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe. He grew up in the Bronx and then later Mount Vernon, after which he went off to college at MIT and graduate school at NYU before accepting a faculty position at Michigan State University.

Harrow was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Literature and Film Studies at Michigan State University, where he taught for the last 52 years. According to the ASA’s in memoriam letter, Harrow worked hard to build community in the field of African Studies, through gatherings at his home, organizing conferences, creating film prizes, bringing African filmmakers to the US to promote their work, and serving on the board for the African Literature Association (ALA) and the African Studies Association (ASA).

In addition, Harrow was a beloved advisor to his students and taught classes on critical approaches to postcoloniality and life narrative, world literature, theory and film, as well as Black feminism. He was also an active member of Congregation Kehillat Israel and volunteered with the human rights organization Amnesty International, through which he helped refugees in Burundi and Rwanda since 1993.

He has won many prestigious awards. He served as President of the African Literature Association, and was honored with their first Distinguished Member Award in 2009. In 2010, he received the Distinguished Faculty Award at Michigan State University, and in 2011, he won the Distinguished Africanist Award at the Toyin Falola Annual Conference at the University of Texas. Just last year, Harrow received the ASA’s Distinguished Africanist Award.

He is the author of Thresholds of Change in African Literature (1994), Less Than One and Double: A Feminist Reading of African Women’s Writing (2002), Postcolonial African Cinema: From Political Engagement to Postmodernism (2007), Trash! A Study of African Cinema Viewed from Below (2013), and his latest monograph African Cinema in a Global Age (2023).

He has also edited numerous collections on such topics as Islam and African literature, African cinema, and women in African literature and cinema, including the collection Rethinking African Cultural Production (2015), African Filmmaking: Five Formations (2017), and A Companion in African Cinema (2018).

We are deeply saddened by the news of Harrow’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues, as they cope with their grief.

May his soul rest in peace.