Field: Africa; Advisor: Mann; Year: 2013
Devon is a seventh-year doctoral student in African history, and a candidate for the Graduate Certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the Institute for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her research focuses on the history of gender and sexuality, and the history of medicine, in 20th century francophone West Africa. Her dissertation, entitled “Reproductive Labors: Reproductive Expertise and Biomedical Legibility in Mali, 1935-1999,” examines the intertwined and competing practices by which Malian families sought to ensure successful conception, pregnancy and childbirth in the context of high maternal and infant mortality. It traces the development of biomedical maternal and reproductive health programs and the changing interventions of local specialists such as a birth attendants and nuptial counselors.
Devon is currently a recipient of the Doris G. Quinn Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. Her dissertation research and writing have been supported by the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, CLIR Mellon Doctoral Research Fellowship in Original Sources, New York Historical Society Early Career Scholars Workshop, Columbia University Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life, GSAS International Travel Fellowship, Alliance Doctoral Mobility Grant, and Institute for African Studies Leitner Award.
“Last Acts of Mothering: Nuptial Counseling in Colonial Mali” Past and Present special issue on “Mothering’s Many Labours.” (Revised and resubmitted)
“Interracial Marriage and Political Authority in Colonial Northern Cameroun,” to be submitted to the International Journal of African Historical Studies. (Manuscript in preparation).
Devon graduated from Wesleyan University with High Honors in History in 2008. Her honors thesis explored the intersection of local ethnic relations and national political changes in northern Cameroon over the 20th century.
Devon continued this research under the auspices of a Fulbright Research Fellowship at the University of Maroua (Cameroon) in 2010-2011, where she examined anti-colonial political activism in northern Cameroon in the 1950s, and the political ramifications of working-class interracial relationships in this period.
Alongside Oumou Sidibe (Independent Scholar) and Professor Gregory Mann, Devon is the founder of the Projet Archives des Femmes in Bamako, Mali. This project collects and conserves the private paper collections of Malian women involved in the independence movement and post-colonial gender-based activism, in partnership with Mali’s Ministry of Women, Children, and the Family. The collected archives are housed at Mali’s leading gender studies library, the Centre Nationale d’Information et Documentation sur la Femme et l’Enfant, where they will be digitized and made accessible to scholars and students. In partnership with the University of Bamako, the project also holds summer workshops with Malian women pursuing higher education, focused on skill-building around research and job-seeking.
To date, the archive has conserved the papers of 6 women:
- Bachata Djire (nationalist activist, pan-Africanist activist, director of literacy projects)
- Ba Tounkara (griot to President Modibo Keita)
- Kadidiatou Togola (Mayor, entrepreneurship trainer)
- Mafoune Sangare (member of the Union Nationale des Femmes du Mali, 1974-1991; co-founder of the Union Nationales des Femmes Musulmanes du Mali, 1995-present)
-Oumeissa Maiga (director of a women’s craft cooperative)
- Oumou Coulibaly (member of the Union Nationale des Femmes du Mali, 1974-1991; co-founder of the Union Nationales des Femmes Musulmanes du Mali, 1995-present)
Devon has served as a Teaching Fellow in the Columbia University History Department and the Barnard College History Department, for courses on African History, African Studies, Caribbean History, and the History of health and medicine. She has also served as an editorial assistant for the Journal of African History.
Prior to beginning her PhD, Devon worked for close to 4 years in Bamako as the Director of Programs with the Mali Health Organizing Project, a non-profit organization which promotes community engagement in health and access to primary care.