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Shobana Shankar

Professor (Ph.D., UCLA, 2003)

Curriculum vitae

Office: SBS S-323

Graduate Program Matters:


Interests: Africa (particularly West Africa), colonial and postcolonial politics, religion, health, Muslim-Christian interactions, Africa-South Asia connections.

My research and teaching focus on social and cultural history, religious transformations, minority communities, and international humanitarianism in Africa, with a focus on West Africa and African-South Asian networks and diasporas. In addition to my scholarly work, my earlier professional experiences include stints at the United Nations, New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the New York City public schools. My most recent book, An Uneasy Embrace: Africa, India and the Spectre of Race (Hurst/Oxford, 2021), is the first history of how race and racialization have brought Africans and Indians together, yet also driven them apart. The book is based on research in 7 countries, including Ghana, India, Nigeria, and Senegal. The book gives needed context for understanding recent events, from protests over Gandhi statues in Ghana to violence against Africans in Delhi and Vice-President Kamala Harris’s biography as Black-Indian-American women with ties to South India, Zambia, and Jamaica. I am also author/co-editor of three other books: Religions on the Move: New Dynamics of Religious Expansion in a Globalizing World, with Afe Adogame (Brill, 2013); Who Shall Enter Paradise: Christian Origins in Muslim Northern Nigeria, c. 1890-1975 (Ohio University, 2014); and Transforming Religious Landscapes in Africa: The Sudan Interior Mission, Past and Present (Africa World Press, 2018). I founded and co-edit the new book series, African Religions, Social Realities (Ohio University Press).

I have written for audiences beyond academia in platforms such as Africa Is A Country and Farid Zakaria’s GPS on CNN. The Conversation published my essay about what the U.S. can learn about immunization from Nigeria, and another of my pieces appeared in The Washington Post on the history of eugenicist practices at the Mississippi State Penitentiary which began experiencing an epidemic of prisoner deaths in 2020.

During the academic year 2022-2023, I will be a Fellow at the Wilson Center, in Washington, DC, writing my next book on the complex economic and cultural exchanges sustained between Nigeria and India, two of the world’s largest nations with widely-dispersed and growing diasporas. I look forward to hearing from undergraduate and graduate students interested in African history, religion interactions (especially Christian-Muslim relations), African and Asian diasporas and interracial relations, international humanitarianism and health politics, minority communities, and communal experiences of exclusion and inequality.

Recent Courses Taught
African-Asian Encounters (undergrad)

Racial Politics in Africa (undergrad)
History and Politics of Science in Africa (grad)
Health and Disease in African History (undergrad)
Perspectives on Globalization and International Relations (undergrad)

Recent Works and Interviews