Wilkinson, Conor

Field: Africa; Advisor: Stephens; Year: 2017

Conor Wilkinson is a third-year PhD student in African history. Born and raised in London, Ontario, 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, and earned a MA from Columbia with a Master’s thesis titled “Ancestral Spirits and Family Life in German East Africa at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.”

Conor’s doctoral research centers on the longue durée history of East Africa’s Great Lakes Region, with a focus on Bantu-speaking communities to the north and west of Lake Victoria, in the modern nation-states of Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. In particular, Conor is interested in Bantu speakers’ lifeways and death practices. He examines these practices through the lenses of environmental knowledge, social difference, age, and gender. Conor’s research investigates what it has meant to live and die well in this region over the last two millennia, and, conversely, what it has meant to live and die “unwell”—perhaps diseased, infertile, unproductive, or immoral. He interrogates how these categories have changed over time and space as people relocated, met new neighbors, adopted new technologies, and formed new ways of organizing themselves. 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 encourages prospective students and colleagues to reach him via e-mail.


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.