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Tasha Rijke-Epstein

Assistant Professor of History
Robert Penn Warren Center Faculty Fellow

Tasha Rijke-Epstein is an historian and anthropologist whose research focuses on material transformations of everyday life in Madagascar and the southwestern Indian Ocean. Her work explores how people have reworked the material world over time, informed by their hopes and aspirations, political ideologies, and technical knowhow. Her first book, Children of the Soil: The Power of Built Form in Madagascar (Duke University Press, forthcoming in Fall 2023) is a spatial and material history of the Indian Ocean port city of Mahajanga, Madagascar. This book weaves together the untold stories of the lives and afterlives of built spaces to show how several generations of city residents rewrote the past and managed the uncertainties of imperial encroachment, French colonial rule, and global capitalism through the city’s architecture over two centuries.


Currently she is developing an environmental-technological history that traces the intertwined histories of racial capitalism and ecological harm in Madagascar over the longue durée, through the lens of human-animal interactions—including cattle and honeybees. She is also partnering with local community organizations to compile a digital repository of archival documents, story maps, and oral accounts that document histories of environmental racism locally in Nashville.


Rijke-Epstein’s research has been generously supported by several fellowships and grants, including those the National Endowment for the Humanities, Whiting Foundation and Fulbright-Hays. She is the Britton Family Dean’s Faculty Fellow in History. Her work has appeared in journals such as The Journal of African History, History and Technology, and Africa.


Rijke-Epstein joined Vanderbilt in 2017, where she teaches a wide range of courses on the early past in Africa, technology and science histories in and of Africa, and environmental and urban history. She received a M.Phil from the University of Cape Town, and Ph.D in Anthropology and History from the University of Michigan.