Rhiannon Stephens

Rhiannon Stephens

Associate Professor

602 Fayerweather Hall
Phone: (212) 854-4160
Email: r.stephens@columbia.edu
Office Hours:

Interests and Research

Rhiannon Stephens, assistant professor, specializes in the history of precolonial East Africa from the late first millennium CE through the nineteenth century. Her research interests include the intersection of gender with social and political organization; popular conceptualizations of poverty and wealth; and cultural and linguistic exchange in multilingual settings. She draws on a range of methodological and interdisciplinary approaches to write longue durée history of oral societies, including comparative historical linguistics, comparative ethnography, analysis of oral traditions and archaeological evidence as well as more conventional archival research.


  • Research Colloquium in Precolonial African History
  • The History of Health and Healing in Africa
  • East African History: Early Times to the Present
  • African Civilization
  • Research Seminar in African History
  • Poverty in Africa: Historical Perspectives


  • MacDonald Summer Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University
  • Past and Present Society Post-doctoral research fellowship, 2008-09
  • Presidential Society of Fellows, Northwestern University, 2005-07
  • Research Year Fellowship, Northwestern University, 2004-05
  • Teaching Fellowship, Northwestern University, 2002-04
  • Graduate School Fellowship, Northwestern University, 2001-02
  • Graduate Attachment, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, 2000

Selected Publications


A History of African Motherhood: The Case of Uganda, 700-1900, (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Co-edited with Axel Fleisch, Doing Conceptual History in Africa, (Berghan Books, in press)

Scholarly Articles

"'Whether They Promised Each Other Some Thing is Difficult to Work Out': The Complicated History of Marriage in Uganda," African Studies Review (accepted for publication in special issue on Women in Africa)

“The Great Lakes States of Eastern Africa,” in Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies, ed. Thomas Spear (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

"Birthing Wealth? Motherhood and Poverty in East-Central Uganda, 700-1900," Past and Present 215 (May 2012): 235-268. http://past.oxfordjournals.org/content/215/1/235

"Introduction: New Themes in Ugandan History," Journal of Eastern African Studies 6, no. 3 (2012): 487-489. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17531055.2012.698851

"Lineage and Society in Precolonial Uganda," Journal of African History 50, 2 (2009): 203-21.

“East Africa, 1500-1900,” in Encyclopedia of Women in World History, ed. Bonnie G. Smith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 122-126.


  • Faculty Fellow, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University
  • Member, African Studies Association
  • Member, American Historical Association
  • Member, British Institute in Eastern Africa
  • Institute of African Studies, Columbia University
  • Member, Concept Africa: Conceptual Histories of the World and Global Translations