Dr Kate Skinner (BA Oxford, MA Paris I, PhD Birmingham)


Lecturer in the History of Africa and its Diasporas
Head of Department of African Studies and Anthropology

Department of African Studies and Anthropology

Dr Kate Skinner

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


I gained my first degree in Modern History from Oxford University, and took a Masters at the Université de Paris I (Panthéon-La Sorbonne), where I studied the personalities, principles and practices associated with late colonial development in Tanganyika. I joined DASA as a PhD student, writing my dissertation on the nature of African political activism on the Ghana-Togo border from the 1950s to present-day. After working as Africa Editor at a news analysis company, I returned to DASA to take up a Nuffield Foundation New Career Development Fellowship with Lynne Brydon. This project investigated the history and present-day provision of adult education in different regions of Ghana, focusing on the relationship between mass literacy and citizenship. I was appointed as a lecturer in 2007, teaching on the History of Africa and its Diasporas. My most recent research focuses on the connections between formal schooling, local-language literacy and political mobilisation in the colonial and post-colonial periods.


I completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education in 2012, winning a prize for my project on first-year students’ experiences of assessment and feedback. This research will be published in the journal Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (see my publications list for further details). I am also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and winner of the 2012 Head of School’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Support to Student Learning.

My undergraduate teaching ranges from basic study skills for students in the humanities and social sciences, through wide-ranging introductions to African History and to Atlantic Slavery. I also offer a more specialised module on colonialism, nationalism and pan-Africanism in Ghana, and teach sessions on research ethics and oral history to students writing undergraduate and Masters’ dissertations.

Postgraduate supervision

My current PhD students are working on West African and African-American women’s activism, and on East African Asian identities in diaspora.  I have also supervised MPhil dissertations on elite secondary schooling in Ashanti, Ghana, and on health education in Tanzania. I am interested in supervising new projects relating to the social and political histories of modern and contemporary Ghana and Togo. I also welcome proposals relating to political activism, propaganda, print culture, mass literacy and education in other sub-Saharan African countries.


I recently completed a book manuscript which draws on my earlier doctoral research and on a more recent British Academy-funded project on politics, spokesmanship and African-language newspapers in the Ghana-Togo border region. The book is a historical ethnography, combining the life histories of a cohort of rural political activists with a close study of the African (Ewe) language propaganda that circulated along the Ghana-Togo border area before and after Independence. These sources are an essential corrective to governmental archives and the urban-based press, enabling us to understand the creative work carried out by rural activists, and to examine issues of legitimacy, spokesmanship and mass mobilization in rural areas during the late colonial and post-colonial period.  Learn more...

I am now working with Dr Wilson Yayoh (University of Cape Coast, Ghana) on another British Academy-funded project entitled ‘Beyond the National Archives: innovation and inter-disciplinarity in researching Ghana’s past’.  In 2013/14 we will run international research training workshops in Ghana, where experienced scholars will share their experiences in working with conventional and unconventional sources, including those in local languages. Learn more...



  • The Fruits of Freedom in British Togoland: Literacy, Politics, and Nationalism 1914-2014 (peer review complete, contracted to Cambridge University Press for their African Studies series, expected date of publication end 2014/early 2015)
  • Ablode Safui (the Key to Freedom): Writing the New Nation in a West African Border Town 1958-63 (written with Dr Wilson Yayoh of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, this translation and extended commentary of a Togolese Ewe-language newspaper is contracted to the British Academy for their Fontes Historiae Africanae series, estimated date of publication 2017)

Journal articles and chapters in edited collections

  • 2014 (under review) ‘Exiles, ambassadors and an assassination: the role of the Ghana-Togo border dispute in West Africa’s first coup d’état’ in African Borders at Independence, edited by Sévérine Awenengo Alberto (for Palgrave Macmillan’s African borderlands series)
  • 2011 ‘Who Knew the Minds of the People? Specialist knowledge and developmentalist authoritarianism in postcolonial Ghana.’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39/2, pp. 297-323
  • 2010 ‘Local Historians and Strangers with Big Eyes: the politics of Ewe history in Ghana and its global diaspora.’ History in Africa 37, pp. 125-58
  • 2010 ‘From Pentecostalism to Politics: mass literacy and community development in late colonial Northern Ghana.’ Paedagogica Historica 46/3, pp. 307-23
  • 2009 ‘ “It brought some kind of neatness to mankind”: mass literacy, community development and democracy in 1950s Asante.’  Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 79/4, pp. 479-99
  • 2009 ‘Modernity and Danger: the Boy Kumasenu and the work of the Gold Coast Film Unit.’ Ghana Studies 12(co-authored with Peter Bloom), pp. 121-53
  • 2007 ‘Reading, Writing and Rallies: the politics of ‘freedom’ in southern British Togoland 1953-6.’ Journal of African History 48, pp. 123-47
  • 2007 ‘Agency and Analogy in African History: the contribution of extra-mural studies in Ghana.’ History in Africa 34, pp. 273-96

Teaching-related publications

  • 2014 ‘Bridging Gaps and Jumping Through Hoops: first-year History students’ expectations and perceptions of assessment and feedback in a research-intensive university’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (Online First)
  • 2013 ‘Teaching the Research in Akan Gender History’, History in Africa 40 (special anniversary issue), pp. s.31-5

Book reviews

  • Books reviewed for: English Historical Review, Women’s History Review and Journal of African History.


Modern history and current affairs of Ghana and Togo in West Africa; political culture, literacy, and education (for both schoolchildren and adults); women's issues, including reproductive health

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