SOAS University of London

SOAS awards 'academic luminaries' with honorary doctorates as part of the 2022 summer graduation ceremonies

25 July 2022

Exceptional figures in economics, the arts, peace-building, leadership and development are to be honoured during summer graduation celebrations later this week.  

The honoris causa - Latin for 'for the sake of the honour' waives all usual requirements of a degree to honour academics for their contribution to society. 

SOAS Director Professor Adam Habib said honourees chosen this year are notable people who have made significant changes and pushed boundaries in their field: 

"Their work has changed perceptions, policies and perspectives across the world and they are considered true academic luminaries. Their achievements reflect the values of SOAS and I am delighted to welcome them to the SOAS community.”  

SOAS President, Zeinab Badawi said: 

 "It is a privilege to honour these remarkable figures in recognition of their substantial contributions to the public good. They are leaders and changemakers in their respective fields and it is a pleasure to welcome them to SOAS."   

The Honorary awardees include: 

Ann Pettifor

Ann Pettifor, Political Economist 

Ann will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her remarkable contribution to political economy, particularly her leadership of the Jubilee 2000 campaign for the cancellation of approximately $100 billion of debt owed by some of the world’s poorest countries. 

Yōko Tawada, writer, novelist, playwright and poet 

Yōko Tawada

SOAS is conferring a Honorary Doctor of Literature in recognition of Yōko’s substantial contribution to the literary world. Her work exploring themes including boundaries, the environment, language, and the mismatch between words and reality, 'has addressed some of the most vital themes of our era'. 

Ilwad Elman

Ilwad Elman, Social Activist 

SOAS is conferring a Doctor of Law degree for Ilwad’s substantial contribution to social activism, advocacy for human rights and countering violent extremism, and work in raising international awareness for peace-building in Somalia. 

Hassan Musa, Artist 

Hassan Musa

Hassan Musa will be awarded an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his long-standing collaborations with SOAS, both institutionally and with individual staff and students, and his generous support of the Centre of African Studies and the School of Arts both through use of his artworks and by his presence.  

Hassan will be accepting his Honorary in absentia, he has sent a short video in acceptance.

Marie Staunton, Former Chair of the SOAS Board of Trustees and international development expert 

Marie Staunton

SOAS is conferring an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of Marie’s distinguished service and leadership during her tenure as Chair of the SOAS Board of Trustees between July 2016 and January 2022. 

Marie will be accepting her Honorary in absentia, she has sent a short video in acceptance.

The SOAS Summer Graduations will take place from 27 - 29 July in celebration of the class of 2022. 

On the evening of Tuesday 26 July, SOAS President Zeinab Badawi, will host special guests including this year’s honourees to mark the start of the 2022 SOAS Graduation Ceremonies.  

More about this year's honorarees 

Ann Pettifor 

Ann Pettifor is a political economist who writes and speaks on the global financial and economic system, monetary policy and the UK economy. Ann’s research, public service, and work through initiatives such as Advocacy International continue to raise international awareness for social, economic and climate justice issues. 

Born in South Africa in 1947, Ann attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where she graduated in politics and economics. During the 1980s, Ann worked for the headquarters of the British Labour Party, advised Ken Livingstone and the Greater London Council, and later served Margeret Beckett MP who became a member of the 1997 Labour government. 

Ann co-founded and led Jubilee 2000, an international movement that spanned 40 countries and called for the cancellation of debt in developing countries. The movement had a major impact in the UK, with Gordon Brown announcing that the Labour government would support debt cancellation at a Jubilee 2000 rally at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.  

After the end of the campaign, Ann joined the New Economics Foundation where she led research on global macro-economics. She is the director of Policy Research In Macroeconomics (PRIME) a network of economists researching Keynesian monetary theory and policies, and in 2018 she was awarded the Hannah Arendt for her work to highlight the social ills created by the global financial sector. 

Yōko Tawada 

Yōko Tawada is an award-winning writer, novelist, playwright and poet. Based in Berlin, Yoko writes in Japanese and German. Yōko Tawada was born in Tokyo in 1960 and educated at Waseda University. She has lived in Germany since 1982, where she received her Ph.D. in German literature. Yōko’s professional writing career began in 1987 with the publication of Nothing Only Where You Are, a collection of poems.  

Her work explores themes including boundaries, the environment, language, and the mismatch between words and reality. Yōko’s latest novel, Scattered All Over the Earth, depicts an apocalyptic world where Japan has disappeared. Described by the Asian Review of Books as ‘a remarkable tribute to language,’ the novel’s central characters begin a journey to discover the dispersed people who speak the language of their lost homeland. 

Yōko is the recipient of many literary awards. In 1993, she was awarded the prestigious Akutagawa Prize for The Bridegroom Was a Dog, a collection of three fantasy stories. In 1996, Yōko won the Adalbert-von-Chamisso Prize, a German award recognizing foreign writers for their contributions to German culture. In 2005, she received the Goethe Medal, an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in 2016 she received the prestigious Kleist Prize. 

In 2018, Yōko was awarded the National Book Award for The Last Children of Tokyo, a science fiction novel set in Japan after mad-made devastation. 

Ilwad Elman 

Ilwad Elman is a Somali Canadian social activist who works at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in Mogadishu.  SOAS is conferring a Doctor of Law degree for Ilwad’s substantial contribution to social activism, advocacy for human rights and countering violent extremism, and work in raising international awareness for peace building in Somalia.  

Ilwad is recognised as a leader at the forefront of the Somali peace process and a global authority on ending conflict and preventing violent extremism.    

Ilwad and her family were forced to flee Somalia after the 1996 assassination of her father, the Somalian peace activist and entrepreneur Elman Ali Ahmed. After a childhood spent in Canada, Ilwad, aged 19, and her mother returned to Somalia and embarked on projects to champion peace and justice in honour of Elman. Her mother founded the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center, and Ilwad, aged 20, founded Somalia’s first rape crisis centre.  

In her role at the Elman Peace Center, Ilwad has supported women in peace building initiatives, developed programmes for disarmament, and the rehabilitation of child soldiers and adults defecting from terrorist organisations.  

In recognition of her work, Ilwad was invited to brief the UN Security Council in 2015 on the need for action to protect civilians after alarming reports of violence against women in conflict zones around the world. She spoke about the inadequacy of ‘protection strategies which are gender blind and have failed to meaningfully include women.’  

She was voted the African Young Personality (Female) of the Year in the 2016 Africa Youth Awards.  

Hassan Musa 

Hassan Musa is a celebrated contemporary artist and author. His practice adapts, mixes and combines imagery from diverse art histories and styles, inclusive of zoomorphic calligraphy, often as a running commentary on contemporary cultural politics. 

Hassan spent his childhood in provincial Sudan (El Nuhud, North Kordofan). From an early age, he was intrigued by the varieties of imagery, inclusive of Arabic calligraphy, cinema and Chinese cultural magazines. 

After graduation from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Khartoum Polytechnic in 1974, he worked for several years in media in what was a vibrant time for the expressive arts in Khartoum. 

In 1978, he went to France for further education in fine art and art history, earning a doctorate from the University of Montpellier (1989). Musa earned a diploma in art education (1996) and was a classroom art teacher for twenty years. 

He lives and works in Domessargues with visits to China where his son resides and Sudan where he shares an interest in Sudanese oral literature with his scholar wife Patricia. He is represented by Maia Muller Gallery of Contemporary Art, Paris; his work has been acquired by numerous collections, including that of the Centre Pompidou. 

The Hassan Musa Mail Art Collection, held by the SOAS Library and Special Collections, is available online. These multi-media envelopes are examples of “free art,” having arrived unsolicited in the regular post to delight those along the way and the recipient. 

Marie Staunton CBE

Marie Staunton has over 25 years of international development and human rights experience, with a broad career in the public, private and NGO sectors. 

SOAS is conferring an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of Marie’s distinguished service and leadership during her tenure as Chair of the SOAS Board of Trustees between July 2016 and January 2022. 

Marie started her career working with homeless people in the Simon Community in London and Belfast. She became a human rights lawyer working with community groups and women’s organisations and as a solicitor in a community law centre in the West Midlands before joining the private sector as a Director of a Pearson Company.

Marie subsequently moved to the NGO sector where she was legal officer of Liberty and subsequently UK Director at Amnesty, and Vice Chair of their International Executive Committee. Thereafter she became Deputy Director of UNICEF UK, followed by over 12 years as the Chief Executive of the international development agency Plan UK, including latterly a spell as CEO of Plan Canada. She also served on the Board of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, as Director of the International Association of Anti Leprosy Associations and of Power to Change which supports community businesses.

She was awarded a C.B.E for her humanitarian work. 

Marie was appointed as the new Chair for The Strategic Coherence of ODA-funded Research (SCOR) Board in May 2021, replacing Professor Peter Piot.