History Prof. Writes About Obama's Connection to Kenya

Matthew Carotenuto, associate professor of history and coordinator of the Africa studies program, wrote for the online blog "Africa is a Country" about the disillusionment that many have in Kenya regarding President Obama’s foreign policy (or lack thereof) toward his ancestral homeland.

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The piece, which he co-wrote with Katherine Luongo, built off of research and sentiment for their recent book, titled Obama and Kenya: Contested Histories and the Politics of Belonging (Ohio University Press, 2016). Their book explores the rise of “Obamamania” in Kenya and the ways the Obama and Kenya story provides insight into the historic politics of belonging.

Their blog post was picked up by the Huffington Post, after it was announced that Donald Trump had invited Obama's half-brother to the final presidential debate.

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Carotenuto said that there is a direct connection between his research and what he teaches in the classroom.

“One of the central goals of my teaching is to examine the historic roots of contemporary issues in Africa and challenge the ways the world's second largest continent is represented more broadly in public discourse," he said. "A learning goal shared by colleagues in history and African studies more broadly. As my colleagues in the history department would agree, history is not just the study of dusty documents from the past but is essential in understanding contemporary issues, politics and public policy. Thus, I hope students see historical research as an important skill which can contribute to public debate on a wide range of contemporary issues.”

He wrote a longer policy piece for Open and, in September, wrote about his work with the Kenya Semester Program, which he coordinated in Spring 2016, on the blog Books Combined.

Carotenuto also took part in a panel discussion on Obama's role in African security and development at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., on July 19.