(781) 283-2603
B.A., Universiteit van Amsterdam; M.A., University of London; Doctoraal, Ph.D., Universiteit van Amsterdam
FND 205

Lidwien Kapteijns
Elizabeth Kimball Kendall and Elisabeth Hodder Professor of History

African historian focusing on Somalia and Sudan; translator of historical and popular culture texts in Arabic and Somali. 

My research focuses on changing Somali self-understandings, self-expressions, and cultural norms at three moments of history: the nationalist moment during which a national culture was actively fashioned (1960-1991); the sectarian moment of civil strife and clan violence (1991-present); and the moment of diasporic reconstruction, in which Islam and Islamism have gained prominence (1991-present). It draws on Somali popular cultural production, especially Somali popular song and oral poetry. My Women’s Voices in a Man’s World (with Maryan Omar Ali, 1999) analyzes constructions of gender in a wide variety of Somali oral texts, including Somali popular songs of the 1970s and 1980s. My most recent book is a co-edited volume (with Annemiek Richters) entitled Mediations of Violence in Africa: Fashioning new futures from contested pasts (Leiden: Brill, 2010). My chapter in this volume (pp. 24-75) is called “Making memories of Mogadishu in Somali poetry about the civil war.” A book manuscript about the Somali civil war in text and context is in progress.

I teach African and Middle Eastern history, including survey courses on the history of precolonial and modern Africa, South Africa, the early and modern Middle East, and constructions of gender in the modern Middle East. I teach research seminars about women and gender history, African civil wars (e.g., Sudan), and African public and popular culture. After almost a quarter century at the College, teaching Wellesley students remains a challenge and a pleasure.

I am associate editor of a bilingual (Somali and English) cultural and literary journal called Halabuur (based in Djibouti), former editor of Bildhaan: international journal of Somali studies (based at Macalester College), and founding member of the Somali Institute for Research and Development (SIRAD), a small nonprofit based in Boston.