Prof Lidwien E Kapteijns

Author & Somali Culture Reasercher @ Welesley College

Prof Kapteijns’ scholarly work deals with the history of Northeast Africa (in particular Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti) in the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-independence periods. In the last quarter century, the most important themes have included: the nature of pre-colonial state and non-state societies in the area; the socio-economic and cultural changes resulting from the colonial confrontation; changing contexts and expressions of Islam; the changing social roles of women; African voices and perspectives as expressed in oral literature and oral history research, and, most recently, Somali civil war violence and the role of clan hate-narratives as rationales and primes for violence and as obstacles to social reconstruction. Her most recent book, Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Turn of 1991 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania: Penn Studies in Human Rights, 2013), came out in paperback in 2014.

Her current work deals with the legal personhood and economic agency of women in the Islamic court records of Brava in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Part of her work is devoted to the edition, translation and publication of written and oral historical texts in Arabic and Somali. She also have a long-standing interest in historiographical analyses of African history in general and of Somali and Sudanese studies in particular. Since so many of the surviving sources for the past produced by Somalia consist of oral literature, she has developed considerable expertise in Somali orature. Her interest in Somali popular culture from the late colonial period to the present has grown out of this earlier research in Somali oral sources (Women’s Voices, 1999; “Making Memories of Mogadishu,” 2010, and Chapter One of Clan Cleansing, 2013).

At Wellesley College, She is responsible for the teaching of both African and Middle Eastern History. She teaches survey courses about the history of Pre-colonial, Colonial/Modern Africa, and South Africa, and of the Modern Middle East. Most recently, she has developed a new course about the Constructions of Gender in the Modern Middle East. Her research seminars have focused on the history of the Sudan; African popular and public culture; a comparative approach to the histories of ethnic and religious civil war violence, and, most recently, together with a historian of South Asia, on Port Cities of the Indian Ocean. She actively pursues the changing methodologies and epistemologies of the history of violence, history and memory, gender studies, and public/popular culture with her students.