John thabiti willis, Ph. D

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History Department 765 Hampden Ave

Carleton College Apartment 404

Leighton Hall 214 Saint Paul, MN 55114

One North College Street +14047357276

Northfield, MN 55057



Assistant Professor, Department of History, Carleton College, Fall 2010-present

Associate Editor, Journal of West African History, 2012-present

Director, “2012 Dubai OCS Winter Break Program: Voice and Visibility in Afro-Arab Women’s History,” Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2012

Post-doctoral Fellow, Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, University of Virginia, 2008-2010

Site Visit Consultant, “Constructing Women in the African Diaspora: Identities, Culture, and Power,” UNCF/Mellon International Faculty Seminar, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, 2010

Assistant Director, “The Community Confronts HIV/AIDS: Cultural Responses to Social and Political Policy,” Eighth Annual UNCF/Mellon International Faculty Seminar, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 2009

-----. “Race and Nation in South Africa, the U.S., and Britain,” Seventh Annual UNCF/Mellon International Faculty Seminar, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

Lecturer, Department of History, Clark Atlanta University, 2007

Lecturer, Department of History, University of Georgia, 2005

Ph.D. African History, Emory University, 2008

Dissertation Title: “Masquerading Politics: Power and Transformation in a West African Kingdom”

Committee Chair: Kristin Mann

M.A. African History, Emory University, 2004

M.P.S. African and African American Studies, Cornell University, 2000

B.A. Accounting, Clark Atlanta University, 1998

Carleton College Faculty Endowment Grant (1-year sabbatical), 2013-2014

Visualities Initiative Targeted Opportunity Grant (Nigeria), 2010

Carter G. Woodson Post-Doctoral Fellowship, 2008-2009

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, 2005-2006

Mellon/Mays Graduate Research Assistantship, 2002-2008

Emory Internationalization Funds Research Grant, 2002-2003

Emory GSAS Sawyer Fellowship, 2001-2002

Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS), 2000-2001

Cornell Graduate Assistantship, 1999-2000

Sage Graduate Fellowship/Cornell University, 1998-1999

Cornell Graduate School Summer Research Travel Grant (Nigeria), 1999

In-progress book Manuscript:

Masquerading Politics: Performing Gender, Kinship, and Ethnicity in a Yoruba Town, 1770-1921 (Under review at Indiana University Press)
Peer Reviewed Articles:

“Negotiating Gender, Power, and Spaces in Masquerade Performances in Nigeria,” Gender, Place, and Culture: A Feminist Geography Journal (Special Issue, 2013).

Contributions to Anthologies/Edited Volumes:

“Power and Gender in the History of Egungun.” Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley, ed. by Marla Berns, Richard Fardon, and Sidney Kasfir. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum, UCLA, 2011.

Book Reviews:

Mother Is Gold, Father Is Glass: gender and colonialism in a Yoruba town by Lorelle D. Semley (review).” Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute 83, 3 (2013): 529-530.

In-progress Articles:

“Africans in the History and Legacy of Pearl Diving in Dubai,” in Cultural Heritage in the Arabian Peninsula, Volume 2

“Child, Husband, Wife: A Researcher’s Identities and Ethnographic Sources Change the View of the Archive,” History in Africa

“Missionary Discourses on Women and Masquerades in Nineteenth-Century Yorubaland,” Journal of African History

“Representing African and Baluch Contributions to Pearling in the Gulf,” Journal of Middle East and North Africa

2014 “Africans in the History and Legacy of Pearl Diving,” Anthropological Lecture Series, Institute of Ethnology, University of Hamburg, Germany

“Own the Mask, Own the Town: Contesting Yoruba History, Memory, and Identity,” Africa Workshop, Columbia University, New York

“Own the Mask, Own the Town: Contesting Yoruba History, Memory, and Identity,” University of Houston and Houston Museum of African American Culture, Houston, Texas

2013 “African Involvement in the History and Memory of Pearl Diving in the Middle East” Black Studies Paradigms, Frontiers, and Challenges Lecture Series, City College of New York, New York

“Spirits that Mount, Spirits that Dance: Rethinking the Consolidation of Royal Power in a Preimperial West African Kingdom” Angelina Weld Grimke Brown Bag Conversation Series, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota

“New Paradigms and Frontiers in African History,” History Department, Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota

2012 “Contesting Notions of Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in Afro-Arab Hip Hop: The Making of an Afro-Arab Futurism,” International Roundtable Series, Hamline University, Saint Paul, Minnesota

“Negotiating Gender, Power, and Spaces in Masquerade Performances,” Sacred Space, Contested Terrain, Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

2011 “History of Yoruba Masquerades,” Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota

2008 “Matrons of Masquerade: Gender, Power, and Transformation among a West African People,” Brown Bag Lecture Series, Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Indiana University

“The History and Politics of Masking Traditions among the Yoruba,” Department of Art History, Columbia University, NY

2007 “When Masks Dance for the King of Otta?,” Workshop in Colonial and Post-Colonial Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

2006 “Political Economy of Yoruba Masquerades,” Department of History, Colloquium, University of Lagos, Nigeria


2014 “He Who Owns the Mask Owns the Town: Debate Yoruba Identity in the Courtroom and in the Masquerade Festival,” Panel, New Paradigms of Yoruba History and Historiography, 57th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, November 20-23, 2014, Indianapolis, Indiana

“Africans in the History and Legacy of Pearl Diving in the United Arab Emirates,” Panel, Beyond the Museum, 2014 Museums in Arabia Conference, University College of London (Qatar) and Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

“A Cloth for a Crown: Gender, Wealth, and Masquerade Performance in Early Colonial Nigeria, Otta 1884-1921,” 16th ACASA Triennial Symposium on African Art, Arts Council of the African Studies Association, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York

2013 “Spirits that Mount, Spirits that Dance: Rethinking the Consolidation of Royal Power in a Preimperial West African Kingdom,” Panel, Spirit Possession, Gender and Power, African Studies Association Annual Meeting, Baltimore, Maryland

Panelist, Taste of African Dinner, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“New Masks, Wives, and Rituals in a Yoruba Town,” Panel, Politics of Religious Mixture in the Black Atlantic, Society for the Anthropology of Religion Biennial Meeting, Pasadena, California

2012 “When looking involves ‘taking,’ who is receiving,” Panel, Ethics and Cultural Competency, Visual Learning Conference: Transforming the Liberal Arts, Conference, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota

“ISP Before and After:  Undergraduate Research at Home Institutions and Beyond,” Academic Director Workshop, SIT Study Abroad Brattleboro, Vermont

“Voices Unveiled: Gender, Tradition, and Religion in the Afro-Arab Diaspora,” Panel, Black Rhetoric, Arab Verses: Gendered Embodiment Through Arab Hip-Hop, Gender and Women Studies in the Arab Region Conference, American University, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

2010 “Neither Here Nor There: African American Music and Sudanese Poets in an Arab World,” Panel, Trans-bordered Configurations: Moving Africans, Diasporic Tensions and Migration Experiences, African Studies Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco, California

2009 “Warriors, Women, and the Emergence of a New Egungun Masquerade at Otta, Southwest Nigeria, 1882-1902,” Panel, Doing and Undoing Gender in British Colonial West Africa, African Studies Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana

“From Stranger to Spouse: Negotiating Subjectivity and Belonging in a Yoruba Town,” Panel, Encounters with Race and Research I: West Africa, 5th Biennial Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora Conference, Accra, Ghana

2008 “Women, Wealth, and the Transformation of Egungun Masquerades in Nineteenth Century Yorubaland,” Fifth Cadbury Fellows Workshop, Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, UK

2007 “In Whose Voice Does Death Sing: Interrogating Accounts of Masquerade Origins,” Panel, Style and Substance, Mellon-Mays Summer

Institute, Emory University, Atlanta, GA


2014 Participant, “Teaching African Studies in the Small Liberal Arts Context” Mellon-AALAC Workshop, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

2013 Participant, “Transforming Teaching & Research with Digital Technologies & Collections,” St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota

Participant, “Spatial Autocorrelation Analysis (GIS) Workshop,” Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota

2012 Participant, “Teaching the Archives: An AALAC Pedagogy Workshop,” Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

Participant, “Digital Humanities Workshop,” Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota


2004 Uhuru Dancers’ Concert, “Taa Linglaa: Legends brought to Life,” Atlanta, GA

Guest Artist

2002-2003 Giwayen Mata’s Annual Concert, “Rising to Our Power,” Atlanta, GA

Guest Artist

2002 Giwayen Mata, CNN Headlines News, Black History Month Special, Atlanta, GA

Guest Artist
African Studies Association

American Historical Association

Arts Council for the African Studies Association

Association for the Study of the World Wide African Diaspora

Middle Eastern Studies Association

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