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Moses Ochonu - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Moses Ochonu Moses Ochonu

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of History | Vanderbilt University


Expert in the modern history of Africa, with a particular focus on the colonial and postcolonial periods.



Moses Ochonu Publication Moses Ochonu Publication Moses Ochonu Publication




Vanderbilt Professor shares expertise on Boko Haram



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 an entry into scholarly conversations about representations of the metropole in the experiential discourses of colonized African peoples.

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.

Areas of Expertise (9)

Modern History of Africa

African History

Nigeria/African History

Race/Racism in Africa


African Current Affairs

Economic Development

Higher Education


Accomplishments (1)

2016 Best Article of the Year Prize (professional)

African Arguments, for “The Shattering of the Buhari Mythology”

Education (4)

Lipscomb University: Graduate Certificate in Conflict Management 2009

The University of Michigan: Ph.D., African History 2004

University of Michigan: M.A., African History 1999

Bayero University: B.A., History 1997

Affiliations (4)

  • African Studies Association : Member
  • American Historical Association : Member
  • Nigerian Studies Association : Member
  • Diaspora Committee of Historical Society of Nigeria : Member

Selected Media Appearances (4)

Scandinavian-Americans Are Breaking Up With Lutefisk

Atlas Obscura  online


VISIT OLSEN FISH COMPANY IN North Minneapolis, and Don Sobasky from marketing will offer you a heavy flannel shirt before you’ve even taken off your coat. Not because the heater’s broken, but because of the smell, he’ll explain, while gazing around the 119-year-old seafood processor’s headquarters.

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The Men Who Would Be King: Buhari's Challengers in Nigeria

Bloomberg  online


With Nigeria’s main opposition party gearing up to nominate its presidential candidate next month for February’s election, here are the four main contenders in the People’s Democratic Party seeking to challenge Muhammadu Buhari for the helm in Africa’s top oil producer:

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“Black Panther” Rewrites the Moment of the Original Colonial Encounter with Africa

History News Network  online


The Marvel Comics movie, Black Panther, is more than a feel-good movie moment for Africans and people of African descent. It is a bold counterpoint to the intellectual and psychic violence of Afro-pessimism and Afro-defeatism.

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Why the sartorial choices of Salafi clerics sparked a debate on morality in Nigeria

The Conversation  online


The pictures caused a fierce online debate about piety, hypocrisy, morality, the sartorial prescriptions of Islam, and the tyranny of religious authorities in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria. The violent Islamist group, Boko Haram, is active in the region, which has become a hotbed of extremism.

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Selected Event Appearances (5)

The Wrong Reasons to Care about African Issues

Africa Conference  The University of Texas


The Subaltern as Explorer: Travel, Colonialism, and Modernity in Nigeria

Duke University  


African Studies at a Crossroads: Notes on Writing and Programming a Continent

Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes Conference of African Studies  The University of Pittsburgh


Historicizing Boko Haram’s Rage against Modernity and Munafurci

The University of Pittsburgh  


Emirs in London: Metropolitan Adventure and Aristocratic Culture in Colonial Nigeria

The University of Michigan Ann Arbor  


Selected Articles (5)

Elusive History: Fractured Archives, Politicized Orality, and Sensing the Postcolonial Past

History in Africa

Moses E. Ochonu


2015 Inspired by my experiences in archives and research fields in Northern Nigeria, this essay analyzes four overlapping phenomena: archival fragmentation, the politicization of data and research transactions, the proliferation of memoirs and other texts of self-representation, and the question of sensing the African past beyond the recognized oral, written, and ethnographic corpus.

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Caliphate Expansion and Sociopolitical Change in Nineteenth-Century Lower Benue Hinterlands

Journal of West African History

Moses Ochonu

2015 Abstract: This article analyzes the processes of jihad, migration, and sociopolitical change in the lower Benue hinterlands of nineteenth century central Nigeria. It examines the dynamics at work in the expansion of the territorial, commercial, and symbolic frontiers of the Sokoto caliphate in this sector, as well as the impact commercial and political events spawned by caliphate expansion and consolidation in this area had on the experiences, sociopolitical organization, economies, and institutions of some non-Muslim communities.

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The Idoma Hope Rising Union and the Politics of Patriarchy and Ethnic Honor

The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Moses E. Ochonu

2013 The intersections of ethnie associational life, patriarchy, honor, and politics have rarely been examined in the same analytical frame. This paper analyzes how a fairly diverse group of Western educated Idoma young men under the banner of the Idoma Hope Rising Union (THRU).

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African Colonial Economies: Land, Labor, and Livelihoods

History Compass

Moses Ochonu

2013 In what ways and through what mechanisms and policy instruments did colonial regimes seek to draw Africans into the colonial economy as laborers, wage earners, taxpayers, and consumers of foreign manufactured goods? How successful were colonial efforts to reform access to agricultural land as a way of establishing a foundation for colonial agriculture, undermining preexisting but disfavored African land tenure practices, compelling taxation, and mobilizing African labor?

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African Colonial Economies: State Control, Peasant Maneuvers, and Unintended Outcomes

History Compass

Moses Ochonu

2013 A supreme goal of colonizers' economic policies was to transform African subsistent and semi‐subsistent farmers into export oriented peasants‐‐peasantization in the jargon of African economic history. This was a difficult, complex, and long‐drawn process, requiring multiple mechanisms, some coercive, others persuasive.

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