Professor Steve William Tonah awarded Research Prize by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

November 2020

The sociologist Professor Steve William Tonah from the University of Ghana has been awarded the Humboldt Research Prize by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in recognition of his outstanding achievements in research and teaching. The Humboldt Research Prize is a prestigious award in Germany that is given to internationally renowned scholars from abroad. It is valued at 60,000 euros. The award ceremony is expected to take place in March 2021.

Professor Tonah has cooperated with the Center of Methods in Social Sciences (MZS) at the University of Göttingen for many years. “Our congratulations go to Steve Tonah on being awarded this prize. We are delighted that he has been honoured in this way”, says the Director of the Center of Methods, Professor Gabriele Rosenthal. “The Humboldt Research Prize is a sign of recognition for his consistently excellent, internationally renowned work. Cooperation with him is a great gain for us at the MZS, especially in the field of research on sub-Saharan Africa, and generally for future cooperation between sociologists in Germany and Ghana.” And Professor Maria Pohn-Lauggas, also from the MZS, who has had fruitful exchanges with Professor Tonah in connection with the practice and teaching of multi-method research, adds: “We are looking forward to welcoming Steve Tonah back to Göttingen, so that we can continue our discussions and plan joint research projects.” This award will enable Professor Tonah to make several visits to the Center of Methods and to further common research interests.

In addition to being firmly anchored in sociology, Professor Tonah’s work has always had an interdisciplinary dimension, overlapping in particular with anthropology. His consistently multi-method and historically well-informed research – relating primarily to Ghana – constitutes an innovative contribution to empirically based reflections on ethnicity, the ethnicizing of collective conflicts, factors which can contribute to the de-escalation of conflicts, and courses of migration and re-migration. His work displays a remarkably successful combination of micro-, meso- and macrosociological perspectives and has attracted international und interdisciplinary attention.

During his visits to the Center of Methods in Social Sciences an important task will be to reflect together on how to adapt the choice and combination of research methods to the typical settings and conditions in which sociologists in the “Global South” conduct empirical research. The aim will be to make a contrastive comparison of field research on refugees showing differences and similarities in the migration courses of groupings from different regions and countries of origin.

Professor Tonah has taught courses in general and political sociology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Ghana since 2005. He gained his BA in Economics and Sociology in 1982 at the University of Cape Coast (Ghana); after this he studied at the University of Bielefeld in Germany, obtaining a Diplom (equivalent to MA) in sociology, and finally a PhD in 1993. From 2000 to 2010, he was a Research Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle. As a result of his considerable research and publication activities, he was honoured with the title of “best researcher” at the University of Ghana in 2009, and in 2017 was admitted as a member of the renowned Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. Further information about his academic career and about sociology at universities in Ghana can be found in an interview which Professor Rosenthal conducted with Professor Tonah in 2019 (for the German text, see the International link on the website of the Center of Methods).