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Janice R. Levi

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Email    jrlevi@ucla.edu
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Janice Levi is a PhD candidate in the UCLA History Department. Her dissertation focuses on migration histories and Jewish populations in West Africa.  

Her dissertation,"Whispers in the West: the Emergence of a Jewish Community in Twentieth-Century Ghana" looks at the history of past, present, and rumored Jewish communities throughout the West African landscape, from the 11th century to the 21st century, which contributed to the oral narrative of the House of Israel in Ghana. She seeks to historicize this past through oral and textual archives, epigraphic evidence, and practical memory.  This history also explores how western Ghana (specifically the newly created Western North region, c. 2019) contributed to Ghanaian and global histories through trade and exports. Her research also analyzes methods of transmitting the past, specifically whispers, as well as contributing to historical understandings of human migration and cultural interaction under duress. More about her research can be read in this interview with Libération: Africa 4 (English version below French).

Her dissertation research has been interdisciplinary: relying on historical and ethnographic methods. Fieldwork has mostly been conducted in Ghana, since 2010, and archival research in Ghana, Senegal, Morocco and England. She has also been hired as a historical researcher and consultant for a variety of clients: academic, media (film and print), and personal.

Field of Study



Jewish History, Cultural History, Migration History, Entangled History, Oral History, Memory Studies, Race Studies, and Material Culture

Geographical Interests: West Africa, Sahara


Chapter Contributions
“Making Visible the Invisible: A Historiographical Approach to Jewish Africa from Ghana.” In, In the Shadow of Moses: New Jewish Movements in Africa and the Diaspora. Eds. Daniel Lis, William Miles, and Tudor Parfitt. Los Angeles: TSEHAI Publishers, 2016.
“The House of Israel: Judaism in Ghana.” In African Zion: Studies in Black Judaism, edited by Edith Bruder and Tudor Parfitt. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.
“Beyond the Saharan Cloak: Uncovering a Jewish Identity from Southern Morocco and throughout the Sahara.” Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies. Vol. 39, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 109-126. 
Book Reviews
“Composing Identity: Transformative Collisions in Music and Culture.” Review of Marilyn Herman’s Gondar’s Child: Songs, Honor and Identity among Ethiopian Jews in Israel.  Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies. Vol. 38, no. 2 (Winter 2015): 177-179.

Grants and Awards

2020             Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, Alan D. Leve Graduate Research & Travel Grant for Student Excellence         
2018-2019   Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship
2018             West African Research Association Predoctoral Research Fellowship  
2018             Y & S Nazarian Center for Israeli Studies Graduate Student Research Fellowship                                                         
2017             International Institute Fieldwork Fellowship                                                                                                                
2016-2017   Graduate Research Mentorship                                                                                          
2015, 2016   Graduate Summer Research Mentorship                                                                            
2015             Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) Moroccan Studies Research Grant                         
2010-2011   Dept. of Education Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship        
2019             New Horizons in Jewish Studies, Graduate Essay Prize, University of California, Irvine

Conference Presentations

2020    “There Once was a Time: Considerations of the Historical Precedents of Judaism in West Africa.” African Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Postponed due to Covid-19.

 2019    “Shhhhhh: Whispered and Unspoken Transmission of Jewish Culture in 20th and 21st Century Ghana.” University of California, Irvine. New Horizon in Jewish Studies Graduate Essay Prize Lecture. Irvine, California.

2019   “Legacies of a Jewish Past in 20th Century Ghana.” University of Vilnius. Vilnius, Lithuania.

2018   “The Curious Case of Ghanaian Jews: Disrupting Geographical and Racial Boundaries in Judaism.” Valstybinis Vilniaus Gaono žydųmuziejus (Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum). Vilnius, Lithuania.

2016    “Jews of a Saharan Imagination: Reversing the Historical Oversight of Jewish Communities in West Africa.” African Studies Association (ASA) Annual Conference. Washington, D.C.

2016    “The House of Israel (Ghana): Precolonial Memories, Colonial Amnesia and Post-Colonial Realities.” Jews in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa. African Jewish Museum, Cape Town, South Africa. Hosted by University of Cape Town and Bar-Ilan University.

2016   “The ‘Other’ Face of Judaism: Recognizing Caricaturizations and Perceived Identities of the Black Jew.” Jews and Color Symposium. Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, Miami, Florida. Hosted by Florida International University Global Jewish Studies Program and Tel Aviv University.

2015   “Shedding the Cloak of Invisibility: the (Re)Emergence of Jewish West Africa.” International Society for the Study of African Jewry (ISSAJ) Conference. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme, Paris, France.

2015   “Beyond the Saharan Cloak: Uncovering Jewish Identity from Southern Morocco and Throughout the Sahara.” Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) Annual Conference. Washington, D.C.

2010     “West African Jewries.” International Society for the Study of African Jewry (ISSAJ) Conference. University of London School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, UK


Ghislaine Lydon, Andrew Apter, Sarah A. Stein, Robin D. G. Kelley, Aomar Boum


C.Phil History, University of California, Los Angeles (2017)
MA History, University of California, Los Angeles (2017)
MA African Studies, Indiana University (2011)
BA History, University of Oklahoma (2007)