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Africa

Faculty

Emeritus Faculty

History

These are exciting times to be a historian of Africa. Recent publications, as diverse as Trevor Getz’ and Liz Clarke’s graphic history, Abina and the Important Men (Ohio University Press, 2015), Jane Hooper’s Feeding Globalization (Ohio University Press, 2017), and Ahmed Chanfi’s Afro-Mecca in History (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2019) demonstrate to what extent the field is growing in new and dynamic ways. Since J.F. Ade Ajayi’s and Jan Vansina’s path-breaking works on oral history, scholars of Africa have been thinking comparatively, applying rigorous methods and analytical tools, and developing innovative approaches to a broad range of historical sources for reconstructing Africa’s past. In so doing, scholars of the continent continue to center Africans in wider histories of migration, empire, and capitalism.

The African History Program at UCLA embraces an interdisciplinary and translocal perspective. With three professors of African history, UCLA offers a strong combination of regional specialization, methodological expertise, and theoretical debate. Our courses cover many geographic areas and time-periods of African history from the distant past to modern times, with a current emphasis on Northwestern, Western and Eastern African history. We do not see the Sahara Desert as representing a geographic, and by extension a cultural, divide between "Arabs" and "Black Africans," but rather as an active space with deep, broad and diverse historical connections. Nor is Africa limited to the confines of a continent in our vision, but extends through the Atlantic to Europe and the Americas, eastward through the diasporas of the Indian Ocean, and across the Sahara to the Mediterranean world. In other words, our approach is all-inclusive of Africa’s many Diasporas across deserts and oceans.

UCLA faculty represents a unique combination of expertise. Hollian Wint combines economic anthropology and feminist theory to illuminate the political and intimate economies of East Africa and the Indian Ocean, connecting regional dynamics to broader histories of empire and capitalism. Andrew Apter brings an anthropological perspective to West African religion and politics, locating coastal-hinterland relations within Black Atlantic modernity. Ghislaine Lydon is broadly interested in the economic and cultural history of western Africa with a focus on Islamic institutions, long-distance trade and women’s history.

UCLA is an internationally recognized center for the study of Africa. In addition to the James S. Coleman African Studies Center, founded more than fifty years ago, UCLA has a number of research centers and departments with expertise in Africa. These include the African American Studies Department and the French and Francophone Studies Department where several scholars specialize in the study of international relations and development in Africa, African literature, and postcolonial and philosophical discourse; the Department of World Arts and Cultures with strengths in western and Central African performance, art and religion; the Departments of Geography, Anthropology and Comparative Literature with specialists of Africa and the Maghrib; the Center for Oral History Research which offers methodology workshops and is developing its role as an archival repository for digital oral sources; the Fowler Museum with the largest collection material from Africa and the Africa Diaspora west of the Mississippi; the Marcus Garvey Papers Project housing the official Garvey archives; and the Young Research Library, a top-rated resource with archival holdings, collections of rare books, journals, microfilm and digital resources for the study of Africa. Recently added digital collections include Ethiopic Manuscripts, the David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project, and the Medu Art Ensemble Collection. In addition, the Business, Law, and Medical Schools all have faculty with field experience and expertise in Africa.

UCLA is also the home of the African Activist Association, one of the oldest and most dynamic graduate student organizations in North America. Aside from community organizing and raising awareness, graduate students take turns as editors of the association’s scholarly journal Ufahamu.

The city of Los Angeles offers a propitious environment for studying African history. It is home to sizeable communities of Africans from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and beyond. Every summer, a month-long African festival and marketplace brings together artists and vendors from across the African Diaspora. During Black history month, the Pan-African Film Festival is a unique opportunity for students and faculty to meet and view the latest movies and documentaries. There are a range of performances, restaurants and clubs run by the African community of LA. Moreover, the Getty Museum holds unique collections of private papers, newspapers, artwork and other material culture from Africa.

Graduate Studies

Since 1957, 121 students have successfully completed dissertations in African history at UCLA. The scholarly excellence generated by UCLA’s graduates has long been recognized both nationally and internationally. Graduate students in African history have received national awards, particularly Fulbright grants and scholarships from the Social Science Research Council. They have an outstanding record in both job placement and publishing their monographs by reputable university presses. Ninety percent of students entering the graduate program in African history since 1981 who completed their doctorates have secured permanent employment, the majority in university positions. UCLA graduates account for ten percent of all historians of Africa employed in tenured and tenure-track positions in the United States, and thirty-three percent of professors of African history in California (according to the American Historical Association). In recent years, UCLA graduates have secured the following academic positions:

Nwando Achebe - Michigan State University
Jeremy Ball - Dickinson College
Shimelis Bonsa Gulema – SUNY Stony Brook
José Curto - York University, Canada
Thomas J. Desch-Obi - Baruch College, City University of New York
Mary Dillard - Sarah Lawrence College
Roquinaldo Ferreira – Brown University
Karen Flint - University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Tiffany Gleason -- University of California-Merced
Cymone Fourshey - Bucknell University
Rhonda Gonzales - University of Texas, San Antonio
Matt Hopper – Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Patrick Malloy - Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo, Iowa
Laura Mitchell - University of California, Irvine
Phoebe Musandu, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Qatar
Willis Okech Oyugi – Sam Houston State University
Shobana Shankar – SUNY Stony Brook
Bridget Teboh - University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Caroline Vieira-Martinez – Wayne State University
Constanze Weise -- University of Arkansas-Monticello
Awet Weldemichael – Queens University, Canada

Future Prospects for Historians of Africa

Informed reports suggest that there will be a continuing demand for historians of Africa for the foreseeable future. The numbers of new jobs still exceed the numbers of new African history Ph.D.s on the market. Although budget difficulties are likely to cause short (and perhaps longer) term problems in hiring, the fact that at least one-third of Africanist faculty nationally will retire by the end of 2015 means that there is an excellent chance that there will be jobs for students entering the program now and graduating as is the norm in about seven to eight years’ time. In short, there will be a considerable national demand for historians of Africa, even if the total number of academic positions nationwide does not increase (see Robert Townsend’s 2007 article in Perspectives, "History PhD Numbers Lowest in Almost a Decade as Job Listings Continue to Rise").

Moreover, the demand for historians of Africa seems certain to grow even beyond the numbers needed to replace current faculty. With national calls for courses to reflect to an ever greater extent the diverse heritage of the United States, and with growing interest in World History, there is going to be an ever greater need for faculty who can teach the history of non-Western cultures. Many of our students have competed successfully for positions that emphasize World History, African Diaspora, and other non-Western fields of specialization together with African History. Moreover, there is likely to be considerable demand for such specialists in the future as universities and colleges reconsider their teaching priorities.

Figure 2: Number of Entry-level Positions according to Geographic area, 1992-2012
Africa figure 5


Applications

All applications to enter the program from individuals interested in the professional study of African history are welcome. Early expressions of interest in the program via email correspondence are particularly encouraged and should be addressed to the faculty member whose interests seem to match most closely those of the applicant. Application materials must be completed online by December 1.

Application materials include:

  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Completed Applicant Profile Sheet
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Official University or College Transcripts

In addition to the materials requested of all students applying to the UCLA graduate program in history, those applying to the Africa field must also provide a sample of their written work. This sample, of no more than ten pages in length, could be an excerpt from an undergraduate or graduate paper or a masters or honors thesis or a published article.


Program Requirements

For information regarding the program requirements for the M.A.* and Ph.D. in History, please visit: https://grad.ucla.edu/programs/social-sciences/history/

* A Master’s degree is available on the doctoral track only.


Financial Assistance

All applicants to the graduate program in history are considered for merit-based financial aid by faculty members in each field, with all final decisions made by the department’s Graduate Admissions Committee. Starting in 2013-2014, all students admitted to the department will receive a 5-five recruitment package. The History Department takes very seriously the issue of financial aid and tries as hard as possible to ensure that student needs are met. Each year the Graduate Awards Committee engages in an exhaustive reevaluation of every continuing student in the graduate program.

For financing their doctoral research and fieldtrips, students can apply to both UC-based and national funding agencies. The most important national fellowships that support research in Africa are the Fulbright-Hays administered by the Department of Education (DOE), the Fulbright fellowships administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), and the grants awarded by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). The deadlines for application to these programs are usually in September, October or November of each year. Awards that have a narrower thematic and/or geographic focus are offered annually by theCouncil for American Overseas Research Centers (such as the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal, and the American Institute of Yemeni Studies in Sana’a, Yemen), the Belgian American Educational Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation and numerous other organizations.

African and other international students can apply for grant money from SSRC, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and other fellowship-granting institutions including UCLA (International Institution Awards, UC Awards of various kinds, History Department travel grants, etc.).

For details on these and other fellowships consult the UCLA Graduate Division’s website (which also includes information on internal and external grants in its database). Two very useful websites that provide access to information resources on all of Africa (not related to grants but to research planning) are maintained by Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania. Refer also to the American Historical Association’s website containing information on Grants, Fellowships, and Prizes of Interest to Historians.

For students at UCLA and elsewhere, the period when students return from research in the field and need uninterrupted time to write is also the period when financial assistance is most critical and funding sources are scarcest. Some SSRC fellowship awards include funds to support a six-month write-up period after the research is completed, but most dissertations take at least a year to write. History students can apply for Teaching Assistantships through their seventh year of study but not beyond. Speedier completion of the comprehensive examinations means that students will have more years later in the program in which they will be eligible for departmental support.

The Graduate Division awards a restricted number of highly competitive dissertation fellowships. Some outside agencies also offer write-up awards, such as the Mellon Foundation/ACLSAmerican Association of University Women, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation (for topics on education). Information on most of these awards is available from the Graduate Division’s website.