Cohen, Jessie

Field: Africa; Advisor: George; Year: 2019

Jessie is a Ph.D. candidate in African history. She is broadly interested in histories of gender and sexuality, health and healing, and humanitarianism. Her M.A. thesis examined the role of the Mother’s Union in family planning efforts in Uganda from 1962-1979. Jessie’s dissertation, “‘A Better Life for Us All’?: Local Perspectives on Family Planning in Accra, Ghana, 1957-2000s,” draws on two years of traces of change over time in everyday Ghanaians’ ideals of gender roles, sexuality, fertility, and family size and structure both within the home and in pursuit of nation-building.

She is currently completing her dissertation as an American Dissertation Fellow with the American Association of University Women and will graduate in May of 2024. Previously, Jessie has held the West African Research Association’s Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, as well as the Columbia History Department Dissertation Research Fellowship, and Kathleen M. Gash Fellowship.

Jessie has served as a Teaching Assistant in the Columbia University History Department and the Barnard College History Department for courses on the political history of Africa, gender and sexuality in Africa, and modern African history. She previously served as the rapporteur for the Columbia University Seminars: Studies in Contemporary Africa, and the Graduate Coordinator for the History and Climate Change Workshop.

She co-hosted the limited series podcast Histories of Science in Africa which interviews Africanists on a variety of topics such as health and healing, the environment, and archaeology.

Jessie received her B.A. in History with honors from Davidson College in 2018. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., she worked for the Touch Foundation in health system strengthening in Mwanza, Tanzania.