Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (born 1955 in Harare) is a Malawian historian, literary critic, novelist, short-story writer and blogger at The Zeleza Post -. He is currently (2009) president of theAfrican Studies Association. He has most recently been named as the next Dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts at Loyola Marymount University.
Zeleza was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, now Harare, Zimbabwe, in May 1955, of Malawian parents. His parents returned to Malawi in 1956 before returning to Zimbabwe in 1972. Zeleza attended primary school (1961–1968) and secondary school (1968–1972) in the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre in Malawi. He attended college at the University of Malawi (1972–1976) where he received his BA with Distinction, majoring in History and English. He served as a Staff Associate at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College from 1976–1977 before he proceeded to Britain for his graduate studies. He earned an MA in African History and International Relations at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and theLondon School of Economics and Political Science (1977–1978), then a Ph.D. in economic history at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (1978–1982).
Upon completing his Ph.D. in 1982, Zeleza took up an appointment as a Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica where he spent two years. He relocated to Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya in August 1984, the country on which he had done his Ph.D. dissertation and where he had spent a year between 1979–1980 conducted research. At Kenyatta he taught African economic history and began his extensive research on the subject that would eventually result in his award winning book,A Modern Economic History of Africa (Dakar: Codseria Book Series, 1993), which was partly financed by a Rockefeller Foundation “Reflections on Development Fellowship” administered by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research (CODESRIA). He was promoted from the position of Lecturer to Senior Lecturer in 1987.
In January 1990 he left Kenyatta University to work on the his African economic history research project, which took him to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and his alma mater, Dalhousie University in Canada, where he spent the next six months conducting research. In July 1990 he relocated to Trent University, Ontario, Canada, where he was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of History. A year later he received tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor, and three years later to Full Professor. In 1994 he was also appointed Principal of Lady Eaton College, one of the five constituent colleges of Trent University, as well as Acting Director of the Trent International Program.
In August 1995 he was recruited to become the Director of the Center for African Studies and Professor of History and African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in the United States, where he spent the next eight years and where he produced some of his most important academic work. In August 2003, he relocated to the Pennsylvania State University where he was appointed Professor of African Studies and History in the Departments of History and African and African American Studies.
Since January 1, 2007 he has been Professor and Head, Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
On August 1, 2009 he assumed his new role as Dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Research and Scholarship
Zeleza is widely recognized as one the leading authorities on African economic history. His book, A Modern Economic History of Africa, won the 1994 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, the continent’s most prestigious book award. The jury citation noted:
“the book is an exercise in historical reconstruction, and its strength and distinction above all lies in its bold and convincing challenge to hitherto accepted orthodoxies, terminologies, and interpretations, about the nature and development of African societies and economies. The book is an outstanding, pioneering work, destined to become highly influential, and providing such a wealth of information and detail as to elevate the study of African economic history to a new pedestal.”
Over the years, Zeleza has also established himself as a leading intellectual historian of Africa, with influential publications on the development of ideas and higher education institutions. His scholarly output and reputation also extends to gender studies, human rights studies and diaspora studies. In 2003 he was appointed by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) to a nine-member advisory board to oversea the publication of “Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World”, a research study issued to mark the 10th Anniversary of, and assess progress since, the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September 1995.
He is currently working on a project, “Africa and Its Diasporas: Dispersals and Linkages” that seeks to trace the dispersal of African peoples globally (Asia, Europe, and the Americas), the formation of African diasporas in different world regions, and the linkages established between these diasporas and Africa over the centuries. The project is funded by a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.
Zeleza is frequently invited as a keynote speaker at international conferences and to give public lectures across the world. Among the numerous conferences where he has given keynote addresses are those organized by UNESCO in Paris in December 2003 and the Association of African Universities in Cape Town in February 2005. In 1995 he was one of six African intellectuals invited by the Japanese government for a three-week tour of Japan, and he revisited several Japanese universities in 2004 at the invitation of the Japanese Association of African Studies. In Asia he has also visited China and South Korea, and in Europe, he has been invited to France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Britain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, while in the Americas he has been to several Caribbean islands, Venezuela and Brazil. As for Africa he has been invited to and visited more than twenty countries, from Egypt to South Africa. In 2006 he was appointed Honorary Visiting Professor in the Department of Historical Studies, the African Gender Institute, and the Center for African Studies at the University of Cape Town.
Zeleza is also a renowned writer of fiction. He is the author of three books, two collections of short stories, Night of Darkness and Other Stories (Montfort Press, Limbe, 1976), and The Joys of Exile: Stories (Anansi: Toronto, 1994), and a novel, Smouldering Charcoal (Oxford: Heienemann, 1992).
He has also published critical essays on African literature and postcolonial criticism. Among the authors whose works he has examined are Edward Said and Yvonne Vera.
Zeleza is the author of scores of articles and essays and more than twenty books, including most recently
- The Study of Africa Volume 1: Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Encounters; Volume 2: Transnational and Global Engagements. (Dakar: Codesria Book Series, 2006-7),
- African Universities in the Twenty-First Century Volume 1: Liberalization and Internationalization; Volume 2: Knowledge and Society (Dakar: Codesria Book Series, 2004),
- Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Development in Africa (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004),
- Rethinking Africa’s Globalization Volume 1: The Intellectual Challenges (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003),
- In Search of Modernity: Science and Technology in Africa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003),
- Leisure in Urban Africa (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003),
- Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century African History (London and New York: Routledge, 2002),
- New Dictionary of the History of Ideas (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 2005). (associate editor)
Forthcoming books include
- Rethinking Africa’s Globalization Volume 2: The Developmental Challenges (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003)
- Causes and Costs of African Conflicts (Oxford: James Currey, 2007)
- Conflict Management and Resolution in Africa (Oxford: James Currey, 2007),
- Africa and Its Diasporas: Dispersals and Linkages (2008).
Awards and grants
Zeleza is the winner of the 1994 Noma Award for his book A Modern Economic History of Africa and the 1998 Special Commendation of the Noma Award for Manufacturing African Studies and Crises. He is also the recipient of Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2003; Honorable Mention, Conover-Porter Award, 2004; and of numerous grants from the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, U.S. Department of Education Title VI, National Endowment for the Humanities, Canada Social Science and Humanities Research Council, and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. Recently he received the 2006 Penn State College of Liberal Arts Class of 1933 Distinction in the Humanities Award.