Professor of History
Adams Hall - 305
Examines the history of East Africa with a special focus on the interactions between east Africans and the Indian Ocean World. Considers African societies prior to Portuguese conquest, continues through Omani colonialism, and the spread of slavery across East Africa and the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar and Mauritius; the onset of British, Italian, and German colonialism, rebellions against colonialism including Mau Mau in Kenya, and post-colonial conflicts including the Zanzibar revolution of 1964; and the rise of post-colonial Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Somalia, and challenges to their sovereignty by present-day Indian Ocean rebels, such as the Somali pirates. Note: This course is part of the following field(s) of study: Africa and Colonial Worlds.
Seminar. The history of the Central African interior, the Congo River basin, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, including the Kongo, Lunda, and Luba kingdoms. Focuses on a Central African political imagination that develops oral narratives and artistic representations of family relationships— kinship—as a way to broadcast the power of kings, catalyze their followers, and secure political and economic dependents. Students interpret central African art and oral tradition to reveal aspects of this political imagination. Studies historical representations and political institutions in societies without writing. Note: This course is part of the following field(s) of study: Africa. It also fulfills the pre-modern requirement for history majors.
David M. Gordon, Professor, received his B.A.(Hons) from the University of Cape Town, South Africa and his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He has taught at a variety of universities in South Africa and in the USA, and maintains ties with southern and central African scholarly networks.
His research and publications focus on the history of southern and central Africa over the last two centuries. They reflect interests that include the influence of Atlantic and Indian Ocean trading networks, British, Portuguese, and Belgian colonialism, changing property regimes, environmental cultures, the historical imagination, and spiritual agency. His most recent book, a history of how spiritual beliefs have influenced human agency, is entitled Invisible Agents: Spirits in a Central African History (Ohio University Press, 2012). He has also edited a collection with Shepard Krech entitled Indigenous Knowledge and the Environment in Africa and North America (Ohio University Press, 2012). His first book, a history of changing tenure rules and forms of wealth from the pre-colonial to the post-colonial periods in the borderlands of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nachituti’s Gift: Economy, Society and Environment in Central Africa, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and was a finalist for the Herskovits award for the best book in all disciplines of African Studies. He has published articles in numerous scholarly journals, including the Journal for African History, Journal of Southern African Studies, William and Mary Quarterly, and Comparative Studies in Society and History.
At Bowdoin College, Professor Gordon shares his enthusiasm for African history in courses that include Africa and the Atlantic World, South Africa after Apartheid. Warlords and Child Soldiers in African History, Globalization and its Critics, and Conquest, Colonialism, and Independence: African History since 1880.
[Monograph] Invisible Agents: Spirits in a Central African History. Ohio University Press. New African Histories Series. November, 2012.
[Edited Collection] (with Shepard Krech) Eds. Indigenous Knowledge and the Environment in Africa and North America. Ohio University Press. Series in Ecology and History, 2012.
[Monograph] Nachituti’s Gift: Economy, Society, and Environment in Central Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. Awards: Finalist and Honorable Mention, Melville J. Herskovits Award, Best Book in African Studies, 2006.
Examples of recent refereed journal articles and book chapters include:
“Wearing Cloth, Wielding Guns: Consumption, Trade, and Politics in the South Central African Interior during the Nineteenth Century.” In A History of Consumption in Central Africa. Edited by Jan-Bart Gewald et. al. Under Contract with Brill Press.
“Zambia: An Annotated Bibliography.” Oxford University Press, Oxford Online Bibliographies. [40 pages, approx. 160 annotated entries of the most significant scholarship]
“The Abolition of the Slave Trade and the Transformation of the South-Central African Interior,” William and Mary Quarterly. Special Edition on Global Consequences of 1807 Abolition. LXVI.4 (October 2009), 915-938.
“Community of Suffering: Narratives of War and Exile in the Zambian Lumpa Church.” In Recasting the Past. Eds., D. Peterson and G. Macola. Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 2009, 191-209..
“Rebellion or Massacre: The UNIP-Lumpa Conflict Revisited.” In One Zambia, Many Histories: Towards a History of Post-Colonial Zambia. Eds., J.-B. Gewald et al. Leid: Brill, 2008, 45-76.
“History on the Luapula Retold: Landscape, Memory, and Identity in the Kazembe Kingdom,” Journal of African History 47, 1 (2006), 21-42.
“The Cultural Politics of a Traditional Ceremony: Mutomboko and the Performance of History on the Luapula,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 46, 1 (2004), 63-83.
“Owners of the Land and Lunda Lords: Colonial Chiefs in the Borderlands of Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 34, 2 (2001), 315-337.
Book reviews appearing in the following journals: American Historical Review, Journal of African History, Journal of Southern African Studies, International Journal of African Historical Studies, Isis, History: Reviews of New Books, Australasian Review of African Studies, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Canadian Journal of African Studies, African Studies Review, H-AFRICA.
These include Four Encyclopedia Entries and One Technical Report (FAO).
Panel Organizer “The Politics of Vision in African History.” Presentation: “The Historiography of Invisible Worlds: How Africanists See Spirits.” African Studies Association, Nov. 2012.
“National Histories from Sub-National Perspectives.” Roundtable on "National Histories or Histories of Nationalism,” African History Today,” Paris, 15-16 June, 2012.
Panel Organizer “Christianity and Liberation” Presentation. “Conflicting Visions of Christian Liberation in Post-Colonial Zambia.” African Studies Association, Washington D.C., 17-20 Nov., 2011.
“Humanism and Conflicting Christian Citizenships in Post-Colonial Southern Africa.” Presented at the South African Historical Society Conference, Durban, 27-29 June, 2011.
“Illegitimate Trade and the Political Economy of Warlordism in the South Central African Interior during the Nineteenth Century.” Presented at Central African Research Themes IV, Zambia, 2010.
“The Transformation of the Atlantic World and the Rise of Warlordism in the South Central African Interior.” Presented at Colloquium on “The Impact of the Atlantic World on the Old World of Africa and Europe” Nantes, France, June 6-9, 2010.
“Spirits and Alternative Sovereignties in Central Africa.” Presented at North Eastern Workshop on Southern Africa, Burlington, Vermont, April 9-11, 2010.
Workshop Organizer, “Culture and Power in Central Africa.” Paper Presentation “Spirits of the Crocodile”. Rice University, Humanities Research Center, 22 March, 2009.
Panel Organizer, “The Political Imagination in African History.” Presentation, “The Pentecostal Political Imagination and the Downfall of Kenneth Kaunda.” American Historical Association, New York, 2-5 January, 2009.