Wilkinson, Conor

Field: Africa; Advisor: Stephens; Year: 2017

Conor Wilkinson is a second-year PhD student in African history at Columbia University. He was born and raised in London, Ontario, where he earned his BA in History and Geography at Huron University College. He also completed a MA in History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he held a graduate scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. In 2017-18 he held the Catherine S. Sims Fellowship at Columbia. Conor’s research focus is the longue durée history of East Africa’s Great Lakes Region, which straddles the modern nation-states of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In particular, Conor is interested in histories of life and death, illness, and social difference among Great Lakes Bantu speakers and their descendants over the last 2,500 years. What has it meant to live and die well in this region over this span of time, and, inversely, what has it meant to live and die “unwell”—perhaps diseased, infertile, unproductive, or immoral? How have these categories changed over time and space as people moved to new areas, met new neighbors, adopted new technologies, and formed new ways of organizing themselves? Crucially, how have groups and individuals utilized or transgressed these categories to their own ends, and how have gender, status, age, and identity informed (and been informed by) this history? Conor uses a range of methods and forms of evidence to study this past, including historical linguistics, comparative ethnography, archaeology, oral traditions and oral history, and archival research.
Select honors include the Huron History Alumni Prize, awarded to the highest achieving graduating student in the History program at Huron; the Graduate Student Paper Prize at the 2018 meeting of the Southeast Regional Network of African Studies; and a number of additional scholarships and fellowships.


Conor’s experience includes research work with the Military Historical Society of Canada and the London (Ontario) Anti-Slavery Research Project; teaching assistantships in World History, Modern British History, and African History; and coordinating several workshops and seminars on African History.