Teaching Position: Associate Professor, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, July 2004-present (Assistant Professor, 1999-2004)
Area of Research: Lindsay teaches broadly in African history, but her research focuses primarily on the social history of West Africa, particularly Nigeria.
Education: Ph.D. in History (African), University of Michigan, 1996
Major Publications: Lindsay is author of Working with Gender: Wage Labor and Social Change in Southwestern Nigeria (Heinemann, 2003), and the coeditor with Stephan F. Miescher of Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa (Heinemann, 2003). She is currently working on Captives as Commodities: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (a textbook under contract with Prentice Hall, to be published in 2007). More recently, and inspired by her teaching on the Atlantic slave trade, Lindsay has been researching the story of a South Carolina ex-slave who in the 1850s migrated to his father’s place of origin in what is now Nigeria. During the 2004-05 academic year she was pursuing this project as a fellow at the National Humanities Center.
Awards: Lindsay is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including:
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Article Prize (for “Domesticity and Difference,” AHR, 1999);
UNC Spray-Randleigh Fellowship, 2006;
American Council of Learned Societies Ryskamp Fellowship, 2005-07;
National Humanities Center fellow, 2004-05;
UNC Center for International Studies Faculty Curriculum Development Grant, 2004;
UNC Junior Faculty Development Grant, 2003;
UNC University Research Council Grant, 2002 and 2006;
ACLS research fellowship, spring 2001;
National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship, fall 2000.
Formerly Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 1997-99, and Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of History and Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan, 1996-97.
White American girls typically do not dream of becoming historians of Africa; nor did I. But growing up in Louisiana in the civil rights era, I couldn’t help but notice the legacies of race and slavery-in the newly-integrated public schools I attended, as well as in the jazz and blues I was learning to play on the saxophone. Later in college and graduate school, I discovered an Africa that was historically connected to me as an American, somewhat familiar to me as a Southerner, and endlessly fascinating to me as a member of the human community.
In the mid-1980s, while I studied international politics at Johns Hopkins University, half a world away apartheid South Africa exploded in street demonstrations and government terror. The semester I took my first African history course, I was arrested with hundreds of others for protesting in front of the South African Embassy in Washington. My comrades and I built a shanty town on the Hopkins quad to urge divestment from South African stocks, and we even took our “port-a-shanty” to sully the premises of offending banks. My political indignation reflected my growing sense that Africa deserved Americans’ attention and fueled my curiosity about the many ways Africans and Americans have been connected in the past.
As a graduate student I concentrated on the history of West Africa because in comparison to South Africa its recent past seemed rather less terrible, and because I had a vague sense that the slave trade had given American Southerners and Atlantic Africans something of a shared history. Since 1991, when I traveled to Nigeria for the first time, I have often noticed its similarities to southern Louisiana. My family’s homeland is swampy, hot, and humid, with loquacious storytellers, lively music, thirsty mosquitoes, and spicy stews. In and around Lagos I found a region that is swampy, hot, and humid, where raconteurs share proverbs, music travels through the night air, mosquitoes never give up, and fiery pepper soup makes Tabasco seem like Cool-Aid. And then there’s the petroleum-soaked political corruption, but maybe now I’m reaching!
The year I lived in Nigeria conducting dissertation research (1993-94), I witnessed three changes of government, two general strikes, countless fuel shortages, and a military coup. I got sick with dysentery, mysterious rashes, and malaria; scabies infected my hands and arms when I worked in a particularly dusty archive. (Flea soap did the trick.) The apartment my husband and I lived in had not been inhabited for a decade, and even after we renovated it there were daily electricity outages and weeks without running water. But people looked after us, as so often happens in Africa, offering care and support as well as adventures. It was through one friend that I got to play saxophone with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Africa’s most innovative and radical pop star, whose politically-charged, infectiously danceable music I had first come to love when I heard it in Baltimore.
Its vibrant rhythms-in music as well as in the daily human pursuits of survival, connection, and delight-are what propel my scholarship in West African history. In the classroom and on paper I try to convey both the distinctiveness of African history and the connections shared between Africa and the rest of the world. My first book was fundamentally comparative, placing southern Nigeria’s gendered labor history in a wider context. My current project emphasizes the links within one family’s history between West Africa and the United States. The goal in all of this work is to intrigue students and readers with what makes Africa different from America and at the same time provoke their empathy for fellow humans half a world away.
By Lisa A. Lindsay
… [I]n southwestern Nigeria the gendered ideals implicit in colonial policies met an equally powerful but very different body of assumptions about the respective roles of men and women.
While the colonial state created the conditions under which nearly all wage jobs were filled by men, this did not mean that it turned men into the major providers for their wives and children, especially since most people did not work for wages and women had access to their own [trading] incomes. … For trade unionists and individual wage earners, the image of male providers was useful for making demands from the colonial state, even it if sat uneasily with women’s important economic activities. At home, steady wages and the breadwinner ideal had implications for men’s marital relationships, household budgets, and self-esteem, even if those budgets were partially kept afloat through women’s contributions. And in negotiations over household resources, women drew upon the fledgling male breadwinner norm to make their own claims to men’s paychecks…. [T]he disjunctures as well as the overlaps between discourse and practice surrounding the male breadwinner norm in southwestern Nigeria suggest not only that people shape their lives according to ideas about gender, but that they shape expressions of gender in order to better their lives. — Lisa A. Lindsay in “Working with Gender”
About Lisa A. Lindsay
This book brilliantly discusses how Africans are subjects, rather than objects. Though whites, imperialists, and colonialists are brought up often, African wars, unionizing, bravery ceremonies, and other willful actions are emphasized. Though Foucault is never mentioned in this book, the idea that power is never absolute resounds clearly here.
Though the editors very consciously view their work as lying within the men’s studies field, in no way are women left out of the picture. The desire to find wives, keep wives, and be with wives is a continual staple of African manhood.
Traditional scholars should not be scared away from this book. Many academics may feel that masculinity is a nebulous topic that should be left for babbling postmodernists. However, this book would satisfy traditional scholars. The book discusses history, economics, and sociology in very concrete ways; it merely adds gender into the broader picture….
I liked this work. I hope more scholarship is produced on African men and other men of the developing world. This was an important intersectional work. I applaud the thinkers paving the way in this burgeoning field.” — Jeffery Mingo on Amazon.com reviewing “Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa “
“Fabulous Prof-one of the best-enthusiastic without being obnoxious, highly intelligent & knowledgeable-she is the reason I chose history as my major!”…
“Professor Lindsay is the best teacher I have had at UNC. She’s lively and funny, and deeply intelligent without being hard to understand. Her common sense approach makes you feel like you understood this all along, you just hadn’t had the information you needed.”…
“Lindsay is by far one of my favorite professors at UNC. She made me switch my major to History. If you really want to learn a lot about Africa, I suggest taking her classes and talking to her about the subject matter apart from class.”…
“One of the best professors I’ve had. Amazing person and truly loves the material she teaches. Sparkling personality and enthusiasm makes subject matter come alive. Teaches clearly and will readily answer questions on the spot if you are confused. Take her classes!”…
“Dr. Lindsay is one of the most inspiring professors I’ve come across at Carolina. Her eyes sparkle when she teaches, and she cares not only about her subject matter, but about her students. I wish the history dept. had 20 more professors like her!” — Anonymous Students