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Moses Ochonu

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of History
Co-Director, Vanderbilt History Seminar

Moses Ochonu specializes in the modern history of Africa, with a particular focus on the colonial and postcolonial periods. Although he teaches survey and topical courses on all regions of Africa (and on all periods), his research interest lies in Nigeria. He is the author of three books. His first book is Colonial Meltdown: Northern Nigerian in the Great Depression, (Ohio University Press, 2009). His second book is Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria, (Indiana University Press, 2014). His third book, Africa in Fragments: Essays on Nigeria, Africa, and Global Africanity(New York: Diasporic Africa Press, 2014), is a collection of analytical essays on a variety of topics relating to Nigeria, Africa, and global African communities. Ochonu has published over a dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals as well as several chapters in edited volumes. He is the editor of Entrepreneurship in African History, a volume that will be published by Indiana University Press in 2018. He is working on his fourth sole-authored book entitled Emirs in London: Nigerian Aristocrats, Metropolitan Travel, and Imperial Modernity. The book analyzes the travel narratives of Northern Nigerian Muslim aristocrats who traveled to Britain in colonial and early postcolonial times, as well as metropolitan textual and visual portrayals of their visits to the metropole. These texts provide us with a tool to understand how privileged aristocratic subalterns used travel to unravel the mythologies surrounding the white man and his society, returned and inverted the familiar European ethnological gaze on Africa, and developed a robust corpus of narratives and claims on Britain as they sought to establish themselves as knowers of metropolitan secrets, brokers of imperial modernity, and authoritative colonial intermediaries. These texts provide an entry into scholarly conversations about representations of the metropole in the experiential discourses of colonized African peoples. Ochonu was twice the recipient of the fellowship of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). His research has also been supported by awards and fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the American Historical Association, Franklin Roosevelt Institute, and the British Library. He regularly grants interviews to international print and electronic media on contemporary African and Nigerian topics. His op-eds and commentaries on African topics have appeared in TIME magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education,, History News Network, GlobalPost, Pambazuka, African Arguments, and several African newspapers and magazines. Notably, readers of the London-based African Arguments voted his essay assessing the first fifteen months of the presidency of Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari as the best article of 2016.