Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, Bates College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Wisconsin / Madison
Forgotten Voices of The Transition: Precolonial Intellectuals and the Colonial State in Northern Uganda, 1850-1950

In a special issue of The Makerere (1972), the Ugandan historian Balam Nyeko critiqued scholars for ignoring the role of African ideas in shaping colonialism. Existing literature on colonial employees pays little attention to African intellectual contributions to the colonial state. Instead, scholars have overemphasized the Africans' roles in the army, their manipulation of colonial administrators for personal gain, their greed as tax collectors, and their conflicts with their people. The growing field of African intellectual history has continued this trend by focusing solely on nationalist figures such as Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah, who received education in the West and made exceptional contributions to independence. But should the focus of African intellectual history start with nationalist figures? What about the generation that came before them and was nurtured by African institutions? This project seeks to expand the field of intellectual history by including Africans who were nurtured by local institutions and who were instrumental in the transition from the precolonial to the colonial state. It focuses on the Acholi of Uganda. I intend to argue that while British colonial violence, especially public executions of rebellious Africans, might have caused fear and weakness among the Acholi, violence alone does not adequately explain the triumph of the European colonial enterprise. The Acholi who became colonial employees brought with them significant knowledge and ideas that contributed heavily to the success of the colonial administration. My study will employ two main sets of sources: documentary and oral. A combination of these sources will generate information on both the precolonial and colonial eras. Thus, this work will contribute to the literature on African colonial employees and on African intellectual history, especially the discussion about the contributions of African ideas and institutions to the shaping colonial projects in Acholiland.