Biography

I am an assistant professor of African history and current chair of the African and African American Studies Program at Centre College, a top-50 liberal arts college that attracts bright, highly motivated students from around the world. It is consistently ranked as one of the top-10 teaching Colleges in the United States, and top 3 for study abroad. I joined Centre’s faculty in 2012 as visiting assistant professor of history. After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in religion and theology, respectively, I completed my PhD in history at the University of Cambridge.

At Cambridge, I facilitated tutorials, lectures and seminars at the undergraduate and graduate level, teaching on the history of modern Africa and historical methodology. At Centre, I have worked to develop a creative pedagogy, which often leads me to incorporate community-based learning into the heart of my courses. This includes offering regular studies abroad to eastern Africa (2014, 2015, 2019) and co-directing the Centre-in-London program in 2017. I have also worked with Centre students in Uganda and the United Kingdom.

At Centre, I maintain an aggressive research agenda, which explores the intellectual history of eastern Africa. I am a former legal resident of Uganda, where I have formally studied local languages and cultivated many of the networks that continue to shape my work. My forthcoming, co-authored book (Oxford: James Currey, 2020) on the political career of Uganda’s first elected prime minister, Benedicto Kiwanuka, shows how Catholic activists navigated political aggression and targeted violence. Ugandan politics during the 1950s and 1960s was not an exercise in unmitigated optimism during an allegedly golden age of African nationalism, as other studies have argued. James Jay Carney (Creighton) and I use the ‘missing’ archives of Benedicto Kiwanuka to show that the decade of African independence—in Uganda—was an emotional parade of fits and starts, festooned with contentious marches, struggles to create national iconography, songs of lament, strained relationships, sweat, and blood.

The book on Kiwanuka builds upon my first monograph, Colonial Buganda and the End of Empire: Political Thought and Historical Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2017), where I used previously inaccessible private archives to show how Buganda’s late colonial activists imagined competing political histories for a soon-to-be independent Uganda. These competing histories—informed by vernacular ideas about power and competing religious literacies—resulted in vastly different visions of the role of kingship in the postcolony. The book was shortlisted for the 2018 Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize of the African Studies Association, which is awarded to the best book written on Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda or Burundi.

In the past three years, I have also published four peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters on the political and intellectual history of Uganda. This includes material published in the Journal of African History, History in Africa, and with Ohio University Press. My most recent chapter on African Intellectual History is published with Oxford University Press (2019). I have also presented at or organized no fewer than 16 conferences or workshops since Fall 2013. These venues include the African Studies Association, and the Universities of Cambridge, Makerere (in partnership with the School of Oriental and African Studies), and Yale. I was also a co-organizer for a workshop on Terrorism in Africa at the University of Oxford (2016), which was one of the first forums to date—comprised of scholars, policymakers and international development workers—to explore interdisciplinary models for understanding modern terrorism in Africa. Most recently, I have helped conceptualize and co-organize a workshop on Emerging Approaches in Uganda Studies at University College London (2017), the results of which will be published next year with James Currey (2020).

I am currently developing two new book projects: one on the history of eastern African foreign policy prior to the First World War; a second on the history of assassination in modern Uganda.

I am the recipient of numerous awards. For outstanding teaching, scholarship and service, I was appointed a Centre Scholar in 2016 and 2019, and was awarded a Stodghill Research Professorship in 2017. I was named the Delta Delta Delta Professor of the Year in 2016. I have also taken an active role in the preservation and digitization of archives in Uganda, including the private papers of E.M.K Mulira, Uganda’s foremost constitutional thinker, which are now available through Cambridge, and the Soroti District Archives.

Contact Jonathon L. Earle.