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Presented By: Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies

EIHS Lecture: Planters’ Progress: Local Coffee Science and Trans-Imperial Circulations Through Early Colonial Kenya

Paul Ocobock (University of Notre Dame)

Paul Ocobock Paul Ocobock
Paul Ocobock
How do you grow a commodity and settler colony from scratch? How do you do it when every insect and fungus, even the climate and soil, seem hellbent on stopping you? This is the origin story of Kenyan coffee, a commodity crucial to the economic fortunes of white settlers and the British Empire in Kenya; one that required tremendous state-driven scientific research and intervention. It is also the story of how a single insect—the mealybug—nearly uprooted the entire settler economy in the interwar years. We will join colonial Kenya’s agricultural scientists on a global bughunt, crisscrossing distant colonial and imperial spaces from India to Australia to California, as they studied the mealybug and plotted its annihilation, navigating and creating trans-imperial networks of scientific exchange along the way.

Paul Ocobock is a historian of twentieth-century Africa and the British Empire focusing on histories of capitalism as well as gender and sexuality. His first book, An Uncertain Age: The Politics of Manhood in Kenya (Ohio University Press, 2017), won the 2018 Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the American Historical Association. His current project is a history of Kenyan coffee and its production, sale, and consumption over the course of the twentieth century. He received his BA in honors history from the University of Michigan and his PhD in history from Princeton. He is currently an associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame.

This event presented by the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible in part by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.
Paul Ocobock Paul Ocobock
Paul Ocobock

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