Morgan J. Robinson
I will be on leave for the Spring 2024 semester to take up a position as International Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen, Germany.
I am a historian of eastern Africa, interested in (among many topics) language, standardization, bureaucracy, time, creativity, and learning. My first book, A Language for the World: The Standardization of Swahili (Ohio University Press, November 2022), examines the long-term, interconnected processes that produced Standard Swahili as it is taught around the world today, zooming in on various moments of conversation, translation, and codification. My next project, preliminarily titled Making an African University: Histories of Inquiry in East Africa, will examine the diverse frameworks of scholarly inquiry that co-mingled in this region across two centuries, ranging from discussions on the baraza (front porches) of Zanzibar, to universities in Kampala and Dar es Salaam. My aim with this project is to explore the notion of research, demonstrating how a region like East Africa—largely ignored in the mainstream literature on the history of science and its concomitant field the history of the humanities, both of which focus fundamentally on questions pertaining to the production of knowledge—can and should be an essential part of the conversation.
I love teaching African history to both undergraduates and graduate students, as I find that I myself learn more and more with every class!
PhD in History, May 2018
Dissertation: “An Uncommon Standard: A Social and Intellectual History of Swahili, 1864-1925”
MA in History, September 2013
Fields: Pre-Colonial Africa; Modern Africa; Islam and the Indian Ocean
BA in History, May 2008
Mississippi State University, Assistant Professor, Fall 2018 – Present
Princeton University, Pre-doctoral Lecturer, Writing Program, 2017-2018
A Language for the World: The Standardization of Swahili (Ohio University Press, 2022)
Check out my interview about the book on the New Books Network here:
Articles et ceters
“When a Wonder is Not a Wonder: Swahili, Translation, and the Communication of Knowledge,” Isis 114, no.2 (June 2023: 233-248).
“Kiswahili: how a standard version of the east African language was formed—and spread across the world,” published in the online periodical “The Conversation” (July 2023)
“The Idea of the Upelekwa: Constructing a Transcontinental Community in Eastern Africa, 1888- 1896,” Journal of the History of Ideas 81, no.1 (January 2020): 85-106.
“Binding Words: Student Biographical Narratives and Religious Conversion,” in Klaas van Walraven (ed.), The Individual in African History: The Importance of Biography in African Historical Studies (Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2020).
“La Belle Époque from Eastern Africa: An Individual Experience of the ‘Globalizing’ World, 1898-1918,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 13, no.4 (November 2019): 584-600.
“Cutting pice and running away: Discipline, education and choice at the UMCA Boys' Industrial House, Zanzibar, 1901-1905,” Southern African Review of Education, Vol. 19, No. 2 (December 2013): 9-24.
“History of the Standard Swahili Language” (Forthcoming in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History)
Select Conferences and Presentations
African Studies Association, Philadelphia, PA, November 2022
Chair and discussant for panel: “Organizing One’s Thoughts: Creating Categories from the Baraza to the OAU”
Internationales Kolloquium zur Gräzistik und Wissensforschung der Antike und ihrer Rezeption
Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, July 2022
Keynote Address: “Cake Baking and Knowledge Making: Scholarship from Kiel to Kenya and Back Again”
Vereinigung für Afrikawissenschaften in Deutschland
Albert Ludwig University, Freiburg, Germany, June 2022
Paper: “Cake Baking and Knowledge Making: The Exchange of Ideas During Food Production”
African Studies Association, [Virtual] November 2020
Chair for panel: “Language Policy in Kenya: Multilingualism as Both Problem and Solution”
History of Science Society, [November 2020, Postponed]
Moderator and paper: “The Creativity of Clerkship”
African Studies Association, Boston, MA, November 2019
Chair and paper: “Synchronicity and Divergence: The Multiple Timelines of Standard Swahili”
History of Science Society, Utrecht, Netherlands, July 2019
Moderator and paper: “Participation and Demand: Swahili and the Work of the Inter-Territorial Language Committee”
19th Annual Africa Conference at the University of Texas
at Austin, March 2019
Presenter on panel: “Personal Narratives and Questions of Identity in Africa and its Diaspora”
History and Politics of Belonging in African Indian Ocean
Martin-Luther University, Halle, Germany, June 2018
Paper: “Belonging Nowhere and Everywhere at Once: Agnes Sapuli and the Cosmopolitanism of the Universities' Mission”
International Fellow at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut/Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, Essen, Germany – October 2023-March 2024
Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers Berlin, Germany – January 2021-July 2022
Strategic Research Initiative Seed Funding, Mississippi State University College of Arts & Sciences, 2019
Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant for Research in European, African, or Asian History American Historical Association, 2019
Modern Africa (undergraduate survey)
African Civilizations (undergraduate survey)
Imperialism and Colonialism in Africa (graduate seminar)
Africa in the History of Science (graduate seminar)
Imperialism, Independence, and Post-Colonial Nation Building (graduate seminar)
Histories of Time (graduate seminar)
Comparative Slavery (graduate seminar)
Historiography (graduate seminar)
Justice After Empire (first-year undergraduate seminar)