Shobana Shankar

Assistant Professor, Department of History

My research focuses on cultural encounters in Africa, particularly in the areas of religion, healing and medicine, and education. In my first book, I explored American and British missionary work and origins of the Christian minority in Muslim Northern Nigeria, to reveal fluid and creative religious identities and interreligious relations that have been ignored or erased by present-day politics of difference and conflict. The question of otherness is the subject of my current research on African-Indian religious and intellectual connections in the twentieth century. While Africans and Indians shared experiences of colonization, as many scholars have noted, their cultural differences were productive of debate and experimentation unique to the postcolonial imagination. I’ve enjoyed using oral and written narratives of different sorts, including various “texts” originating in religious experiences, but films, dance, visual art, and vocal music have become important in my current work on African-Indian relations. I’ve co-edited a collection of essays on global religious movements and articles on religious and secular humanitarian work in Africa, the influence of American anthropology in Christian missionary work in Nigeria, and African-American blueswomen in Mississippi. I am currently working on two articles on women in Northern Nigeria, the first focusing on Christian women’s significance to Islamic movements related to implementation of shari’a law and the violent Boko Haram secession and the second on African and African-American women’s gender activism on behalf of the Chibok girls. Global citizenship is a central component of my research, as I seek to engage multiple perspectives that dominant discourses often mask. It is also central to my approach as a scholar to work collaboratively, with others within and outside academia. I also emphasize global citizenship in the classroom, which serves a space to listen to others.