Sandra Elaine Greene

Stephen ’59 and Madeline ’60 Anbinder Professor of African History


My research interests have ranged widely over the past forty (40) years, from the study of gender and ethnic relations in West Africa, to the role that religious beliefs, warfare,  and the experience of slavery have played in the lives of individuals and communities in eighteenth and nineteenth century Ghana. Most recently, I have focused on constructing the biographies of both ordinary and extraordinary women and men from southeastern Ghana. I do so to bring to life their hopes and joys, their fears and concerns, at a time when both slavery and the slave trade were still aspects of daily life, and when colonialism was also altering how these individuals, and so many others, understood the world in which they lived. An integral aspect of my research has involved  the exploration and expansion of the methodological tools that historians can use to uncover the histories of those time periods and areas of the world in which documentary sources are scarce.  I have applied historical linguistic methodologies to the historical study of cultural change, collected and interpreted oral traditions and oral histories, and employed literary close reading techniques and contextual analyses, as well as insights from anthropology and psychology to extract the most from the limited sources that are available on the history of West Africa. I find such a broad and inclusive approach both energizing and rewarding. 

Research Focus

  • Africa, West Africa, Ghana,  History: social and cultural, gender and ethnicity, slavery, religious beliefs



Single Authored Books:

Edited Volumes:

Selected Research Articles in Peer-Reviewed Publications since 2003:

  • "Spirit possession, ritual self-cutting and debt bondage: an analysis of the testimony of a nineteenth century West African Priest," Slavery and Abolition, Published on line 23 March 2017:
  •  “(Child) Slavery in Africa as Social Death?”  Responses Past and Present,” in  After Slavery and Social Death. Edited by John Bodel and Walter Scheidel. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (Forthcoming) 
  • “African Intellectual Ideas in the Age of Legal Slavery and the Slave Trade,” with Oluwatoyin B.  Oduntan. In Alice Bellagamba, Sandra E. Greene, and Martin Klein (eds.) African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa, Volume 2: Essays on Sources and Methods. Cambridge University Press. 2016.
  • “Christian Missionaries on Record: Documenting Slavery and the Slave Trade from the late Fifteenth to the early Twentieth Century,” in African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa, Volume 2: Essays on Sources and Methods. Edited with Alice Bellagamba and Martin A. Klein.  Cambridge University Press. 2016.
  • “Minority Voices: Abolitionism in West Africa,” Slavery and Abolition. (Available on-line 25 February) Hard- copy published in December issue. 2015.
  • “Experiencing Fear and Despair:  The Enslaved and Human Sacrifice in 19th  Century southern Ghana,” in African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade, Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press. 2013.
  • “Oral Traditions and Individuals Enslaved in Asante,” in African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press. 2013.
  • Modern Trokosi (Child Slavery) and the 1807 Abolition in Ghana: Connecting the Past and Present, William and Mary Quarterly. LXVI, 4 (October). 2009.
  • “Whispers and Silences: Explorations in African Oral History,” Africa Today, 50, 2, 41-54. 2003.

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