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Derek R. Peterson

Professor of History and African Studies

Office Location(s): 1634 Haven Hall
Phone: 734.615.3608
View Curriculum Vitae

  • Affiliation(s)
    • Department of Afro-American and African Studies
    • Program in Anthropology and History
  • Fields of Study
    • Africa, particularly eastern Africa
    • history of literature and religion
    • intellectual culture
    • gender history
    • nationalism
    • ethnicity
  • About

    Derek Peterson is a historian of eastern Africa’s intellectual cultures. His first book, Creative Writing (2004), concerned the history of Gikuyu-language literature in central Kenya. More recently Peterson’s work has shifted largely to Uganda. His second book, Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival (2012), was a study of a Christian conversion movement that provoked eastern Africa’s patriotic community-builders. The book was awarded the African Studies Association’s Herskovits Prize and the American Historical Association’s Martin Klein Prize, and was first runner-up for the American Society for Church History’s Phillip Schaff Prize.

    Peterson has edited books on a range of subjects: on Idi Amin’s Uganda; on the politics of British slave abolition; on the populist enterprise of history-writing in colonial Africa; and on the missionary endeavor. A forthcoming edited book concerns the politics of the heritage industry in Africa. Peterson edits (with Jean Allman and Allen Isaacman) the New African Histories book series for Ohio University Press, and serves on the editorial board of several journals.

    With support from the Center for Research Libraries and the U-M African Studies Center, Peterson coordinates an ongoing effort to organize and preserve endangered government archives in Uganda. The project is based at Mountains of the Moon University in Fort Portal; to date three local government archives have been retrieved, brought into the university’s collections, and made available for scholars’ and citizens’ use.

    Peterson teaches undergraduate courses on African literature, African Christianity, family history in a global context, and other subjects. His doctoral students have recently completed dissertations on the theology of the Nazaretha church in South Africa; on the political thought of Ganda intellectuals; on the history of pan-Africanism in Tanganyika; on the making of Luhya identity in Kenya; and on a range of other subjects.

    Selected Publications:

    Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival: A History of Dissent (Cambridge, 2012).

    Creative Writing: Translation, Bookkeeping, and the Work of Imagination in Colonial Kenya (Heinemann, 2004). 

    Editor (with E.C. Taylor), ‘Rethinking Idi Amin’s Uganda’, special issue of the Journal of Eastern African Studies 7 (1) (2013).

    Editor, Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa and the Atlantic (Ohio, 2011).

    Editor (with G. Macola), Recasting the Past: History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa (Ohio, 2009). 

  • Education
    • Ph.D. University of Minnesota, 2000