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The Stephen Ellis Prize for the Most Innovative Article

Stephen Ellis (1953-2015) was a greatly respected editor of African Affairs, who played an important role in making the journal the success that it is today. The Stephen Ellis Prize for the most innovative article in African Affairs is intended to highlight and promote the kind of thought provoking, politically engaged and pathbreaking analysis that Stephen Ellis pioneered throughout his hugely influential career. The prize will be awarded to the article published in African Affairs that does the most to challenge existing preconceptions, raise issues of contemporary political importance, render complex topics accessible to broader audiences, or to introduce new ideas (whether theoretical, empirical or methodological) into African studies and the public understanding of Africa. 

The prize, which comes with a cash award of £100 and one year's free subscription to African Affairs, will be awarded every second year, for the most innovative article published in the previous two year period. The inaugural prize winning article will be chosen from those papers published in the calendar years 2014-2015, and will be presented at the ASAUK conference in Cambridge in 2016. The awarding committee for the prize will include at least two members from the Editorial Board of African Affairs, and the editors of African Affairs.

2016 Stephen Ellis Prize

The 2016 Stephen Ellis prize was awarded to Justin V. Hastings and Sarah G. Phillips for their article Maritime piracy business networks and institutions in Africa. 

The inaugural awarding committee was Tim Kelsall, Pierre Englebert, Nic Cheeseman, Lindsay Whitfield and Carl Death. After much deliberation, and recognising that there are many articles in the journal worthy of consideration for this award, the committee decided that the article by Hastings and Philips deserved the prize because of the way in which it shows shows how political institutions in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea shape and constrain sophisticated maritime piracy syndicates and their behaviour. 

In the Horn of Africa, pirates tend to employ kidnappings for ransom, but they also mimic, and take structural and ideational cues from the licit economy. In West Africa, sophisticated piracy networks engage in shipping and cargo seizures, but also mirror and draw from institutions which regulate and protect oil production, and those engaged in oil production, processing, distribution, and transportation. The article casts light on a murky area of huge importance, and in the words of one of the judges: “It is not only highly original and well researched but it makes a very important theoretical contribution about the constraining effects of formal institutions on informal and illicit activities."
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