Doctoral students at Georgetown have long incorporated Africa-related topics into their research and courses of study within the Atlantic, U.S. Diplomatic, and Transregional Ph.D. fields. The Africa Ph.D. field was established in 2015 to take advantage of a convergence of opportunities: the position of African History as a field of growth within the discipline of History in higher education and Georgetown's distinctive advantages as a place to study African History at the doctoral level.
The department's Africanist faculty enjoy complementary and overlapping chronological, regional, and thematic specializations. Meredith McKittrick researches 19th- and 20th-century southern Africa, with a focus on Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Angola. She is interested in histories of the environment, gender, Christianity, settler colonialism, decolonization, and comparative race relations. Kathryn de Luna studies precolonial central Africa, extending into the histories of eastern and southern Africa and across millennia through her specialization in historical linguistics. She is interested in historical approaches to topics like subsistence, mobility, emotions, senses, environments, and technology as well as unconventional historical methodologies.
These research specializations make Georgetown the only university in the country to have two faculty members working on south-central Africa and African environmental history in its History Department. Although it is an unparalleled department in which to study the histories of Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Malawi, DRC, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique in all periods, McKittrick and de Luna also welcome students interested in social, gender, intellectual, and environmental history in other regions of Africa. Like most Ph.D. programs in the United States, we expect our African History students to graduate with teaching competencies that span the continent's history from early times to the 21st century.
Doctoral students in African History at Georgetown benefit from responsive and accessible faculty mentoring, a collegial and supportive graduate student community, and our department's strengths in environmental, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, North Africa, and Middle Eastern histories. The fact that our department is particularly well known for transregional approaches ensures close collaboration with faculty and graduate students working on other regions. Students can also take advantage of the department's African History Workshop (part of the Georgetown Institute for Global History) and the university's interdisciplinary African Studies program, whose faculty members' interests span West Africa, the Horn, East Africa, and Southern Africa. Students can choose to pursue a graduate certificate in African Studies alongside their History Ph.D. Graduate students also have access to the interdisciplinary faculty of the School of Foreign Service, whose graduate International Studies program is ranked first in the world, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, and the university's extensive foreign language offerings.
The rich resources of the Washington, D.C., area help support graduate students in African History. Primary sources relating to Africa are rare in most areas of the U.S., but Washington hosts some of the country's richest archival resources, including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and the National Archives, all of which contain extensive material relating to African History. The region is home to one of the nation's largest and oldest African immigrant communities, offering further opportunities, particularly for the study of regional African languages. Students also have the opportunity to network with Africanists within the Washington Metropolitan Area Consortium of Universities, whose member institutions include the University of Maryland, Howard University, American University, The George Washington University, and George Mason University. Beyond D.C., students benefit from our proximity to African Studies communities at Hopkins, UVa, and other universities and have the opportunity to work with faculty and present research at such institutions.
Nationally, the field of sub-Saharan African history is a growing field, where the number of academic jobs correlates to the number of Ph.D.s being granted. Our approach to working with students prepares them for this job market. We expose students to a well-rounded approach to the African past, balancing archival materials with unconventional sources and fieldwork. Students are encouraged to read widely and to explore the ideas and methodologies of diverse fields. Our doctoral students acquire both the deep regional and thematic research specialization and the broad teaching experience expected of young faculty members.