Douglas A Anthony Professor of History, Program Chair of Africana Studies


The main advantage of teaching an entire continent, from its historical beginnings through the very recent past, is the opportunity to select those themes that are most compelling.  I am most drawn to those that bear directly on today's world. 

I emphasize the tricky business of identity formation (What group identities do people claim? What historical processes inform those claims?) and the origins of and remedies for conflict (Do the apparent causes of conflicts actually explain them?  What hidden factors do we need to take into account?).  These questions surface in one way or another in all of my courses.  I am also interested in more traditional concerns like the relationship between political, economic, and religious institutions, and how material conditions and culture interact.

I want students to leave my Africa courses able to participate knowleably in discussions about the continent.  And, even more importantly, I want them to have sharp analytical and critical thinking skills so that they can be effective participants in the full range of intellectual, cultural, professional, and political activities that life offers. 

The same is true for my Connections course, "Slavery:  Past, Present (and Future?), which explores variations of involuntary servitude around the world.  This course draws indirectly on some of my Africa-related interests, but presents new questions and challenges for my students and me alike.

My first love, though, is Africa.  I took my first African history class on a whim during my last undergraduate semester.  By the third class meeting, I was sold.  After a year teaching English in Japan, I entered the doctoral program in History at Northwestern University in 1989.  As a graduate student I did nearly two years of fieldwork in Nigeria on that country's civil war and the role of ethnic and religious differences in both catalyzing and ending the conflict.  My more recent research has expanded into other aspects of Nigeria's civil war, and into questions of how Nigerians (and others) from very different backgrounds understand, critique, and perform ethnicity, race, modernity, and religious difference.


Ph.D. (History), Northwestern University (1996) Dissertation: "I Need to Get to Kano": Unmaking and Remaking an Igbo Migrant Community in Northern Nigeria, 1966-1986

M.A. (History), Northwestern University (1990)

B.G.S. (General Studies), University of Missouri-Columbia (1988)


My early work focused on Nigeria's civil war and role of ethnic and religious differences in both catalyzing and ending the conflict.  More recently I've been exploring the question of genocide in Nigeria's civil war and how Nigerians from different backgrounds understand and perform modernity.

Grants & Awards

A.W. Mellon/Central Pennsylvania Consortium Faculty Development Fellowship, 2006-7

Lindback Junior Faculty Award, 2000

Faculty Research Grants, Franklin & Marshall College, 1996-8, 2001-2, 2004

Committee for Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Writing Fellowship, 1995-6

Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Dissertation Fellowship, 1992

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Fellowship, 1992

Committee for Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Doctoral Fellow, 1989-94

Select Publications


Poison and Medicine: Ethnicity, Power, and Violence in a Nigerian City, 1966-1986. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2002.

Articles and Book Chapters

"'What Are They Observing?':  The Accomplishments and Missed Opportunities of Observer Missions in the Nigerian Civil War." Journal of African Military History (2), 2018

"Decolonization, Race, and Region in Nigeria: Northernization Revisited." International Journal of African Historical Studies (51), 2018

"Irreconcilable Narratives: Biafra, Nigeria and Arguments about Genocide, 1966-70." In Moses and Heerten, eds., Postcolonial Conflict and the Question of Genocide, 2017. 

"'Ours is a War of Survival':  Biafra and the Genocide Argument." Journal of Genocide Research (16), 2014.

"'Resourceful and Progressive Blackmen': Modernity and Race in Biafra, 1967-1970." Journal of African History (51), 2010.

"‘Islam Does Not Belong to Them': Ethnic and Religious Identities Among Male Igbo Converts in Hausaland." Africa (70), 2000.


2017 "Missed Opportunities:  The Failures (and minor successes) of Observer Missions in the Nigerian Civil War," George Washington University Remembering Biafra conference.

2007 "'Claims of Tradition, Demand for Change': Unpacking the Biafran Moment," Invited talk, Cornell University Africana Studies and Research Center.

2006 Panel organizer, chair and presenter, "Cosmopolitan Africa: The Example of Kano (Nigeria)" panel. Paper presented: "Reframing Ethnicity and Religion: The ‘Syrian' Presence in Colonial Kano," African Studies Association, San Francisco.

2005 "Echoes of Colonialism, Ghosts of 1966: Nigeria Through the Biafran Lens," African Studies Association, Washington, D.C. Chaired separate panel ("Culturing a Nation: Nigerian Unities and Disunities, Part III)

2005 "The Nexus of Ethnicity, Religion and Violence in Colonial and Post-Colonial Northern Nigeria," Crossing Over: Learning to Navigate the Borderlands of Intercultural Encounters symposium, Cleveland State University.

2004 Chair, "Development, Human Rights and Conflict: Understanding Post-Colonial Challenges Facing African Communities in a Globalized World" panel, CPC Africana Studies Conference ("Globalizations and the African World"), Dickinson College

2003 Discussant, "Sons Abroad: West African Migrants and Community" panel, African Studies Association, Boston.

2003 "Interculturality, Conflict, and Community: Confronting the Legacies of Colonial Rule in Post-colonial Nigeria." University of Illinois Joint Area Studies Centers conference on Interculturality in a Globalizing World.

2003 "Foreign Capital and Socio-Political Instability in Nigeria," World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

2002 "The Media Doesn't Get it: Chewing Up Nigeria with Soundbites," invited participant, University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center workshop on Africa and the Media.

2002 "Fighting Fire with Rhetoric: Biafran Propaganda and the Nigerian Civil War," African Studies Association, Washington, D.C.

2001 "Legacies of Indirect Rule in Post-Colonial Northern Nigeria," invited participant, Indirect Rule in Africa and South Asia conference, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

2000 "Civilization, War, and Violence in Civil War-Era Nigeria," African Studies Association, Nashville, Tennessee.

1999 Discussant, "Facts and Imaginations: African Women in Stories and Poems" panel, African Studies Association, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1999 "Disappearing Acts: Ethnicity, Violence, and Dissimulation in Northern Nigeria," invited talk, Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts.

1999 Discussant, "Africa Through the Eye of the Traveler" panel, University of Pennsylvania annual African Studies Workshop, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1998 Chair and discussant, "The Body as a Battlefield" panel, CPC Women's Studies Conference, Franklin & Marshall College.

1998 "‘One Nigeria': Humility and Reconciliation in Northern Nigeria, 1968-75," African Studies Association, Chicago, Illinois.

1997 "From Vilification to Brotherhood: Official Representations and the Appropriation of Stereotypes of the Igbo in Nigeria, 1966-1970," African Studies Association, Columbus, Ohio.

1995 "Northernization, Unification, and State Creation: The Changing Face of the Igbo Civil Servant in Northern Nigeria," African Studies Association, Orlando, Florida.

1995 "That's Just How They Are: Stereotypes and Historicity in Post-Civil War Nigeria," Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts (Northwestern University)conference, Evanston, Illinois.

1994 "Assimilation and Assertion: Intersections of Muslim, Hausa, and Igbo Identities among Male Converts in Kano, Nigeria," African Studies Association, Toronto, Ontario.

1992 "Problems of Problematizing Ethnicity: The Meaning of 'Igbo' in the Period of the Nigerian Civil War," University of Jos Conference for American Scholars, Jos (Nigeria).

1990 "Igbo Migrants in Northern Nigeria: Aspects of Pre- and Post-Civil War Socio-economic Integration," Committee for Institutional Cooperation Fellows Conference, Columbus, Ohio.