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Moses Ochonu

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of History

I specialize in the modern history of Africa, with a particular focus on the colonial and postcolonial periods. Although I teach survey and topical courses on all regions of Africa (and on all periods), my research interest lies in Nigeria. 

I am the author of four books. My first book is Colonial Meltdown: Northern Nigerian in the Great Depression, (Ohio University Press, 2009). 

My second book is Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria, (Indiana University Press, 2014), which was awarded finalist for the Herskovits Prize in African Studies by the African Studies Association. 

My 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. 

My fourth book is Emirs in London: Subaltern Travel and Nigeria's Modernity (Indiana University Press, 2022). The book analyzes the travel narratives of Northern Nigerian Muslim aristocrats who traveled to Britain in colonial and early postcolonial times. It explores the travelers’ own textual, visual, and material portrayals of their experiences and adventures in the colonial metropole. My analysis of these sources is supplemented by a rigorous and critical reading of a diverse array of colonial sources — correspondence, metropolitan newspapers, reports, photos and images, intelligence notes, itineraries, etc. 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, inverted the familiar European ethnological gaze on Africa, and developed a robust corpus of narratives and claims about Britain as they sought to establish themselves as knowers of metropolitan secrets, brokers of imperial modernity, and authoritative colonial intermediaries. Additionally, the texts enable a historiographical engagement with the experiential discourses and the repertoires of self-fashioning of privileged African colonial subalterns. 

I am the editor of Entrepreneurship in Africa: A Historical Approach (Indiana University Press, 2018).  

With Abdulbasit Kassim, I am currently working on a book manuscript on the historical aspects and dimensions of Boko Haram jihadism and religious militancy in Nigeria.

I have published over a dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals as well as several chapters in edited volumes.  

I was twice the recipient of the fellowship of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). My 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.  

My commentaries and essays on African topics have appeared in TIME magazine, The Chronicle of Higher EducationHistory News NetworkLogos journalThe Mail and GuardianThe ConversationGlobal PostThe TennesseanPambazuka.comAfrican ArgumentsAfricascountry.comMaple Tree Literary SupplementThe Republic, and other publications.