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History Professor Presents Research in Massachusetts and South Africa

Matt Carotenuto, Associate Professor of History and Coordinator of African Studies was recently invited to lecture at Smith College and present at a conference in South Africa.

On April 6th, Dr. Carotenuto was hosted by Smith College’s African Studies program and History department to give a lecture titled “African Identities and the Politics of Nativism.” His talk drew from his recent co-authored book Obama and Kenya: Contested Histories and the Politics of Belonging.

Drawing on the ways Barack Obama’s political ascendancy has focused considerable global attention on the history of Kenya generally and the history of the Luo community particularly, Carotenuto’s lecture offered a scholarly counterpoint to the proliferation of popular, politicized texts about Kenya’s history as well as focused, thematic analysis of contemporary debates about ethnic politics, postcolonial governance and U.S. African relations. In the age of growing populist nativism in the West, he argues that “an examination of the contested histories of Obama and Kenya provides an important moment to reflect broadly on the politics of belonging and the ways the past can easily be transformed into a political commodity.”

Dr. Carotenuto then traveled to South Africa to present a paper at the Sports Africa conference in Bloemfontein. Hosted by the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State, the conference brought together scholars from Africa, Europe and North America to share their interdisciplinary research on sport and society in Africa. Carotenuto presented a paper titled “Birth of a Sporting Nation: Kenya and the 1987 All-Africa Games.”

The paper is part of a larger project on sport and nationalism in Kenyan history. Begun during his tenure as visiting administrative director of the Kenya Program, Carotenuto collaborated with African Studies-Anthropology combined major Jonathan Ten Eyck ’17, who assisted with early archival work during an independent study at the Kenya National Archives in Nairobi in April and May of 2016.

The conference also provided an important opportunity for Carotenuto to plan his fall 2017 sophomore seminar “African Athletes and Global Sport.” Funded by the Mellon Sophomore Journeys initiative, Carotenuto noted that the conference allowed him to develop lessons about the politics of race and surfing in South Africa, soccer and international migration and much more.