Emily Osborn

Associate Professor of African History and the College
PhD 2000 Stanford University

Social Science Research Bldg., room 516 – Office
(773) 834-9019 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 East 59th Street, Mailbox 99
Chicago, IL 60637

 

Field Specialties

African history; Francophone Africa; gender in Africa; colonialism; technology transfer and diffusion.


Biography

I am a historian of Africa interested in using a variety of methodological tools and sources to study the African past. My first book, Our New Husbands Are Here: Households, Gender, and Politics in a West African State from the Slave Trade to Colonial Rule (The Ohio University Press), investigates a central puzzle in West African political history: why do women figure frequently in the political narratives of the precolonial period, and then vanish altogether with the French colonial occupation of the late-nineteenth century? I argue that this puzzle can be solved by analyzing the relationship of the household to state. In undertaking this investigation in Kankan, which is located in Guinea-Conakry, West Africa, this book brings gender analysis to the study of precolonial and colonial state-making, while it also breaks the conventional divide between social and political history. 

My next book project, Recycling Traditions: Aluminum Casting and the Making of a Modern African Diaspora, is a transnational social and cultural history of technology transfer and diffusion. It concentrates specifically on aluminum casting, a technique used by artisans to recycle and melt down scrap aluminum and form it into the stuff of daily life: cooking pots, spoons, teapots, and parts for cars and bicycles. The diffusion of this craft through West Africa in the aftermath of World War II sheds light on an important sector of the informal economy, as well as on the migrations of peoples and ideas in colonial and postcolonial Africa. I have conducted research on this project in Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, Sénégal, and Sierra Leone.

I earned my AB from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD from Stanford University. My research has been supported by Fulbright IIE and Fulbright- Hays fellowships. I was also a Mellon Fellow at the Institute for Global Studies at The Johns Hopkins University. Before coming to the University of Chicago, I taught at the University of Notre Dame.

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Teaching Interests

At the University of Chicago, I teach courses on precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial African history, as well as graduate and undergraduate seminars on African historiography; oral sources of history; gender and state-craft; slavery, the slave-trade, and the making of the Atlantic world.


Publications

"Work and Migration." In The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History. Edited by Richard Reid and John Parker. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Our New Husbands Are Here: Households, Gender, and Politics in a West African State from the Slave Trade to Colonial Rule. Athens: Ohio University Press, New African Histories, 2011.

"Casting Aluminium Cooking Pots: Labour, Migration and Artisan Production in West Africa’s Informal Sector, 1945–2005." African Identities 7, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 373–386.

"Loyalty, Perfidy, and Scandal in Guinée Française: The Noirot-Penda Affair." In Intermediaries, Interpreters and Clerks: African Employees and the Making of Colonial Africa. Edited by Benjamin N. Lawrance, Emily Lynn Osborn, and Richard L. Roberts. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.

Coauthor with Richard Roberts and Benjamin Lawrance. "Introduction: Intermediaries and the Making of Colonial Africa." In Intermediaries, Interpreters and Clerks: African Employees and the Making of Colonial Africa, Edited by Benjamin N. Lawrance, Emily Lynn Osborn, and Richard L. Roberts. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.

"'Rubber Fever,' Commerce and French Colonial Rule in Upper Guinée, 1890–1913." The Journal of African History 45 (2004): 445–465.

"'Circle of Iron': African Colonial Employees and the Interpretation of Colonial Rule in French West Africa, 1890–1910." The Journal of African History 44 (2003): 27–48. Reprinted in The Rise and Fall of Modern Empires: Social Organisation, vol. I. Edited by Owen White. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013.