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Wesleyan University’s African Studies Cluster is devoted to facilitating a deeper understanding and engagement with Africa for the Wesleyan Community and beyond. We bring together a diverse array of courses focusing on Africa, culling the interests of faculty specializing in Africa from a wide variety of disciplines. This broadly interdisciplinary cluster focuses on a large geographic region that is of great historical, cultural, political, and artistic importance and interest to American university students, not to mention American society in general. The cluster promotes interdisciplinary learning in the best of liberal arts traditions.

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Photos courtesy of Olivia Drake and various students and faculty.


What motivated you to work on/write a thesis on the Mau mau?

For me, I am more passionate about something when I have a personal connection with it and so having friends at Wesleyan who were specifically from Kenya, I had already had conversations with them about living in Kenya and what they felt about Kenyan identity, Kenyan patriotism and so talking to them about that and then also learning about Kenyan history specifically in some of my classes and so I got interested in how the past can influence identity today and so once I learned about the Mau Mau and the rebellion, I was really intrigued by thinking about how Mau Mau might have implications in Kenyan society beyond affecting the way history has unfolded and also looking at how people think of themselves as Kenyans

What are these classes that have Kenyan history?

For me the one that incorporated the most of Kenyan history was modern Africa with Prof. Twagira and I had also taken a class in high school on world history, which had specifically touched on Mau Mau and so I ended up doing a research project in my history seminar class, History 362, and that’s where I decided to focus more of my research into.

How was the research for your thesis? Was it hectic? Did you actually find information because when I do research on Kenyan history I never find anything online.

It was definitely hectic and I would say also that my research was kind of separated into two main things: the research that I did in Kenya was in the archives or in interviews and then i did a lot of research afterwards reading books, articles, random newspaper reports, magazines, articles, so that stuff was kinda more like your typical research which I was more comfortable with, because I’ve done it before, But I can say doing research in Kenya was a bit more difficult only because i had never been there before and so I didn’t necessarily know how things worked, such as getting around the city and even the basics, and it was also my first experience in an archive and so i had to figure out how to find documents I needed out of the thousands of papers that they have, so that was really hard.  For the interviews, it was really difficult to try and reach out to people and try to get them to share their thoughts and experiences with me when they had never met me. I mean they don’t know me, why should they talk to me, and so even if they were super welcoming, I had to get out of my comfort zone in order to do that.

Did you say it that your research was mostly difficult in Kenya?Did you face the same intensity of difficulty while doing research in the US?

It was difficult outside of Kenya for different reasons, because there has been so much written about it in different ways and so it was really hard to do all this research and get all this information and find a way to think about it when you already have so much to think about it either through secondary sources, the newspaper articles in the past, the reports today about the past or novels or films. There is just so much information and so it was kind of intimidating to even figure out where I was going to start or how I was going to incorporate all these different sources to try and formulate an argument when you have so much information. So it was definitely also difficult in a separate way from doing research in Kenya.

Was Wesleyan helpful? The librarians for example?

Yes, I’d say so. I met with them to get some basic things, but I had honestly done a lot of the research on my own in some ways. I found the Wesleyan library website to be very helpful. I mean you can get books from other colleges, and it is so easy to find and search for things that connect directly to you. But they were definitely helpful in terms of figuring out the structural things such as citation problems and finding specific sources for the very particular sources that I wasn’t sure how to get, then they were very helpful.

Do you think the administration could do something to help with that kind of research, because there are certain places which are underrepresented in academia, so do you think Wesleyan could do something to encourage students to be interested or do research in African studies in general?

I would love for that to happen, I think that would be great. I think a basic starting point would be to incorporate a more outside ways of looking at things. For instance, in the history department, majors such as College of Letters, like I considered majoring in C.O.L., but it really focuses a lot on Europe only, so I think it would be really great for majors like that or other majors to actively incorporate things from other cultures, and other ways of thinking of it other than their standard canon of philosophy or literature or something else because if it’s done in such a way, people sometimes don’t know what they’re interested in because they haven’t experienced it and so they don’t try and learn anything and I think it’s so important to go outside of what you know and one might find out that they really like it and explore more. Besides that, the African studies events are great but my friends don’t know about them and so figuring out different ways to advertise. Or a way to advertise beyond the people who would obviously go to these events.

What is your advice to students who are thinking of doing a thesis on the continent?

That’s exciting, I’d tell them to definitely do it because I definitely went in without knowing anyone at the time who was in Kenya, because all my Kenyan friends from Wesleyan were not in Kenya at the time, and yet the experience itself was really fulfilling. And it is really great I think to have access to sources that you wouldn’t get because I was told that I could have gone to the archives in London and looked at the colonial documents, but that wasn’t really what I was looking for and I think that it’s so easy then if you don’t go to the place that you are researching on specifically and only look at outside sources that you sure are comfortable going to, then I think you miss so much exciting information. Its also a new experience, you are meeting new people and seeing a different culture. It’s also very different to study something on books and literature than to actually go to places and talk to people because then you are seeing the society from a different side and it’s a lot more personal, and I think you have a better image and understanding of the society. It’s definitely worth it.

Side note: Having a connection there (in the African country that you will be going to) with someone who can show you things can make your experience 10 times better.

How interested are you in this? Do you plan to continue your work on Mau Mau?

I am done with Mau Mau for now, I think I need a bit of a break,  but I don’t quite know what I’m gonna do in the future so there is a real possibility that if I decide to go get a PhD that I’ll continue doing something connected to my work, but less concretely I am really hoping that whatever I decide to do, I’ll have a job that focuses on Africa, like working in a country like Kenya. I’d really like to do something that has an international focus, so that I can continue to do the African studies that I have been doing here.

Interview by:Claudia Kahindi, Class of ’18.


Upcoming Events!

African Studies @ Wes

has a new homepage

Check it out!


Keep checking back here for more event updates and student blogs!


African Studies Courses for Fall 2015!

ARHA299 African History and Art

DANC 260 West African Dance I

DANC 360 West African Dance II

FIST 125 Jungle and Desert Adventures (NEW)

GOVT 324 Africa in World Politics

HIST 217 Africa to 1800 (New)

MUSC 445 West African Music and Culture – Beginning

MUSC 447 West African Music and Culture – Advanced

210px-King_Dom_Garcia_of_Kongo receiving missionaries 1641 to 1661

King Dom Garcia of Kongo receiving missionaries (17th century)

Ciwara dance in Bamako 2010 wiki

Ciwara dance in Bamako (Mali) in 2010


Political cartoon by Victor Ndula (Kenya) in 2015

Congratulations to the 2015

Brodigan Award Winners!

Holly Everett

Chloe Holden

Geneva Jonathan

Orelia Jonathan

Ibironke Otusile


Prof. Alice Hadler, Ibironke Otusile, Holly Everett, Orelia Jonathan, Geneva Jonathan,

Chloe Holden, and Profs. Laura Ann Twagira and Mike Nelson


Upcoming Talk!
“How Apartheid Ended: Mandela and the Last White Leaders of South Africa”

with Hermann Gilliomee

A Lecture in Honor of Prof. Rick Elphick

5/4 @ 6pm in Russell House

How Apartheid Ended Lecture


Think about Africa on Earth Day!

Tuesday, 4/21 @ Noon

Exkey Science Center, Room 058

Earth day talk with Gregg Mitman

“Forgotten Paths of Empire”

Earth Day Film Screening and Discussion

Wednesday 4/22 @ 4:30pm

DFC (Usdan, 3rd floor)

“In the Shadow of Ebola”



Africa Earth Day Events 2015



African Christianity Rising:

Stories from Ghana


with filmmaker/scholar Dr. James Ault

Monday, April 13 @ 8:30pm in Allbritton 103

“Striking, powerful & clarifying…” Andrew Walls     “Magnificent & moving…” Philip Jenkins   “An essential tool in African Studies…” Olufemi Vaughan

Image African Christianity Rising





The NILE PROJECT in Concert!


Friday, April 10 @ 8pmin Crowell Concert Hall


Pre-concert talk @ 7:15pm

$6 Wesleyan Students; $22 Wesleyan Faculty/Staff/Alumni; $25 General Public

Nile Project Aswan, Egypt, 8 March, 2014.




African Studies Information Session

Monday April 6th


PAC 002

Come Learn about next fall’s African Studies Course offerings

and the Christopher Brodigan Award for graduating seniors!

Pizza will be provided

African Studies Poster 2015.5_edited-1


Kampala city scene with boda and car traffic

Street Scene in Kampala, Uganda (2014)



Thursday, Feburary 26 @ 4:30pm in PAC 001

“The Classless Struggle: The Soviet Union and the Construction of Socialism in Africa”

A talk by Jeremy Friedman (Yale University)

The Classless Struggle Poster FINAL_edited-2

Mark Your Calendars!
Exciting Conference about Technology in Africa on Campus!

Africanizing Technology
March 5-6th, 2015

Thursday, March 5th

5:00pm Keynote Lecture  by Dr. Julie Livingston (Rutgers University)

“Pharmaceutical Technologies and the Nature of Efficacy in Botswana”

Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, Room 311

222 Church Street, Middletown, CT

Friday, March 6th

Conference Panels (9am-5:30pm)

Usdan University Center, Room 110

45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown, CT


9:00am Technologies of Identity and Knowledge Production

10:45am Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Development 

1:45pm Imagining New Technological Cultures

3:30pm Technological Cultures of Health and Healing



“American Slaves in North Africa:

Captivity Narratives from the early 19th century”

Thursday, February 19 @ 4:30pm in 41 Wyllys, Room 115

Tobias Auboeck, University of Innsbruck


Abstract: In the narrative about her captivity in Algiers in the early nineteenth century, Maria Martin states on numerous occasions that a certain event or feeling “must be imagined, rather than described.” Considering the fact that her narrative turns out to be completely fabricated, this expression receives an interesting second level of meaning – it describes the author’s process of inventing everything that Maria Martin supposedly goes through in the course of her narrative. This is all the more fascinating, as her narrative ended up being the most successful female-authored Barbary Coast captivity narrative ever to be published in the U.S. This study shows how the images and ideas depicted are often subconsciously constructed but also in some cases carefully drafted.



Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars


In Concert this Friday!


Feb. 13th @ 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall

(panel discussion at 7pm)

Tickets: $5 Wes Community, $10 General Public

SLRAS Concert Flyer

SLRAS-Concert-Flyer (downloadable pdf)

Submit to the African Studies

Student Blog!


Email your posts to wesafricablog@gmail.com


African Studies Blog Poster


Welcome Back to Campus!

African Studies is now on Facebook!

Like us @ African Studies at Wes

Check back soon for exciting events and concerts coming this spring!

Inline image 1

Nov. 6 from 5-6pm in the Zelnick Pavilion

(Refreshments Provided)

Come Meet the African Studies Faculty

Learn How to Build Your Own African Studies Course Concentration

Meet the Faculty and Learn About Upcoming Events!

All are Welcome!

Upcoming Student Events!

Nov. 7&8 The African Innovation Summit and Ariya Student Show

Check back for more details!


Open House Poster



“The Origins of Voluntary Compliance: Attitudes toward Taxation in Urban Nigeria”

with Adrienne Lebas (American University)

Monday 10/27 @ noon in PAC 004

How do states convince citizens to pay tax? Rather than
focusing on enforcement, most accounts emphasize voluntary or
“quasi-voluntary” compliance as an essential element in successful tax
regimes. There remains, however, limited understanding of how
voluntary tax compliance and the societal norms supporting it emerge.

This is an important issue in sub-Saharan Africa, where low reliance
on taxation is presumed to contribute to corruption and a lack of
government accountability. Prof. Lebas uses novel public opinion data
from urban Nigeria to examine why individuals adopt pro-compliance
norms. We find that citizens respond to state delivery of services,
but tax attitudes are also shaped by their access to services or “club
goods” provided by non-state actors.

Ebola Understanding the Public Health Response Oct 23 Poster (2)

Mark Your Calendars!

The second event on Ebola sponsored by African Studies is coming soon!

Ebola: Understanding the Public Health Response

Thursday, October 23 at noon in PAC 001


Dr. Matt Carter (Wes ’76), the Connecticut State Epidemiologist: What do we need to know about Ebola in C0nnecticut?

Prof. Anna Geltzer (SISP) : What do we know about international drug development and where Ebola fits into the picture?

Prof. Dave Constantine (Math) : What do we make of recent models for the spread of the virus?

All Are Welcome


Lunch talk sponsored by the History Department and African Studies:


Ebola in the News

A Historical and Political Perspective

A recent NPR story reported that the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus has “Broken All The Rules” (Sept 20, 2014).

“Worst Case Scenario: CDC Predicts 1.4 Million Cases in Four Months” (New York Times, September, 24, 2014)


Has Ebola broken all the rules? What do we know about past outbreaks?

What is the potential political impact for Africa?
Professors Bill Johnston (History), Laura Ann Twagira (History), and Mike Nelson(Government) will discuss the recent health crisis.

Monday, October 6, 12-NOON, PAC 002. Light lunch will be available.


Ebola in the News

Panel Discussion:
Gender, Islam, and the “Muslim Problem”

Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 7:00 PM
CFA Hall

•   •   •
§ Aida Mansoor
¶ President of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut

§ Leila Buck ’99
¶ Writer, performer, and teaching artist

§ Dr. M. Saud Anwar
¶ Mayor of South Windsor, Connecticut

§ Typhaine Leservot
¶ Associate Professor of French and Letters

§ Peter Gottschalk
¶ Professor, Department of Religion
•   •   •
This panel, part of the Muslim Women’s Voices Project, will feature a discussion of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments, which have proven so influential among non-Muslim Americans and Europeans. The panel will ask questions that will prepare the community for the larger, year-long look into the complexities that challenge what are often one-dimensional popular portrayals of Islam, gender, and Muslim groups and cultures.

From my colleague, Typhaine Leservot

A quick announcement to bring your attention to several events this week involving Northern Africa through the “Muslim Women Voices” festival:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 4:15 PM / Daltry Room (Music Rehearsal Hall 003) / free: Women’s Voices, Verbal Ability, and Symbolic Power: The Case of Moroccan Shikhat. Alessandra Ciucci analyzes a wedding celebration in Morocco to determine the role(s) of the shikhat, a class of professional female singer-dancers.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 7:00 PM / CFA Hall / free: Panel Discussion: Gender, Islam, and the ‘Muslim Problem’. Organized and moderated by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk.

Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 11:00 AM / World Music Hall / Free for Wes students. Meryem Saci Workshop: Music Is Medicine—Hip Hop Therapy for the Bifurcated Soul. In this workshop, Meryem Saci will explore her experiences as a refugee, an artist, and a Muslim woman. She will unpack the therapeutic and spiritual benefits that music can provide, pulling examples and lessons from her own history and life story. Meryem Saci fled Algeria in 2000 and now lives in Montréal.

Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 9:00 PM / Fayerweather Beckham Hall / Planet Hip Hop Festival Concert – Evening performances by international Muslim women in hip hop, including London’s spoken-word duo Poetic Pilgrimage, the U.S. debut of Montreal-based Algerian singer-songwriter and rapper Meryem Saci (pictured) as a solo artist, and the New England debut of Washington, D.C.-based and Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter, poet, and emcee Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh as a solo artist.

More at a later date: look for Hind Benali, Moroccan dancer, who will come at Wesleyan the week of October 13th.

For more information about the entire MWV festival, please visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa/mwv

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