Dr. Morgan Robinson
I am a historian of eastern Africa and the history of science, focused on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My research interests fall under the rubric of knowledge production broadly speaking, including in the areas of language, standardization, bureaucracy, research, and education. I received my B.A. from Yale University in 2008 and my Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2018 and am currently an assistant professor in the Department of History at Mississippi State University. My first book, A Language for the World: The Standardization of Swahili (November 2022, Ohio University Press) examines the long-term, interconnected processes that produced Standard Swahili as it is taught around the world today, zooming in on specific moments of conversation, translation, and codification. Adopting this dual perspective allowed me to uncover the ways in which, over the course of a century, various communities-in-construction converged upon the project of linguistic knowledge production in and about Swahili.
While at KWI I plan to continue research for my second book project, tentatively titled Making an African University: Histories of Inquiry in East Africa. The book will examine the diverse frameworks of scholarly inquiry that co-mingled in this region across two centuries, ranging from discussions on the baraza (front porches) of Zanzibar, to universities in Kampala and Dar es Salaam. My aim with this project is to explore the notion of research, demonstrating how a region like East Africa—largely ignored in the mainstream literature on the history of science and its concomitant field the history of the humanities, both of which focus fundamentally on questions pertaining to the production of knowledge—can and should be an essential part of the conversation. To do so, I examine several case studies of research and researchers who, though perhaps not hewing to our traditional understanding of the terms, were engaged in scholarly inquiry. I argue that such “frameworks of inquiry” did not disappear with the establishment of colonial institutions of higher education, but rather informed the possibilities and modes of research available to East Africans in those spaces.