B.A., Universiteit van Amsterdam; M.A., University of London; Doctoraal, Ph.D., Universiteit van Amsterdam
Elizabeth Kimball Kendall and Elisabeth Hodder Professor of History
African historian focusing on Somalia and Sudan with a long-term research and teaching focus on Islamic and Middle Eastern history; 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, to a lesser extent, the moment of diasporic reconstruction, in which Islam and Islamism have gained prominence (1991-present). My work has drawn especially on Somali popular cultural production, including Somali popular song and oral poetry. 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. In the volume I co-edited with Annemiek Richters, titled Mediations of Violence in Africa: Fashioning New Futures from Contested Pasts (Leiden: Brill, 2010), I have a chapter called “Making memories of Mogadishu in Somali poetry about the civil war.” Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Legacy of 1991 was published in 2013 as part of the Human Rights Series of the University of Pennsylvania Press. It was nominated for the African Studies Association's Ogot Prize for East African History in 2014 and is out in paperback.
I teach African and Middle Eastern history, including survey courses on the history of precolonial and modern Africa, South Africa, and the modern Middle East, as well as a course on Constructions of Gender in the Modern Middle East. I have taught a range of research seminars, including seminars about The History of Women and Gender in Islam, Civil Wars in the Sudan, African Public and Popular Culture, Port Cities of the Indian Ocean, and Large-scale 'Ethnic' and 'Religious' Violence Against Civilians in Comparative Historical Perspective. After nearly a quarter century at the College, teaching Wellesley students remains a challenge and a pleasure.
I am on the advisory boards of the International Journal of African Historical Studies, Islamic Africa, and History in Africa.
I am on sabbatical in 2015-2016 and will spend spring 2016 as a fellow in Wellesley College's Newhouse Center for the Humanities.