University of Wisconsin–Madison

Stephen A. Pierce

Advisor: Neil Kodesh



I do research on the precolonial social history of East Africa’s urban communities. More specifically, I am interested in how relatively understudied Islamic social institutions (wakf, kadhi courts, religious life) affected the way people perceived the growing wealth (and poverty) of different classes of people within the cosmopolitan atmosphere of urban Swahili East Africa. These social institutions also offer us a valuable comparative lens through which to see East Africa’s contribution to and involvement in the larger Indian Ocean and Islamic worlds.


  • African History

MA Title

  • “Toward a Swahili Narrative: Africans, Arabs, and Europeans in East Africa’s Textual Tradition”

Working Dissertation Title

  • “Charity, Cosmopolitanism, and Culture on Africa’s East Coast, 1750-1930”