Faculty & Staff

Dr. Kathleen Smythe

Dr. Kathleen Smythe

Professor, History Department

Director of Land, Farming and Community - Sustainability Academic Programs

No Title, Economics, Sustainability and Society Program

No Title, Sustainability: Economics and Management

Professor, Land, Farming, and Community Program

Professor, Sustainability

Professor, Environmental Science

ML 5161
508 Schott Hall

Phone: (513) 745-3279

Fax: (513) 745-2074


  • BA (The College of Wooster), MA, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

  View Résumé/CV

First Year at Xavier University:



African history, colonial history


I love teaching and writing and I particularly enjoying the challenge of addressing questions of contemporary relevance through historical investigation both in the classroom and through my writing and research.

I am an African historian with years of fieldwork experience in Tanzania, East Africa. My first book, Fipa Families (2006), and a series of related articles examined the ways in which Fipa integrated and made sense of European Catholic missionaries and their values during the colonial period. This research was based on more than two hundred oral history interviews in Kifipa and Kiswahili as well as extensive archival research in Rome and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

For a decade or more, I have been interested in globalization and economic development, both the histories of these ideas and their deployment in various ways at various times as well as the question of how well such hegemonic ideas and investments mask the much more complex challenges facing us as members of human societies, such as the viability of the planet’s ecosystems, the viability of the current and projected human populations, and the viability of economic systems focused primarily on production and consumption with little grounding in either biophysical or social and cultural realities.

Much of my writing and teaching currently focuses on these questions. A second book manuscript, Why We Need African History, A Continent’s Past and Our Future, is under review at Indiana University Press. I am working on a third manuscript taking as a departure point the fact that we have entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene. I am  examining what we need to know about deep human history in order to explain this phenomenon and then respond intelligently to it. The project stems from a desire to assess what aspects of human nature and human society are grounded in our biological and evolutionary past, and what is open to conscious change.

I have been actively engaged with sustainability efforts on campus since 2007, first co-chairing the University’s Sustainability Committee until 2012 and now serving as Senior Administrative Fellow for Sustainability and the Environmental Imagination. This work feeds my scholarship and teaching as I am eager to learn from students about their concerns, their views of the world, and how we as teacher-scholars might best facilitate their intellectual, spiritual and ethical journeys during troubled times.

I also love walking, biking, hiking, backpacking, gardening, cooking, writing for self-expression, and spending time with my family and friends.

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