Whenever people of different cultures, faiths, and political and economic backgrounds encounter one another, there is the possibility of reciprocal change. Much historical research is dedicated to bloodshed, conquest, and the abuse of power. Indeed, these themes may well describe much of human experience. But for that very reason, the few happy endings out there become utterly fascinating. My research, focused on West Africa, explores how and why genuine reciprocity takes place.
My dissertation explores nineteenth-century Ghanaian efforts at making use of foreign (mostly German) missionaries. These Ghanaians did not simply accept a foreign religion. Rather, they used it to resolve pressing social problems, such as the incorporation of immigrants and refugees. In the process, they profoundly reconfigured the missionaries' message to fit within the existing local spiritual ecosystem. The missionaries changed as much as the locals, if not more so. This is a unique story in African history, and is supremely promising toward the transnational, multi-ethnic challenges we face around the world in the twenty-first century. It is a story of people listening to one another, and growing together into a new kind of family.
My next project explores early-twentieth century Pentecostalism in the borderlands of Burkina Faso and Ghana. In striking contrast to Pentecostalism elsewhere in West Africa, which is globally networked, prosperous, and raucous, I have found a story of modest perseverance and reconciliation in the face of great hardship.
At a broader level, I am interested in non-western Christianities, African intellectual history, Germany, and the Atlantic World. I take especial interest in biography, for the simple reason that people are endlessly fascinating to me in their quirky, individual ways.
- African & European History, 18th – 20th centuries
- “German Guilt and Global Christianity, 1914-1950”
Working Dissertation Title:
- “Unimagining the Christian Nation: Ghanaians and their Germans, 1840-1940”
- BA: History (UW-Madison, 1999) (concentration: East Asia)
“Dying German in Ghana: Death, Belonging, and ‘Heimat’ in the Basel Mission in 19th Century Gold Coast”, Studies in World Christianity 20:01 (April 2014)
Blessed are the Uncool: Living Authentically in a World of Show Downers (Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007).
Book reviews in: International History Review, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Fides et Historia, and Books & Culture.
Doris Quinn Dissertation Writing Fellowship, 2015-2016
Mellon-State of Wisconsin Dissertation Summer Writing Fellowship, 2015
University of Wisconsin, History Department Dissertator Fellowship, 2013
Royal Air Maroc-African Studies Association Student Travel Award (Burkina Faso), 2016
Kaplan Award in the History of Social Justice, University of Wisconsin, 2016
Duke University, John Hope Franklin Research Grant, 2015
Yale University, David M. Stowe Fellowship for Mission Research, 2013
University of Wisconsin, Vilas Research Travel Grant (Ghana), 2014
Courses Taught as TA:
- Globalization and the African City
- The African Storyteller (African Cultural Studies Department)
- European Intellectual and Religious History to 1500
- Africans in the Americas, 1492-1818
- Genres of Western Religious Writing (Religious Studies Department)
- History of Rome
- European Culture, 1870 to present
Courses Taught as Instructor:
- World History from 1500 (spring 2017) - University of Wisconsin-Platteville
- Black Experience in the U.S. (Ethnic Studies Department) - University of Wisconsin-Platteville