David Gordon

Professor of History, Chair of History Department

Teaching this semester

AFRS 1460/HIST 1460. Apartheid's Voices: South African History, 1948 to 1994

The study of apartheid in South Africa, the system of racial and ethnic segregation that began in 1948 and ended with the first democratic election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. Explores the many different aspects of apartheid: how and why it emerged; its social and economic impacts; its relationship to other forms of segregation and racial-based governance; and how people lived under, resisted, and collaborated with apartheid. The readings, lectures, and class discussions focus on personal South African voices and explore their diverse gendered, ethnic, and racial perspectives. NOTE: This course is part of the following field(s) of study: Africa and Colonial Worlds.

David M. Gordon, Professor, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

His research and publications focus on the history of southern and central Africa over the last two centuries, including Atlantic and Indian Ocean trading networks, British, Portuguese, and Belgian colonialism, property regimes, environmental cultures, the historical imagination, spiritual agency, and humanitarianism. His most recent monograph, 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). Employing select documents used in his course, “Apartheid’s Voices,” he recently published a short history and a collection of documents for the popular Bedford Series in History and Culture, Apartheid in South Africa: A Brief History with Documents.

His first book, a history of fishing, 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, edited collections, and digital publications, including the Journal for African HistoryJournal of Southern African StudiesWilliam and Mary QuarterlyHistory in Africa, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Slavery and Abolition, Past and Present, Oxford Bibliography in African Studies, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia.

He is currently involved in two long-term research projects. The first, a culmination of his research in central Africa, uses art and oral tradition alongside archival sources to explore nineteenth century political transformations in the central African interior that were connected with global trade and culminated in the violence of the Congo Free State. The second concerns the struggle for health and human rights in apartheid South Africa, centered around the establishment of a liberated health clinic in the midst of an uprising against apartheid.

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PDF Curriculum Vitae



Apartheid in South Africa. Bedford/St. Martin's. The Bedford Series in History and Culture. 2017.

Invisible Agents: Spirits in a Central African History. Ohio University Press. New African Histories Series. November, 2012. [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.

Selected Refereed Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Examples of recent refereed journal articles and book chapters include:

Religion, Media, and Marginality in Modern Africa. Edited by Felicitas Becker, Joel Cabrita, and Marie Rodet Ohio University Press. (Release date: Feb. 2018)

“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.

nachitutis“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

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.

Other Publications

These include Four Encyclopedia Entries and One Technical Report (FAO).

Selected Presentations

Examples of presentations at scholarly conferences and invited lectures, include:

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.