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Robert Rouphail

Robert Rouphail
Assistant Professor
Environmental History
Modern Africa & the Western Indian Ocean
272 SH
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I am an historian of modern Africa and the western Indian Ocean and am broadly interested in histories of diaspora, disaster, and the post-colonial Afro-Asian world. I am the product of public institutions of higher education: a BA in from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MA from North Carolina State University, and a PhD from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before coming to Iowa, I was an assistant professor of African History at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.

My book manuscript, Cyclonic Lives in an Indian Ocean World: Identity and Environment in Modern Mauritius, examines how “natural” disasters reveal the historical development of popular notions of race, gender, and political community on the multi-ethnic and linguistically plural island of Mauritius. It is an interdisciplinary study that employs French, English, and Mauritian Creole-language sources—meteorological reports, oral histories, newspapers, songs, poetry, and the papers of state bureaucracies—to tell an environmental history from below.  Portions of this work have appeared in The Journal of African History and in Isis, and I have most recently contributed a chapter to the second edition of Bloomsbury’s World Histories from Below: Disruption and Dissent, 1750-Present, edited by Antoinette Burton and Tony Ballantyne.

In addition to this book project, I have also begun to develop a new line of research that interrogates histories of militarization, ecological change, and transnational anti-colonial solidarity across the late-colonial and postcolonial Indian Ocean World. This project aims to understand how newly independent nations across Africa and Asia embraced the natural world as both a discursive and material terrain for forging a global anti-colonial political bloc.

I teach across the fields of African, global, and environmental history. My courses range from surveys of modern African and global history, to histories of race and empire in the Indian Ocean World, and to global environmental history and disaster studies courses.