Dr. Kathleen Smythe
- Professor, History
- Co-Director of ERS, Ethics / Religion and Society
- No Title, Environmental Science
- Professor, Sustainability
First Year at Xavier University:
- BA (The College of Wooster), MA, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
African history, colonial history
I am an African historian specializing in East Africa, particularly Tanzania, during the colonial period. My research and teaching interests include Christianity, family history, development, globalization, and early African historical traditions.
In my survey classes, I take advantage of the long duration of African history, including human evolution, plant and animal domestication, the development of various forms of political authority and social organization, among others, to introduce students to the value of a long-term perspective of human history as well as to the tremendous challenges human societies have overcome on the way to our world of modern marvels. I also spend a fair amount of time on the different historical sources that African historians use to write the history of the continent, including historical linguistics, anthropology and archaeology. Such sources lead to different ideas about and understanding of history and societal development. For example, based largely on the use of historical linguistics, we have increasing evidence of the use of matriliny and matrilineal ideas in most early African societies.
In my upper level classes, I am increasingly teaching at the intersection of African history and African perspectives on development, economics, and globalization. I have taught Africa Since 1945, Globalization, and the History of South Africa most recently. I am spending the 2010-11 academic year on a teaching fellowship developing two new courses that explore my growing interest in sustainability both in historical and practical terms.
My research includes a book, Fipa Families: Catholic Evangelization and Social Reproduction in Nkansi, Ufipa, 1880-1960 (2006) and a series of articles related to it focused on socioeconomic changes of the colonial period, with a particular interest in the relationships Catholic missionaries and Fipa families forged. Two recent articles indicate the breadth of my current interests. “The Dangers of Teaching About Globalization” appeared in the online journal Globalization in November 2009 and an editorial “Faculty Air Travel and Climate Change” appeared in Sustainability: The Journal of Record in October 2010. A longer-term project draws on my survey teaching experience as explained above. It is a textbook-like manuscript tentatively titled: “Understanding Africa: A Continent’s Past and Our Future.”