All arts and social sciences students joining the University in September will be sent a free copy of Matthew Green’s book The Wizard of the Nile in which he seeks to track down the reviled Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.
The hunt for Kony came to world-wide attention earlier in the year when a video about the rebel army leader, who is wanted for crimes against humanity and war crimes, became the most viral video in history and was viewed by more than 100 million people in just six days.
In the book Green, a former East Africa correspondent for the news agency Reuters, tells of his journey through a war zone on the hunt for Kony and explores the background to a conflict which has devastated many lives in the region.
Students will be encouraged to read The Wizard of the Nile before coming to Aberdeen and the text will then be used for a series of discussions, debates and lectures in Freshers’ Week.
Green will also visit the University later in the year to talk to students in person about his experience of writing the book and the challenges of telling the human story behind conflict.
Common reading programmes are popular in the US and are used by institutions such as Cornell University and Ohio State University as a way to introduce students to University level thinking but Aberdeen is one of the first institutions in the UK to combine the concept with a wider programme of events.
On the Monday of Freshers’ Week (September 17) two matriculation events will be staged in the Arts Lecture Theatre to formally welcome new students from the College of Arts and Social Sciences to the University.
Lectures will then be delivered by two leading academics, Professor Peter Duff, from the School of Law and Professor Jane Stevenson, from the Department of History, exploring the book from a scholarly perspective.
The Big Read aims to provide new students with a common interest to help integration into University life and to stimulate academic thinking on an issue with which young people are already engaged.
It will continue throughout the year with activities in University societies and the author, Matthew Green, will visit Aberdeen in November.
Professor Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, will welcome students to the institution in person at the matriculation ceremony.
He said: “The Big Read is designed to create an inclusive environment for new students in the College of Arts and Social Sciences, many of whom will be away from home for the first time. The shared experience of the book will provide a subject for discussion and debate among students and staff members.
“The programme will also will introduce an academic element into the very beginning of students’ careers at the University and they will learn how to address an important issue of this kind from a more scholarly perspective.
“We are delighted that Matthew Green is supporting this important initiative in person and look forward to his visit to the University of Aberdeen.”
Matthew Green said: “For years I’d been fascinated by what I’d heard about Joseph Kony. Here was a man who wanted to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments, who obeyed the orders of a Holy Spirit and who abducted thousands of children. Yet somehow he had been allowed to run around central Africa for more than 20 years. Nobody seemed to be able to stop him. I wanted to know why, so I set out to meet him.
“This is not just a book about a forgotten war in Africa. Kony is the hero-turned-monster of classical myth, a man whose blindness to the suffering he caused almost destroyed the people he had risked everything to protect.
“I was absolutely thrilled to hear that Wizard of The Nile had been chosen for the University’s first Big Read project. It’s an honour and a privilege to know that the book will be available to so many students at Aberdeen."
The introduction of The Big Read has been welcomed by Aberdeen University Student Association.
Student President Anne-Claire added: “Students at the University of Aberdeen come from all sorts of backgrounds, but with the Big Read they’ll have at least one thing in common. It will provide a good starting point for conversations between students, but also with staff and academics. They will be part of a community before they even get here, which can only be a good thing.”