About the Field

The African History program at UCSB seeks to cultivate in students a profound knowledge of the history of the African continent, informed by a deep time spatiotemporal purview but with a strong research focus on the social and cultural histories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Scholarship on Africa has grown dynamically over the last few decades, turning out masses of literature and novel methodologies. In fact, some of the most robust debates and exciting scholarship are taking place in African history. We therefore train our students to engage with the vast library of available material and to grapple with these emerging, critical theoretical approaches.

Faculty of the Field

Two professors teach the field: Stephan Miescher and Mhoze Chikowero.

Miescher’s research focus is West Africa with interests in gender and sexualities, colonialism, modernity and development, technology, oral history and archives.

Chikowero researches on Southern Africa with interests in state making, colonialism, nationalism and self-liberation, cultural history, urban history, indigenous and colonial archives, media (song, radio, newspapers) and technology.

Our colleagues, Adam Sabra and Sherene Seikaly, who teach in the North Africa and the Middle East Field, help students interested in bridging the rather contemporary and ahistorical Sub-Saharan Africa-North Africa divide. Please check their profiles in the North Africa-Middle East Field.

Our affiliates:

We also work with faculty in other departments, who are affiliated with history, such as Peter Bloom, who researches film and media in Africa.

Graduate Courses in the field include:

  • African Civilizations
  • African Oral Histories
  • Comparative Colonialism
  • African Nationalism and Self-Liberation
  • Gender and Sexualities in Africa
  • Development in Africa
  • Subaltern Studies: Africa and Beyond
  • Critical Studies of the (Post-)Colonial Archive


Prospective graduate students will take their core seminars within the field but are also encouraged to both craft independent readings seminars and to take courses in other fields and outside the department. In addition, students can decide to graduate with a History degree with an emphasis in another department (such as Black Studies, Feminist Studies, Political Science, or Global Studies). Students will learn at least one African language before they can conduct their fieldwork.

Prospective students should apply through the normal application channels. However, we encourage that they contact the professor(s) with whom they wish to work BEFORE tendering their application packet.

The African History faculty and students are involved in running the African Studies Research Focus Group (RFG), which facilitates a program for local and visiting speakers, seminars, film screenings, performances and other events connected with Africa. The RFG is primarily sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC):

Our Alumni:

  • Bianca Murillo (Ph.D. 2009), Assistant Professor, Willamette University, Oregon
  • Jean P. Smith (Ph.D. 2013), Fellow (Leverhulme Trust), King’s College London, United Kingdom
  • Sarah Watkins (Ph.D. 2014), Visiting Assistant Professor, Colby College, Maine

Page last modified: March 23, 2017