Mary Dillard

Mary Dillard

Undergraduate Discipline

History

Graduate Program

Women's History Program

BA, Stanford University. MA, PhD, University of California-Los Angeles. Special interests include history of West Africa, particularly Ghana and Nigeria; history of intelligence testing and external examinations in Africa; history of science in Africa; and gender and education. Recipient of a Spencer fellowship and Major Cultures fellowship at Columbia University’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities. SLC, 2001–

Current undergraduate courses

Education and Social Change in Africa

Year

The arrival and expansion of Western education, through the provision of formal schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was hailed as ushering in a social revolution in Africa. Whether through the expansion of Universal Primary Education (UPE) programs, investment in literacy training, or distance learning through the use of modern technology, education has consistently been viewed as one of the most important services that a government can offer in order to change the lives of ordinary people in Africa. Education rates are supposedly a marker of economic development, and the provision of formal schools are said to provide a necessary path toward poverty reduction; however, critics of the belief that education is a magic bullet to solve social, political, and economic ills call the focus on education an example of the “school to the rescue” model. They point to the inability of postcolonial education systems in Africa to provide high-quality education for the bulk of the population and suggest that educational inequality has only been made worse as a result of the dominance of neo-liberal economic models. This course studies the history of education in Africa through reviewing indigenous/traditional, Islamic, and Western models of schooling. Through our readings and course work, we will analyze the ways in which formal schooling can be a tool of intellectual and political liberation; however, we will also consider the ways that schooling can lead to alienation and reinforce inequality. In particular, students will develop an understanding of how race, class, religion, and gender have been important fault lines in the history of education in Africa. This yearlong class will enable students to develop a broad understanding of the changes in African educational policy debates over the past 50 years. Students with a background in teaching and tutoring or a future interest in educational policy studies will be particularly welcome in this class.

Faculty
Related Cross-Discipline Paths

Public Stories, Private Lives: Methods of Oral History

Year

Oral history methodology has moved from a contested approach to studying history to an integral method of learning about the past. This is because oral histories allow us to gain an understanding of past events from a diverse array of vantage points. Methods of recording oral history also allow the possibility of bringing private stories into the public. In contrast, public history in the form of monuments, museums, and World Heritage Sites are consciously preserved in order to emphasize particular aspects of a national, regional, or local past that their protectors deem to be important. Who owns this history? Is it Civil War reenactors, who dedicate their weekends to remembering that war? Is it the African Americans who return to West Africa in search of their African past or the West Africans who want to forget about their slave-trading past? What happens when the methods for interpreting public and oral histories combine? This course places particular attention on the importance of oral history in tracing memories of the past. We will discuss how Africanist and feminist scholars have used oral history to study the history of underrepresented groups. We will also investigate how methods of oral history and public history can be used in reconstructing the local history of our surrounding community (i.e., Yonkers, Bronxville, Westchester County).

Faculty

Current graduate courses

Public Stories, Private Lives: Methods of Oral History

Oral history methodology has moved from a contested approach to studying history to an integral method of learning about the past. This is because oral histories allow us to gain an understanding of past events from a diverse array of vantage points. Methods of recording oral history also allow the possibility of bringing private stories into the public. In contrast, public history in the form of monuments, museums, and World Heritage Sites are consciously preserved in order to emphasize particular aspects of a national, regional, or local past that their protectors deem to be important. Who owns this history? Is it Civil War reenactors, who dedicate their weekends to remembering that war? Is it the African Americans who return to West Africa in search of their African past or the West Africans who want to forget about their slave-trading past? What happens when the methods for interpreting public and oral histories combine? This course places particular attention on the importance of oral history in tracing memories of the past. We will discuss how Africanist and feminist scholars have used oral history to study the history of underrepresented groups. We will also investigate how methods of oral history and public history can be used in reconstructing the local history of our surrounding community (i.e., Yonkers, Bronxville, Westchester County).

Faculty

Previous courses

First-Year Studies: Global Africa: Theories and Cultures of Diaspora

FYS

Changes in migration patterns, immigration laws, and refugee policies have meant that Africans are living and working in unexpected places. Studies of the African diaspora used to focus on the dispersion of Africans as a result of the trans-Saharan, trans-Atlantic, and Indian Ocean slave trades. More recent scholarship has focused on new African diasporas: Senegambians in Harlem, Ghanaians in Germany, Nigerians in Japan. These modern-day dispersals, powered in part by the forces of globalization, demand new levels of analysis by scholars. People of African descent have made lasting contributions to the societies where they now live. Unfortunately, because their positions have historically been defined by racism and servile status, these contributions have often been appropriated, stolen, or ignored. The goal of this class is to bring the contributions of African migrants to the forefront of intellectual discourse. We will attempt to answer the questions: What constitutes the contours of the African diaspora? How have African migration patterns changed over time? What role has class, ethnicity, gender, and race played in notions of return or exile? Although this is primarily a history class, we will make use of geography, sociology, anthropology, autobiography, literature, film, and music as sources. By the end of the semester, students will have a clearer understanding of how present-day African immigration patterns fit into a larger history of voluntary, involuntary, and forced migration.

Faculty

Gender, Education, and Opportunity in Africa

Spring

In modern Africa, equity in education—whether in relation to gender, ethnicity, race, class, or religion—remains an important arena of social and political debate. As formal colonial rule ended on the African continent and more African nations gained independence, education became synonymous with modernity and a leading indicator of a country’s progress towards development. Gender has consistently played a powerful role in determining who would receive access to education. An awareness of the significance of both formal and informal education has been reflected within the realms of African politics, popular culture, literature, and film. In this class, we will study the history of education in Africa, focusing on a wide variety of training, classroom experiences, and socialization practices. In particular, we will investigate the influence of gender in defining access to educational opportunity. We will begin by questioning prevailing constructs of gender and determine how relevant Western gender categories have historically been for African societies. By focusing several of our readings on countries as diverse as Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, students will develop a broad overview of educational policy changes and practices throughout the African continent.

Faculty

Global Africa: Theories and Cultures of Diaspora

Fall

Changes in migration patterns, immigration laws, and refugee policies have meant that Africans are living and working in unexpected places. Studies of the African diaspora used to focus on the dispersion of Africans as a result of the trans-Saharan, transatlantic, and Indian Ocean slave trades. More recent scholarship has focused on new African diasporas: Senegambians in Harlem, Ghanaians in Germany, Nigerians in Japan. These modern day dispersals, powered in part by the forces of globalization, demand new levels of analysis by scholars. People of African descent have made lasting contributions to the societies where they now live. Unfortunately, because their positions have historically been defined by racism and servile status, these contributions have often been appropriated, stolen, or ignored. The goal of this class is to bring the contributions of African migrants to the forefront of intellectual discourse. We will attempt to answer the questions: What constitutes the contours of the African diaspora? How have African migration patterns changed over time? What role has class, ethnicity, gender, religion, and race played in notions of return or exile? Although this is primarily a history class, we will make use of geography, sociology, anthropology, autobiography, literature, film, and music as sources. By the end of the semester, students will have a clearer understanding of how present-day African immigration patterns fit into a larger history of voluntary, involuntary, and forced migration.  

Faculty

Ideas of Africa: Africa Writes Back

Fall

The continent of Africa has been variously described as the birthplace of humanity, the Motherland, a country, a continent, and a heart of darkness. All of these descriptions reflect representations of Africa, but how accurately do they reflect reality? This course analyzes the intellectual history of ideas about Africa and argues that some ideas have an enduring shelf life—even when they have been consistently proven to be inaccurate. We will critically interrogate historical and anthropological studies, travelers’ accounts, media representations, and films created by non-Africans. However, we will also examine the critical responses by African philosophers, novelists, academics, artists, and journalists who have attempted to address these images.

Faculty

Sickness and Health in Africa

Spring

Depending on the level of his or her resources, a sick person in Africa potentially has access to a variety of options for treatment. How illness is perceived becomes a crucial determinant in how people seek care. Despite the array of treatment options, the state of public health in most African countries has become woefully inadequate. While the reasons for this decline in health status are related to questions of the international political economy, they can also be traced historically. This class studies the history of health, healing, and medical practices in Africa in order to identify the social, historic, and economic factors that influence how therapeutic systems in Africa have changed over time. We will investigate a range of topics, including the place of traditional healers in providing care, the impact of the AIDS pandemic on overall public health, and the role of globalization in changing the structure of health-care delivery in most African countries.

Faculty