David Gordon has been named Roger Howell Jr. Professor. Gordon’s current research uses art and oral tradition alongside archival sources to explore the transformations of the Central African interior during the 19th century, focusing on Lunda and Luba politics that are became part of today’s Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. In addition to publishing and presenting in academic venues, he is interested in developing museum exhibits that highlight the history and cultures of Central Africans. He received a Fulbright award for carrying out research in Portugal in 2021-2022. “I am honored to receive the Roger Howell Jr. Chair because the former chairholder was Allen Wells, a former professor of Latin American history and one of my most important mentors at Bowdoin College,” Gordon said. His publications focus on the history of southern and central Africa over the past two centuries, including Atlantic and Indian Ocean trade networks, British, Portuguese and Belgian colonialism, property regimes , environmental cultures, historical imagination, spiritual action and humanitarianism. One of his books, Nachituti’s Gift: Economy, Society and Environment in Central Africa, was a finalist for the African Studies Association Best Book Award for the best book in any discipline of African Studies. His most recent book, Invisible Agents: Spirits in a Central African Story, is a story of how spiritual beliefs have influenced human action. His writing and editing work has been widely published in scholarly journals, digital publications, and print collections, including the African History Review, Journal of Southern African Studies, William and Mary Quarterly, History in Africa, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Slavery and Abolition, Past and Present, Oxford Bibliography in African Studies and Oxford Research Encyclopedia. Gordon received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, before moving on to Princeton, where he earned a master’s and doctoral degree.
“My job is to communicate Central African stories that are little known in the Americas and Europe,” he said. “The complexity and qualities of these African stories contribute to our global cultural heritage, a key element in promoting social and cultural diversity.”
The Roger Howell Jr. Professorship was established by the College’s Boards of Trustees in 1990 in memory of President Emeritus Roger Howell Jr. ’58, H’78.