Africanist Graduate Students

Priscilla Adipa (Sociology)

Priscilla Adipa's dissertation examines how visual art exhibition spaces in Accra and Johannesburg attract audiences and facilitate their engagement with artworks. She is particularly interested in how people's experiences of art are shaped through discourse and the physical and spatial characteristics of exhibition spaces. Drawing on ethnographic work and interviews with gallery visitors and art administrators, she shows how the art encounter unfolds when exhibition spaces become interactive arenas where people engage with people, people engage with things and geographic space, and the exhibition space itself interacts with its environs.

Ashley Agbasoga (Anthropology)

Ashley Agbasoga’s research interest is in the African diaspora, specifically the connection of race and health in Afro-Mexico in the Costa Chica Region, where rural states were greatly affected by 1990s neoliberal policies, such as NAFTA. She is the 2016 recipient of the Tepoztlán-Northwestern Graduate Fellowship, which is awarded to one PhD student every two years.

Brandon Alston (Sociology)

Brandon Alston’s major areas of interest are: masculinities, race and ethnicity, identity formation, African American and Africana studies, and religion.

Fullamusu Kadija Bangura (English)

Fullamusu Bangura’s research interests include queerness and healing practices in the literature of the African Diaspora as well as the intersections of race, gender, class, and African politics. Her 2015 senior thesis investigated feminine water spirits of the African Diaspora. She has served as a City Year AmeriCorps member, working in an English/Language Arts classroom with 6-8th graders in North Lawndale. She is passionate about blogging and writes essays about black mermaids and Beyoncé Knowles, among other topics, at fullamusings.wordpress.com. In addition, she participates in Assata’s Daughters, an intergenerational organization that promotes social action in the African American community.

Tarek Adam Benchouia (Performance Studies)

Tarek Benchouia's research interests focus on the culture and politics of Mahraganat, a contemporary and emergent genre of music in Egypt.

Abdeta Beyene (Political Science)

Abdeta Beyene’s dissertation title is “Strong States and Bad Neighborhoods: Rule Infringement in the Pursuit of Stronger Rules.” His study examines the growing disjuncture between the political logics of states like Ethiopia and Rwanda and their neighbors. He currently serves as associate director of the Institute for Advanced Research in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Prior to this, he served as chief of staff of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission pursuant to the Agreement to Resolve the Conflict in South Sudan.

Jessica Biddlestone (History)

Jessica Biddlestone’s focus is on modern French History with a particular interest in colonialism, education, literature, and ethnography.

Marco Bocchese (Political Science)

Marco Bocchese’s research analyzes to what extent context shapes whether targets of international prosecutorial bodies like the ICC will see prosecution as a threat. While in some instances threats of prosecution convince leaders that there is nothing to lose in defiance, others are deterred. Thus their main concerns center on survivability and the likelihood of real punishment for proscribed behavior.

Colin Bos (History)

Colin Bos is interested in the sociocultural history of West Africa before independence. In his BA thesis, he examined the political uses of disease and settler mortality in the liberated African settlements of Sierra Leone and Liberia from 1825 to 1850, particularly how the use of the language of disease control intersected with deep anxieties about race, nationalism, and the idea of “coming home.”

Eddine Nabil Bouyahi (Political Science)

Eddine Nabil Bouyahi’s research is about the effects of land reforms on social structure in the countryside in Southern Africa, how these policies transform the relationship between the state and the elites in these areas, and the specific politic demands of the populations living there.

Alison Ann Boyd (Art History)

Alison Boyd studies the arts of the African diaspora and feminist art history. She is a Mellon Fellow in Northwestern’s gender and sexuality studies cluster. Her dissertation is titled “Modernism for America: Africanism and other Primitivisms at the Barnes Foundation 1919-1951.” She argues that Philadelphia art collector Albert Barnes used primitivism—first in relation to African sculpture and African American music and, later, Native American and Pennsylvania German art—to recontextualize his collection of modern art into displays that were uniquely relevant to his vision of the United States.

Matthew Brauer (French and Italian)

Matthew Brauer’s interests emphasize the literary and museographical presentation of encounters with the material traces of history, particularly regarding Roman archaeology in French colonial North Africa.

Bonnie Bright (Medical Anthropology, Feinberg School of Medicine)

Antawan Byrd (Art History)

Antawan Byrd’s dissertation is titled “Interferences: Sound, Technology, and the Politics of Listening in Afro-Atlantic Art.” He examines the representation and uses of sound technologies by artists in locales ranging from Bamako and Port of Spain to Kingston and New York, beginning in the second half of the 20th Century. From 2009–2011, he was a curatorial assistant at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, and most recently an associate curator for the 10th Bamako Encounters, Biennale of African Photography, 2015. His research has been supported by an Andrew Mellon CLIR fellowship, a Block Museum curatorial fellowship, grants from Northwestern’s Buffett Institute and Barbara Shanley Fund, and a Fulbright award.

Will Caldwell (Religious Studies)

Will Caldwell specializes in the history of early twentieth-century African American Muslims, with a focus on issues of race, empire, and internationalism.

Emma Chubb (Art History)

Emma Chubb’s research examines the relationship between national identity, visual representation, minority communities, and postcolonial migration in North Africa and the Middle East where she has been involved in exhibitions, publications, and artist residencies since 2007. Her dissertation analyzes how contemporary artworks represent diversity in response to the specific social, historical, and political contexts of 20th and 21st-century Morocco, and it explains the emergence of a generation of artists in Morocco who came of age during the postcolonial period.

Corrine Collins (English)                                      

Corrine Collins’s research interest is Anglophone literature in the African diaspora in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Grace Deveney (Art History)

Grace Deveney’s main fields are global modern and contemporary art. She has been awarded the Eliza Dangler Curatorial Fellowship at the Art Institute of Chicago (2013) and the Marjorie Susman Curatorial Fellowship, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2014-15).

Mitchell Edwards (History)

Mitch Edwards is a first-year doctoral student focusing on social histories of refugee mobility within twentieth-century East Africa. His research interests revolve around historical displacement in a way that privileges the everyday influence of transnational networks, state-specific governance, and distinct cultures on people living outside their presumed homelands. He is a fellow of the interdisciplinary African Studies Cluster.

Mohwanah Fetus (English)

Mohwanah Fetus’s research interests concentrate on twentieth and twenty-first century Anglophone literature in the black Atlantic diaspora.

William FitzSimons (History)

William FitzSimons’s research centers on decentralized societies in precolonial political and military history in eastern Africa. His interests include methods for historical research without documents, including historical linguistics.

Claudia Garcia-Rojas (African American Studies)

Claudia Garcia-Rojas lived in Tunisia before the uprising; she has also lived in France, Germany, and Mexico. Besides her doctoral studies at Northwestern, she is Amnesty International’s “Stop the Violence Against Women” campaign coordinator for the Midwest, a contributing writer at Truthout and Bitch Media, and a commentator on race and gender issues on Chicago Public Radio’s Vocalo. See Truthout’s interview with her, “The Surveillance of Blackness: From the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to Contemporary Surveillance Technologies,” http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/35086-the-surveillance-of-blackness-from-the-slave-trade-to-the-police.

Chad Infante (English)

Chad Infante’s main areas of interest are twentieth and twenty-first century Anglophone literature in the African diaspora, particularly with reference to theories of vengeance, violence, and critical race theory. He is also interested in Native American literature.

Buddhika Jayamaha (Political Science)

Buddhika Jayamaha’s dissertation topic is “Rebels Inside and Out: Ruling Coalitions, Coercion and Rebel Choices.” His research investigates causes for variation in rebel, militia, and state organization and tactics in urban warfare.

Raevin Jimenez (History)

Raevin Jimenez researches the social uses of cattle in southern Africa from the first to the seventeenth centuries, using the methodology of comparative historical linguistics in conjunction with the archaeological record to reconstruct behaviors, conceptualizations, and material realities pertaining to cattle keeping and exchange.

Rana B. Khoury (Political Science)

Rana B. Khoury’s research interests include comparative politics, refugees, civil war, and political economy. She has published an article, “Western Sahara and Palestine: A Comparative Study of Colonialisms, Occupations, and Nationalisms,” in New Middle Eastern Studies 1 (2011).

Andrew Kim (Anthropology)

Andrew Kim is a biological anthropology student interested in studying the intergenerational effects of apartheid-era racialized violence on physical and mental health in Johannesburg, South Africa. Using a two-generation longitudinal cohort study beginning in 1990, he plans to identify the biocultural mechanisms of generational trauma and the socio-ecological factors that enhance resilience among the children of trauma survivors.

Sasha Klyachkina (Political Science)

Klyachkina studies political violence, state-building, and the microfoundations of order in the North Caucasus and Central Africa.

Rita Dela Kuma (Archaeology/Anthropology)

Rita Kuma’s research examines how people navigated their daily lives and local economies around changing global economies during the Atlantic trade era in Ghana, West Africa. It will explore these issues by looking at changes in foodways.

F. Delali Yawa Kumavie (English)

Delali Kumavie is a third-year doctoral student in the English Department. Her research is centered on issues of transnational mobility and migration, space and time, and the African female in contemporary African and African diasporic literatures, particularly how these literatures extend the analytic of the slave ship into transitory spaces such as the airport re-articulate and re-imagine violent histories and ongoing neoliberal impositions of capitalist accumulation. Central to her work is how the black female in these spaces emerges as both subject to transformation and metamorphosis but bound to a past that constantly haunts her new form.

Christa Kuntzelman (Political Science)

Christa Kuntzelman’s interests lie in how refugees act as agents during displacement to contribute to original and settlement communities. She has previously worked in Haiti where she was doing trauma and resiliency work with local NGOs and participated in a study abroad program in Tanzania. She spent the summer of 2016 in Uganda, where she was associated with the Centre for Basic Research.

Sean Lee (Political Science)

Sean Lee’s research centers on the strategies of minority groups in civil conflicts: why some groups ally with stronger ones while others go it alone and others simply exit. His field research focuses on Lebanon and Rwanda and includes consideration of other recent cases in the Middle East. He has received several grants including a Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Research Grant, a US Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, a US Department of Education Title VI – Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship, and a Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Research award.

Marcos Leitao de Almeida (History)

Marcos Leitao de Almeida’s first year paper, “The Language of Slavery among Kongo Yaka Speakers: Vulnerability, Exclusion and Enslavement in the Lower Congo Region (Early Times to c.1665),” won the George Romani Prize. He has been awarded an International Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council to conduct research in Angola, Congo, and Belgium to continue research on this topic in 2016-17.

Geraud Letang (Political Science; visiting scholar from Sciences-Po, Paris)

Geraud Letang’s dissertation topic is “War experiences, imperial practices and state rebuilding. Free France and Chad (1940-1944).”

Arturo Marquez, Jr. (Anthropology)

Arturo Maraquez, Jr. received a Wenner-Gren grant in 2013 for his dissertation fieldwork on “A Senegalese Odyssey: Migration and Mental Health in Catalonia, Spain,” an ethnographic study of the production, circulation, and recontextualization of humanitarian discourse in local institutions working with undocumented and tenuously documented West African residents in the province of Barcelona.

Jahara (Franky) Matisek (Political Science)  

Jahara (Franky) Matisek is a US Air Force officer whose research interests include consideration of the impacts of new war fighting tactics on insurgent organizational and operational behavior. During the summer of 2016, he participated in the University of Texas at Austin Clements Center for National Security’s Summer Seminar in History and Statecraft in Beaver Creek, Colorado. His dissertation title is “Differences in African Military Capacity and State Efficacy: State-Building and Foreign Aid Working in Tandem?” In 2016 he was awarded the General Larry D. Welch Deterrence Writing Award, presented by Admiral Cecil D. Haney, Commander United States Strategic Command at The Deterrence Symposium.

Sakhile Matlhare (Sociology)

Sakhile Matlhare’s main research interests are the sociology of art, emotional labor, social justice and citizenship, and applied sociology. Her dissertation research explores the strategies of professional development and knowledge facilitation employed by contemporary artists working under the rubric of “African Contemporary art” in Berlin and New York City in their arrangements with curators, critics, and other art consumers. This study investigates artists’ use of social theory and art practice in face-to-face, print, and digital media interactions and identifies the concept of Africanness as a productively ambiguous misnomer. She was the 2012 recipient of the Gwendolen M. Carter and Kofi Annan Fellowship, Program of African Studies, Northwestern University.

Noran Mohamed (French and Italian)

Noran Mohamed is interested in the connections between French and Arabic. Her academic interests include postcolonialism, orientalism, exoticism, and neuro/sociolinguistics.

Caitlin Monroe (History)

Caitlin Monroe is a Mellon Cluster Fellow in PAS. She focuses on East African history in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially intellectual histories and ideas about belonging, nativism, race, and ethnicity in the Great Lakes region. Before coming to Northwestern, she served as a program assistant for a development NGO in Burundi.

Mbongeri Mtshali (Performance Studies)

A contemporary dance and physical theatre performer and choreographer, Mbongeni Mtshali is also an actor, director, designer, and puppeteer and is particularly interested in site-specific multimedia performance art works. His research interests are postcolonial black modernities, the politics of intimacy, affect and belonging, and the spatial modalities of race, ethnicity, gender, and class in postapartheid South Africa.

Christopher Muhoozi (Performance Studies)

Christopher Muhoozi’s project examines ethnicity and race in southwestern Uganda before independence. Before coming to Northwestern he taught for nine years at Uganda's oldest and leading university, Makerere University.

Moritz Nagel (History)

Moritz Nagel is a Mellon Cluster Fellow with PAS. His research focus is Duala-German trade and colonial conquest in the Cameroons, emphasizing the political functions of West African institutions such as initiation associations, public debates and assemblies, and talking drums. Besides data mining in archives, he enjoys working with various kinds of sources including orally transmitted histories, objects in museum collections, and early audio recordings. His paper, “Precolonial Segmentation Revisited: Initiation Societies, Talking Drums and the Ngondo Festival in the Cameroons,” won the Graduate Student Paper Prize of the African Studies Association in 2016.

Teddy Nakate (Religious Studies)

Teddy Nekate’s research focuses on theological reflection on human suffering and sense making among marginalized HIV women in Uganda.

Jessica Neushwander (French and Italian)

Jessica Neushwander’s primary area of academic interest is Francophone literature from the Maghreb. In addition, she is also interested in feminist studies.

Scott Peter Newman (English/Comparative Literary Studies)

Scott Newman is broadly interested in postcolonial theory, globalization and the novel, Anglophone and Francophone African literature, magical realism, “dictator novels,” and narratives of development in fiction and politics.

Salih Nur (Political Science)

Salih Nur’s research interests include comparative African politics, especially democratization, political regimes and regime transitions, and authoritarian legacies. His dissertation project, "The Legacies of Liberation," seeks to understand path-dependence and regime development in postcolonial Africa. He argues that violent liberation struggles represent a critical juncture that shaped postindependence politics and society in countries under former liberation movements.

Tyrone S. Palmer (African American Studies)

Tyrone Palmer’s research interests are blackness and affect, black feminist thought, black ontology, black critical theory, and race as/and technology. He is currently writing an essay on affect theory, antiblackness, and the coloniality of feeling.

Ayodeji Kamau Perrin (Political Science)

Ayodeji Kamau Perrin is an attorney who specialized in international law and human and civil rights. At Northwestern his main area of interest is international relations. He has made many research papers available on academia.edu, including one of ECOWAS and another on gay marriage in South Africa.

David Peyton (Political Science)

David Peyton’s dissertation title is “Warfare, Municipal Development, and the Congolese State Building Project: Explaining Institutional Variation in North Kivu’s Conflict-Affected Cities.” It investigates relationships between business groups and municipal authorities in eastern Congo, focusing on why varied social orders develop across municipalities in this region of persistent instability and very weak formal state authority. He received a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for the period 2015–16.

Jessica Pouchet (Anthropology)

Before coming to Northwestern, Jessica Pouchet worked with a nongovernmental organization in Tanzania where she became interested in the inequities in the national park system, which employed “fortress conservation,” an intimidating method whereby locals were evicted to create national parks. Her dissertation study examines forest conservation in the Amani Nature Reserve, one of the world’s 25 global biodiversity hotspots. Her work has been featured in a CNN documentary.

Kritish Rajbhandari (Comparative Literary Studies)

Kritish Rajbhandari’s interests include postcolonial literature and theory, critical theory, deconstructive approaches, translation, and the intersection of cultural studies and literature. His research explores the intersection of fiction and the archive in the context of the Indian Ocean, focusing on the archival work within contemporary novels from East Africa and South Asia. His interdisciplinary approach integrates insights from history and anthropology into the study of literature.

William Richardson (Sociology)

William Richardson’s main interests focus on postcolonial and Africana sociology and Eurocentricism within sociology.

Andrea (Andy) Rosengarten (History)

Andrea Rosengarten is a Mellon Cluster Fellow in PAS. She is interested in histories of racial and ethnic identification, segregation, and constructions of indigeneity in nineteenth and twentieth-century Namibia and South Africa.

Dilpreet Singh (Dil Singh Basanti) (Archaeology/Anthropology)

Dil Singh is an archaeologist working on the Aksumite kingdom (50-800 AD) of northern Ethiopia. His research examines how local-level mythologies of the "family" reconfigure larger scale social processes, particularly global connections/cosmopolitanism, ontologies of death and body, sustainability/water management, emotion and biology, political organization, and the rise of monsters.

Kimberly Seibel (Anthropology)

Kimberly Seibel’s areas of interest are refugee and migrant identities, the state and citizenship, and border studies. She is studying the Chad/Cameroon borderland, specifically the area of Kousseri, Cameroon and N'Djamena, Chad.

Susanna Sachs (English)

Susanna Sachs studies poetry, performance, and language policy in southeastern Africa broadly. Her dissertation project addresses the intimate connections between poetry performance, social media, and community formation in Malawi, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, imagining poetry as a key link between physical and virtual spaces of connection

Amy Swanson (Theatre and Drama)

Amy Swanson’s dissertation research explores the intersection of twenty-first-century cultural production in postcolonies and continued Western material and intellectual dominance through the lens of contemporary dance in Senegal. She is a recipient of a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship.

Rachel Sweet (Political Science)

Before coming to Northwestern, Rachel Sweet taught for a year in Beni in eastern Congo. In addition, she spent time in Kenya, where she observed the politics of urban gangs and vigilante groups. Her dissertation research, “Institutional Choice in Civil War: Rebel Strategies for Managing Political Disorder,” examines the politics of rebel governance in failed and weak state contexts in eastern Congo and a wider set of recent and contemporary conflict cases. She was awarded a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in 2014–15 and a Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in 2015–16.

Rory Sykes (Art History)

Rory Sykes’s main interest is Palestinian visual culture during the second half of the 20th Century; however, she is also interested in contemporary art from the Middle East and North Africa and the relationship between lens-based media and documentary claims under conditions of catastrophe.

Gorgui Ibrahima Tall (French and Italian)

Gorgui Ibrahima Tall’s research interests include Francophone African orature and literature and African cinema generally.

Leila Tayeb (Performance Studies)

Leila Tayel’s research centers on the constitution of gendered identities and structures via music in 2011-2012 revolutionary Libya. Her research interests include phenomenology, dance studies, feminist and queer theory, diaspora, and "return."

Rachel Taylor (History)

Rachel Taylor studies precolonial and colonial East Africa. Her current research explores how men from Unyamwezi (in present-day Tanzania) sought to develop and attain new forms of honorable male adulthood in the context of the dramatic economic and political changes of nineteenth and early-twentieth century East Africa. She was awarded a 2011–2012 International Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council.

Marlous van Waijenburg (History)

Marlous van Waijenburg is a comparative economic historian interested in the historical roots of relative African poverty, specifically in the economic legacies of colonialism. Her dissertation project is "Financing the African State. The Development and Transformation of African Fiscal Systems in the Long Twentieth Century,” and it explores the intersection of global history, development economics, and political economy. During 2014–2016, she was a Presidential Fellow at Northwestern University. She has published "Financing the African Colonial State: The Revenue Imperative and Forced Labor," African Economic History Working Paper 20 (2015) and coauthored with Fwout Frankema, "Metropolitan Blueprints of Colonial Taxation? Comparative Fiscal Development in British and French Africa, 1880-1940," Journal of African History 55 (2014): 371-400.

Vanessa Watters (Anthropology)

Vanessa Watter’s dissertation project, “Prosperity on the Periphery: Christian Social Welfare in Coastal West Africa,” examines coastal West Africa—especially the cities of Accra, Lomé, and Cotonou—as an important historical corridor for Catholic and Pentecostal institutions, as well as for contemporary exchanges and transformations in Christian communities. She was the recipient of the Buffet Center’s 2016 Global Politics and Religion Summer Graduate Research Fellowship.

Mlonolozi (Mlondi) Zondi (Performance Studies)

Mlonolozi Zondi’s research interests include contemporary African dance, black queer studies, performance activism, critical race and postcolonial theory, and Afropessimism. His long term goal is to establish a collaborative and experimental performance laboratory that will explore performance as a critical discursive tool for topics such as gender identity, body politics, race, and disability. He has published an article, “Memories of Blood. To Brother(hood) Dance and All Black Movers,” in Propter Nos 1 (2016): 45–52.