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Nancy Rose Hunt

IMG_4101-cropOffice: 478 Grinter Hall
Phone: 352.392.2174


Mailing address:
Center for African Studies
University of Florida
427 Grinter Hall, PO Box 115560
Gainesville, FL 32611

Nancy Rose Hunt, Professor of History & African Studies at the University of Florida since 2016, is undertaking new research on psychiatry and mental health in Africa, with a focus on diagnostic categories and care in zones of war, migratory politics, and securitization. Awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2018 for “Ideation as History,” as well as receiving a Fulbright Specialist Award to an STS global health laboratory in Paris and migratory corridors in Niger that year, she has also been writing for History and Theory while spearheading with Achille Mbembe and Juan Obarrio a new book series at Duke University Press: Theory in Forms.

Her recent book, A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo (Duke, 2016), received the Martin A. Klein Prize from the American Historical Association. A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Work, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo (Duke, 1999) is an innovative ethnographic history of objects and childbearing, which received the Melville Herskovits Book Prize from the African Studies Association. Suturing New Medical Histories of Africa (LIT Verlag, 2013) began as the seventh Carl Schlettwein Lecture at the University of Basel. Her scholarship has long pursued medical, gender, technological, and subaltern themes: childbearing, abortion, breastfeeding, and surgical, transport, writing, and visual technologies. She has done fieldwork in and near Bujumbura, Burundi; Accra, Ghana; Niamey and Agadez, Niger; and in many cities of Congo-Zaire: Kisangani, Mbandaka, Kinshasa, and Bukavu. Her current work takes stock of imperial psychiatric approaches across Africa’s empires; focuses on war and disequilibrium in Africa’s Great Lakes region; considers new forms of mental health care in the Sahel; and mines vernacular images, texts, and drawings as sources calling out for field-based dialogues. A historical ethnography of one psychiatric hospital and war town is expected.

As Professor of History, of Obstetrics/Gynecology, and in the Joint PhD Program in Anthropology and History for 19 years at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), her scholarship has long focused on the history and anthropology of medicine, reproduction, and humanitarianism in Africa. A Nervous State considers the consequences of nervous state violence in colonial Congo for moods, policing, biopolitics, and securitization, with attention to “therapeutic insurgencies” and futures. Her articles have appeared in places like Past & Present, The Lancet, History Workshop Journal, Africa, Journal of African History, Somatosphere, and Cultural Anthropology.

From her undergraduate years at Chicago, Hunt worked as an archivist in distinguished institutions in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois (1978-86). She recast acquisition priorities in a university archive under her direction towards global 1968 and its aftermaths in a new 1968 university town along the Mason-Dixon line. She has made these sensibilities and skills—attentiveness to provenance, layers, immediacy, the ordinary—valuable in creative projects ever since, whether in research, teaching, ethnographic-film making, or the identification and conservation of vernacular archives. Since 2000, she has been researching sequential or comic art production in Congo, notably the oeuvre of Papa Mfumu’eto le Premier, whose archive is now part of multiple preservation, publication, and exhibition projects linking scholars and institutions in Florida, Europe, and Congo.

Co-editor for four years of the leading journal Gender & History, she has taught “Comparative Gender Historiography” and also conceptualized and directed the “Women’s Health in the City of Accra Project.” This transnational, qualitative research training seminar (1999-2001) encouraged the Ghanaian and Michigan student participants to collaborate, investigate, and document, while also writing ethnographic stories. Whether in Ann Arbor or Gainesville, she has taught a range of courses including: “Health and Illness in African Worlds,” “Imagining the Congo,” “Modern Africa,” “Narrative & Medical Knowledge,” “Global Women’s Health,” “Historiography,” and “Theory for Historians.”

Hunt received three year-long residential fellowships in Europe: to the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, the Institute of Advanced Study in Paris (with EURIAS), and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, as well as grants from the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-IIE, Fulbright-Hays, the Ford Foundation, and NSF.  She has a PhD in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1992 and a BA from the University of Chicago, 1980.