John Spencer Professor of African Studies
Jacob Tropp has taught in the History Department since 1999. He received his B.A. from Haverford College and his Ph.D. in African history at the University of Minnesota, where he was also a funded scholar in the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Global Change, Sustainability, and Justice. His doctoral dissertation, “Roots and Rights in the Transkei: Colonialism, Natural Resources, and Social Change, 1880-1940,” received the 2003 award for best dissertation in environmental history from the American Society for Environmental History. His research on social and environmental history in the Eastern Cape of South Africa was the basis of his book Natures of Colonial Change: Environmental Relations in the Making of the Transkei (Ohio University Press, New African Histories Series, 2006) as well as several articles published in African history journals. He has been awarded fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, Germany, the American Philosophical Society, the Social Science Research Council, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad program. His current work pertaining to South Africa includes research on colonial era conflicts over health and healing rituals in the Eastern Cape. He is also working on a book project of a more transnational nature, currently titled Native America and the Globalization of Development, which explores the international connections between U.S. government programs on Native American reservations and Western development efforts overseas in the mid-20th century. He teaches a wide range of courses related to African history, from introductory survey courses on early and modern Africa to topical seminars on women and gender, human-environmental interactions, popular culture, everyday life in South Africa, and liberation struggles in southern Africa.
“Locust Invasions and Tensions over Environmental and Bodily Health in the Colonial Transkei,” in David M. Gordon and Shepard Krech III, eds., Indigenous Knowledge and the Environment in Africa and North America (Ohio University Press, Ecology and History Series, 2012).
Natures of Colonial Change: Environmental Relations in the Making of the Transkei (Ohio University Press, New African Histories Series, 2006).
“The Contested Nature of Colonial Landscapes: Historical Perspectives on Livestock and Environments in the Transkei,” Kronos: The Journal of Cape History 30 (November 2004), 118-37.
“The Python and the Crying Tree: Interpreting Tales of Environmental and Colonial Power in the Transkei,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 36, 3 (2003), 511-32.
“Displaced People, Replaced Narratives: Forest Conflicts and Historical Perspectives in the Tsolo District, Transkei,” Journal of Southern African Studies 29, 1 (March 2003), 207-33.
“Dogs, Poison and the Meaning of Colonial Intervention in the Transkei, South Africa,” Journal of African History 43, 3 (2002), 451-72.
“Native American Development and Counter-Insurgency in Southeast Asia in the late 1960s,’ Native American and Indigenous Studies Association annual conference, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, June 12-15, 2013.
“Native America and the Making of International Development Expertise in the Mid-20th Century,” World History Association annual conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 27-30, 2012.
“Tough Pills to Swallow: Struggles over African Medical Practices among Healers, Patients, and the Colonial State in the Transkei,” African Studies Association annual meeting, Washington, D.C., November 17-20, 2011.
“Courtroom Struggles over Healers’ Power and Wealth in the Colonial Transkei,” North Eastern Workshop on Southern Africa, Burlington, VT, October 21-23, 2011.
“Reservations as Transnational ‘Laboratories’: Experiments in International Development and ‘Indian Affairs’ Training after WWII,” World History Association annual conference, Capital Normal University, Beijing, China, July 7-10, 2011.
“From Taos Pueblo to Teheran’s Poor: Situating American Development Knowledge and Interventions in the Mid-20th Century,” Colloquium Series, Rachel Carson Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany, November 11, 2010.
“Conserving ‘Native’ Lands: Transnational Dialogues over Official Environmentalism in British Colonial Africa and the Native American Southwest,” World Congress of Environmental History, Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden, August 4-8, 2009.
Courses offered in the past four years.
▲ indicates offered in the current term
▹ indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]
ENVS 0500 - Independent Study ▹
A one- or two-semester research project on a topic that relates to the relationship between humans and the environment. The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty member with related expertise, must involve a significant amount of independent research and analysis. Students may enroll in ENVS 0500 no more than twice for a given project. (Approval only)
Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
ENVS 0700 - ES Senior Honors Work ▹
Senior Honors Work
The final semester of a multi-semester research project on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. Students may enroll in ENVS 0700 only once. (Previous work would have been conducted as one or two semesters of an ENVS 0500 Independent Study project.) The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty member, will result in a substantial piece of writing, and will be presented to other ENVS faculty and students in a public forum. (Senior standing; ENVS 0112, ENVS 0211, ENVS 0215, GEOG 0120, and ENVS 0500; Approval only)
Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
FYSE 1247 - Everyday Life in South Africa
Everyday Life in South Africa, 1948-Present
In this seminar we will explore some of the social worlds of South Africans amid the country's recent decades of turbulent and dramatic change. We will look at how different groups within the nation's diverse population have understood and experienced the rise of the apartheid system, its demise, and its legacies in their "everyday" lives and interactions. We will draw from various sources - non-fiction, fiction, film, music, and other forms of popular culture - to interpret these social dynamics and their ongoing significance in a post-apartheid society. 3 hrs. sem.
HIST 0113 - History of Africa to 1800 ▹
History of Africa To 1800
This course offers an introductory survey of African history from earliest times to 1800. Through lectures, discussions, readings, and films, we will explore Africa’s complex and diverse pre-colonial past. Themes examined in the course include development of long-distance trade networks, the linkages between ecological change and social dynamics, the formation of large pre-colonial states, and the transatlantic slave trade and its impact on social and economic relations within Africa. A broader concern in the course is how we have come to understand the meaning of “Africa” itself and what is at stake in interpreting Africa’s pre-colonial history. Pre-1800. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.
Fall 2012, Spring 2014
HIST 0114 - History of Modern Africa
History of Modern Africa
We begin looking at revolutions in the early 19th century and the transformations surrounding the slave trade. Next we examine the European colonization of the continent, exploring how diverse interventions into Africans' lives had complex effects on political authority, class and generational dynamics, gender relations, ethnic and cultural identities, and rural and urban livelihoods. After exploring Africans' struggles against colonial rule in day-to-day practices and mass political movements, the last few weeks cover Africa's transition to independence and the postcolonial era, including the experience of neo-colonialism, ethnic conflict, poverty, and demographic crisis. (formerly HIST 0226) 2 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc.
Fall 2011, Spring 2013
HIST 0225 - African American History
African American History
This course will explore the history of the African American people from the slave trade to the present. It will examine the process of enslavement, the nature of American slavery, the meaning of emancipation, the response to the rise of legalized segregation, and the modern struggle for equality. Special attention will be given to placing the African American story within the context of the developing American nation, its institutions, and its culture. (formerly HIST0371) 3 hrs. lect./disc.
HIST 0315 - Health/Healing in African Hist ▹
Health and Healing in African History
In this course we will complicate our contemporary perspectives on health and healing in Africa by exploring diverse historical examples from the continent's deep past. Our readings, discussions, and papers will cover a range of historical contexts and topics, such as the politics of rituals and public healing ceremonies in pre-colonial contexts, state and popular responses to shifting disease landscapes in the colonial era, long-term cultural and economic changes in healer-patient dynamics, the problematic legacies of environmental health hazards in the post-colonial period, and Africans' engagement with global health interventions in recent decades. 3 hrs. sem.
HIST 0375 - Struggles in Southern Africa
Struggles for Change in Southern Africa
In this course we will examine the tumultuous period of social struggle in southern Africa in the decades following World War II. Major topics to be covered include the rise of apartheid and the mobilization of anti-apartheid resistance in South Africa and Namibia; the liberation struggle against white settler rule in Zimbabwe; the fight for freedom from Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique; and Mozambique's protracted civil war following independence. A central purpose of this course is to explore how these different arenas of struggle transformed individual lives and social relations in complex and diverse ways, generating enduring impacts and challenges within the region.
Spring 2012, Fall 2013
HIST 0419 - Rdgs African HI: Environmental
Readings in African History: Environmental History of Africa
This seminar will explore the history of human-environmental interaction on the African continent. The course examines how scholars have begun unraveling dominant historical understandings of African landscapes, cultures, and pre-colonial ecologies. A major portion of the course looks at how colonial relations shaped conflicts over environmental control and ecological change and the legacies of such dynamics in the postcolonial era. Readings on gender relations, urban environmental change, and the evolution of development thinking will be the focus of class discussions on new ways of interpreting African social and environmental change. 3 hr. sem.
HIST 0441 - Rdgs African HI: Environmental
Readings in African History: Environmental History of Africa
This seminar will explore the history of human-environmental interaction on the African continent. The course examines how scholars have begun unraveling dominant historical understandings of African landscapes, cultures, and pre-colonial ecologies. A major portion of the course looks at how colonial relations shaped conflicts over environmental control and ecological change and the legacies of such dynamics in the postcolonial era. Readings on gender relations, urban environmental change, and the evolution of development thinking will be the focus of class discussions on new ways of interpreting African social and environmental change. (formerly HIST 0419) 3 hr. sem.
HIST 0442 - Popular Culture/History/Africa
Popular Culture and History in Africa
In recent years scholars of the African past have increasingly turned their attention to the multiple arenas of "popular culture" that have helped shape and express Africans' histories. In this course, we will explore the diverse thematic range of such approaches and the new conceptual lenses they bring to interpreting African colonial and post-colonial history. Readings and seminar discussions will touch on such varied historical topics as Africans as producers and consumers of popular photography, film/video, and music; the politics of fashion; and local dynamics of sports and leisure. (Formerly HIST 0420) 3 hrs. sem.
HIST 0443 / WAGS 0443 - Readings in African History
Readings in African History: Women and Gender in Africa
This course takes up the challenge of understanding women's experiences and the role of gender in Africa's past. We will read from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives and literary forms, including ethnographies, life histories, and fiction, in order to explore different methodological and interpretive approaches to these subjects. Themes will include: changes in the structure of patriarchy and women's status in the pre-colonial period, the gendered impact of colonial rule on African economies and ecologies, historical identities of masculinity and femininity, and gendered experience of postcolonial "development." Prior experience in African history is not required. (formerly HIST/WAGS 0421) 3 hrs. seminar
HIST 0500 - Special Research Projects ▹
Special research projects during the junior year may be used to fulfill the research seminar requirements in some cases. Approval of department chair and project advisor is required.
Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014
HIST 0600 - History Research Seminar
History Research Seminar
All history majors who have not taken a writing and research seminar are required to take HIST 0600 in their junior fall or, if abroad at that time, their senior fall semester. In this course, students will conceive, research, and write a work of history based on primary source material to the degree possible. After reading and discussion on historical methods and research strategies, students will pursue a paper topic as approved by the course professors. HIST 0600 is also open to International Studies and Environmental Studies majors with a disciplinary focus in history. 3 hr. sem
HIST 0700 - Senior Independent Study ▲ ▹
The History Senior Thesis is required of all majors. It is written over two terms, with the final grade applying to both terms. The project is generally begun in the fall and completed during winter or spring. Approval is required to begin the thesis in winter or spring, and such students must still attend the Thesis Writer's Workshops that take place in fall and winter.
Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014
HIST 1018 - African Consumers
In this course we will explore how Africans variously situated across the continent have acted throughout history as cultural and economic consumers. Readings, discussions, and film screenings will touch on such diverse topics as Africans’ use of second-hand clothing from the West, the marketing and consumption of soap and hygiene products, the trade and consumption of food, the production and reception of popular videos and photography, and young peoples’ interactions with the global circulation of music and communications technology.
INTL 0703 - LAS Senior Thesis
Latin American Studies Senior Thesis
INTL 0705 - African Studies Senior Thesis
African Studies Senior Thesis
Fall 2011, Spring 2012