Jean Allman

Professor Emeritus of African and African-American Studies, History (Affiliate), and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (Affiliate)
J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities
PhD, Northwestern University

research interests:
  • Nation and National Identity
  • Gender and Colonialism
  • Fashion and the Politics of Clothing
  • Modernity and the Mobility of Indigenous Belief Systems
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    contact info:

    office hours:

    • Tuesday 2:00 - 4:00 pm

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • Campus Box 1071-0137-02
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
    image of book cover

    Professor Allman has approached the study of the past through a range of interdisciplinary and thematically diverse topics - nation and national identity, gender and colonialism, fashion and the politics of clothing, and the modernity and mobility of indigenous belief systems.

    The thread that runs through all of my work is a fundamental concern with the ways in which African women and men have positioned themselves as central actors in the making of the globalized modern world. I have been especially drawn to topics that have too often been treated as timeless, as languishing outside the bounds of historical inquiry: ethnic or “tribal” identity, motherhood, “authentic” dress, or “traditional” religion.

    My current research is very much a response to the pessimism that swept through African studies, particularly in the United States and Europe, beginning in the 1970s. Ever since the promise of the newly independent African nation states of the 1950s-1960s crashed against the rocks of neocolonialism and neo-liberalism, many Africanist scholars have been immobilized by what has been widely deemed the failure of the nationalist project in Africa.

    Few, if any, have transcended the modernization-bound question "What went wrong?" My new project, which in many ways returns to the central themes of nation and of gender which I explored in my earlier work, is aimed at re-examining "nation times" - a time when the West African state of Ghana was a pivotal site for imagining an entirely new, non-aligned world; when Ghanaians, joined by a host of transnational actors (African-American activists and intellectuals, Irish and Welsh nationalists, anti-nuclear peace activists, South African communists, Caribbean Pan-Africanists) cooperated, colluded and collided over how to build a non-racial, anti-imperialist, nuclear-free world at the height of the Cold War.



    TONGNAAB: The History of a West African God. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005. (with John Parker)

    Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress. (Edited and introduced). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004

    Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History. 4:1 (2003). Special Issue: "Destination Globalization: Women, Gender and Comparative Colonial Histories in the New Millenium." Edited and introduced with Antoinette Burton

    Women in African Colonial Histories. (Edited and provided an introduction with Susan Geiger and Nakanyike Muisi). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2002

    Our Days Dwindle: Memories of My Childhood Days in Asante. (Edited and provided an introduction) Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Press, 2001

    "I Will Not Eat Stone": A Woman's History of Colonial Asante. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Press, 2000. (with Victoria Tashjian)

    Journal of Religious History 23:1 (1999). Special Issue: "African Encounters with Missionaries." (Co-Edited and Introduced with Derek Peterson)

    The Quills of the Porcupine: Asante Nationalism in an Emergent Ghana, 1954-1957. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993.


    Selected Articles

    “Modeling Modernity:  The Brief Story of Kwame Nkrumah, a Nazi Pilot Named Hanna, and the Wonders of Motorless Flight.” In Peter Bloom, Takyiwaa Manuh, and Stephan Miescher, eds. Modernization as Spectacle.  Bloomington, IN:  Indiana University Press, 2014, 229-43.

    “Between the Present and History:  African Nationalism and Decolonization.” In John Parker and Richard Reid, eds., Oxford Handbook on Modern African History.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2013, 224-242.

    “Modeling Modernity:  The Brief Story of Kwame Nkrumah, a Nazi Pilot Named Hanna, and the Wonders of Motorless Flight.” In Peter Bloom, Takyiwaa Manuh, and Stephan Miescher, eds. Modernization as Spectacle in Africa (edited collection forthcoming from Indiana University Press, 2014).

    “Kwame Nkrumah, African Studies, and the Politics of Knowledge Production in the Black Star of Africa.” International Journal of African Historical Studies, forthcoming, fall 2013.

    “Phantoms of the Archive: Kwame Nkrumah, a Nazi Pilot Named Hanna, and the Contingencies of Postcolonial History Writing,” American Historical Review (February 2013).

    “The Disappearing of Hannah Kudjoe:  Nationalism, Feminism, and the Tyrannies of History.”  Journal of Women’s History 22:3 (2009), 13-35.  “Honorable Mention,” JWH Prize for best article, 2009-2011.

    "Nuclear Imperialism and the Pan-African Struggle for Peace and Freedom: Ghana, 1959-1962." Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, 10:2 (Spring, 2008), 83-102. Reprinted in Manning Marable and Vanessa Agard-Jones, eds. Transnational Blackness: Navigating the Global Color Line. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, 333-54

     "Gender, Colonialism, and Feminist Collaboration," Radical History Review, 101 (Spring, 2008), 198-210. [with Antoinette Burton]

    "Gender Chaos and Unmarried Women in Colonial Asante."  In Andrea Cornwall (ed.) Readings in Gender in Africa.  London:  International Africa Institute, 2004.  [reprinted version of 1996 JAH article]

    "'Let Your Fashion Be in Line with Our Ghanaian Costume':  Nation, Gender and the Politics of Clothing in Nkrumah's Ghana."  In Fashioning Power.  Bloomington, IN:  Indiana University Press, 2004

    "'England Swings Like a Pendulum Do?':  Africanist Reflections on Cannadine's Retro-Empire." In Anthony Ballantyne, ed., From Orientalism to Ornamentalism:  Empire, Difference and History, a special issue of the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History (Johns Hopkins University Press),  3:1 (2002).

    "Marriage and Marrying on a Shifting Terrain:  Reconfigurations of Power and Authority in Early Colonial Asante."  (with Victoria Tashjian)  In Allman, Geiger and Musisi, (eds).  Women in African Colonial Histories.  Bloomington, IN:  Indiana University Press, 2002, 237-59.

    "Rounding Up Spinsters:  Unmarried Women and Gender Chaos in Colonial Asante." In D. Hodgson and C. McCurdy, eds.

    "Wicked Women" and the Reconfiguration of Gender.  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann, 2001, 130-148  (revised and reprinted version of 1996 JAH article)

    "Be(com)ing Asante / Be(com)ing Akan:  Thoughts on Gender, Identity and the Colonial Encounter."  In C. Lentz and P. Nugent (eds.) Ethnicity in Ghana:  The Limits of Invention.  London:   MacMillan , 2000, 97-118.

    "New Directions in the History of Missions in Africa:  Introduction."  Journal of Religious History, 23:1 (1999), 1-7.  (With Derek Peterson.  Edited and provided an introduction for a special issue of the journal devoted to the theme "Africans Encountering Missionaries." )

    "Fathering, Mothering and Making Sense of Ntamoba:  Reflections on the Economy of Child-Rearing in Colonial Asante."  Africa, 67:2 (1997), 296-321.

    "Adultery and the State in Asante:  Reflections on Gender, Class and Power from 1800-1950."  In J.O. Hunwick and Nancy Lawler (eds.),  The Cloth of Many Colored Silks:  Papers on History and Society.  Evanston:  Northwestern University Press, 1996,  27-66.

    "Rounding Up Spinsters:  Unmarried Women and Gender Chaos in Colonial Asante."  Journal of African History, 37:2 (1996), 195-214.

    "Making Mothers:  Missionaries, Medical Officers and Women's Work in Colonial Asante, 1924-1945."  History Workshop (Oxford University Press), 38 (Fall, 1994), 25-48.

    "'Hewers of Wood, Carriers of Water':  Islam, Class and Politics on the Eve of Ghana's Independence."  African Studies Review 34:2 (September, 1991): 1-26.

    "The Youngmen and the Porcupine:  Class, Nationalism and Asante's Struggle for Self-Determination, 1954-1957."  Journal of African History 31:2 (July, 1990): 263-79.



    Editorial Board, Journal of African History

    Editor, New African Histories series, Ohio University Press (with Allen Isaacman, 2004- present)

    Editor, Journal of Women’s History, Johns Hopkins University Press (with Antoinette Burton, 2004-2010)

    Editor, Social History of Africa series, Heinemann Press (with Allen Isaacman,1997-2007)



    2014-2015  “An Intimate History of the African Revolution:  Kwame Nkrumah and the Women in Question.  American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship"

    2014-2019    Mellon Foundation Grant to the Center for the Humanities and the College and Graduate School of Urban Design at Washington University (under the Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities initiative,) “The Divided City:  An Urban Humanities Initiative"

    Department of Education, National Resource Center, Award P015A060013, University of Illinois, 2006- 2010

    Department of Education, Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowships, University of Illinois, 2006-2010

    Mellon Faculty Fellows Program in the Humanities, 2003-2004

    University of Illinois Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students, University of Illinois, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

    U.S. Department of Education, Fulbright-Hays Training Grant for Advanced Area Research (Africa Program), 1999

    National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 1998

    Social Science Research Council Grant for Advanced Area Research (Africa Program), 1992

    Fulbright-Hays Training Grant for Faculty Research Abroad, 1992

    National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers

    William T. Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, University of Missouri, 1991

    Provost's Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award, University of Missouri, 1990

    Arts and Science Student Government Purple Chalk Award for Excellence in Teaching, University of Missouri, 1990

    Phi Beta Sigma Faculty Award for contributions to the Black community on campus, University of Missouri, 1990

    American Council of Learned Societies Grant-in-Aid, 1990

    American Council of Learned Societies Grant-in-Aid, 1988

    Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Year Fellowship, 1983-1984

    Foreign Language Area Studies Fellow, 1981-1983



    History of Modern Africa
    Women in African History
    African Civilizations
    History of South Africa
    History of Africa Before 1800
    History of Africa Since 1800
    Problems in West African History:  The State and Slavery (graduate)
    The Making of the Modern World
    Missions, Medicine and the Colonial Experience (graduate)
    Social History of African Women (graduate)
    Race and Power in Southern Africa
    Women, Men and Gender in African Societies
    Problems in Comparative Women's History (graduate)
    The Development of African Studies (graduate)
    African History at the Interdisciplinary Crossroads
    Debating the African Past: Foundational Problems in the History of Africa (graduate)
    Gender, Sexuality and Colonialism (graduate)
    Race, Class, and Gender in South Africa
    Gender and Power in Comparative Perspective (graduate)
    Historical Methods:  Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa

    Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress

    Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress

    Everywhere in the world there is a close connection between the clothes we wear and our political expression. To date, few scholars have explored what clothing means in 20th-century Africa and the diaspora. In Fashioning Africa, an international group of anthropologists, historians, and art historians bring rich and diverse perspectives to this fascinating topic. From clothing as an expression of freedom in early colonial Zanzibar to Somali women’s headcovering in inner-city Minneapolis, these essays explore the power of dress in African and pan-African settings. Nationalist and diasporic identities, as well as their histories and politics, are examined at the level of what is put on the body every day. Readers interested in fashion history, material and expressive cultures, understandings of nation-state styles, and expressions of a distinctive African modernity will be engaged by this interdisciplinary and broadly appealing volume.

    Contributors are Heather Marie Akou, Jean Allman, A. Boatema Boateng, Judith Byfield, Laura Fair, Karen Tranberg Hansen, Margaret Jean Hay, Andrew M. Ivaska, Phyllis M. Martin, Marissa Moorman, Elisha P. Renne, and Victoria L. Rovine.

    Tongnaab: The History of a West African God

    Tongnaab: The History of a West African God

    For many Africanist historians, traditional religion is simply a starting point for measuring the historic impact of Christianity and Islam. In Tongnaab, Jean Allman and John Parker challenge the distinction between tradition and modernity by tracing the movement and mutation of the powerful Talensi god and ancestor shrine, Tongnaab, from the savanna of northern Ghana through the forests and coastal plains of the south. Using a wide range of written, oral, and iconographic sources, Allman and Parker uncover the historical dynamics of cross-cultural religious belief and practice. They reveal how Tongnaab has been intertwined with many themes and events in West African history—the slave trade, colonial conquest and rule, capitalist agriculture and mining, labor migration, shifting ethnicities, the production of ethnographic knowledge, and the political projects that brought about the modern nation state. This rich and original book shows that indigenous religion has been at the center of dramatic social and economic changes stretching from the slave trade to the tourist trade.