University of Wisconsin–Madison

Florence Bernault

Emeritus Professor

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Florence Bernault


I specialize in West and Equatorial African History and Contemporary Africa. I offer courses and seminars on Africa since 1870, on African Christianity, on Non-Traditional Sources for Modern African History, on Equatorial Africa since 1500, and on African Art: Collections, Tourism, Museums. I have also written extensively on colonialism and on France’s current debates about citizenship, naturalization, immigration and the colonial debt.

My work so far has discussed political crises in Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, and custodial imprisonment in sub-Saharan Africa. I am currently completing a book monograph that investigates the history of magic in Gabon, and more broadly, the cross-emergence of black and white anxieties about materiality and spiritual agency since the late 19th century. In addition to this book, I am working on two projects. One concerns the history of the fetish in the colonial context. The second analyzes Late Nativism, archaic fathers and burdensome bodies in the movie Avatar (2009).


Ph.D., University of Paris-Diderot
M.A., University of Paris-Sorbonne
B.A., University of Paris-Sorbonne


Selected Publications

  • Aesthetics of Acquisition: Gabonese Spectacles and the Transactional Life of Bodies and Things, Comparative Studies in Society and History Vol. 57, No. 3. (July 2015), 753-779.
  • Control and Excess: Histories of Violence in Africa, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 85, No. 3 (August 2015), 385-394.
  • Suitcases and the Poetics of Oddities: Writing History from Disorderly Archives, History in Africa, vol. 42 (2015), 269-277.
  • Carnal Technologies and the Double Life of the Body in Gabon, Critical African Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3 (2013), 175-194.
  • “Witchcraft and the Colonial Life of the Fetish,” in B. Meier and A. Steinforth, eds., Spirits in Politics: Uncertainties of Power and Healing in African Societies, (Frankfurt a.M.: Campus Publishers, 2013), 53-74.
  • “Quelque chose de pourri dans le post-empire,” [Something’s Rotten in the Post-Empire] Cahiers d’études africaines 199 (Dec. 2010), 771-798.
  • “Colonial Bones: The 2006 Burial of Savorgnan de Brazza,” African Affairs, vol. 109, 436 (July 2010),367-390.
  • “La chair et son secret: Transfiguration du fétiche et incertitude symbolique au sud-Gabon,” [The Flesh and Its Secret: Fetish and Symbolic Uncertainty in Southern Gabon] Politique africaine, 115 (October 2009), 99-122.
  • “Colonial Syndrome: French Modern and the Deceptions of History,” in C. Tshimanga-Kashama, D. Gondola & P. Bloom, eds., Frenchness and the African Diaspora, Bloomington, 2009.
  • “Fin de règne au Gabon” [End of Gabon’s Monarchy], special issue of Politique africaine, 115 (October 2009), guest editor with Joseph Tonda.

Selected Awards

  • Fellow, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, academic year 2014
  • Fellow, Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin, Spring 2010
  • Fellow, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, August 2008
  • H. I. Romnes Faculty Award, University of Wisconsin, 2000-2005
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2001

Advisor To

History Courses