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Christopher Tounsel

Christopher Tounsel

Assistant Professor of History and African Studies

Catherine Shultz Rein Early Career Professor in the College of the Liberal Arts

403 Weaver Building
University Park , PA 16802

Curriculum Vitae

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  1. PhD, University of Michigan, 2015
  2. MA, University of Michigan, 2011
  3. BA, Duke University, 2009


I am an historian of modern Sudan, with special focus on race and religion as political technologies. My first book, Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan, is forthcoming at Duke University Press. It explores the ways that Southern Sudanese intellectuals used Judeo-Christian Scriptures to frame their revolutionary work against the Sudanese state. Spanning Anglo-Egyptian colonialism, Sudanese independence, and South Sudanese independence, Chosen Peoples uncovers a crucial chapter of African religious and political thought.

My scholarship has appeared in numerous journals, including The Journal of African American History, the Journal of Religious History, the Journal of Eastern African Studies, and the Journal of Africana Religions, as well as the popular outlet The Conversation. Support for my research has come from several institutions and organizations including the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Council of Overseas American Research Centers, and Doris G. Quinn Foundation.

I have begun working on a second book project tentatively titled Bounds of Blackness: African Americans, Sudan, and the Politics of Solidarity. Expanding on my recent work on the Tuskegee Institute’s cotton-cultivation work in early twentieth-century Sudan, it aims to chart a new intellectual history of black America’s relationship with Africa from colonialism to the twenty-first century.


PhD, University of Michigan, 2015

MA, University of Michigan, 2011

BA, Duke University, 2009

Recent Publications

Women in South Sudan’ In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. Oxford University Press. Article published September 28, 2020. 

"Two Sudans, Human Rights, and the Afterlives of St. Josephine Bakhita" in Christianity and Human Rights Reconsidered, ed. Daniel Jenkins-Steinmetz and Sarah Shortall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), pp. 261-275. 

"Lord Come to Our Aid: Islamisation, Civil War, and the Pastoral Letters of the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference" Journal of Religious History Vol. 44, no. 2 (Christianity and Politics in 20th-Century Africa, ed. J.J. Carney, June 2020): 168-186.

‘Negro Canaan: Tuskegee, Cotton, and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan’ Journal of African-American History Vol. 105, no. 1 (February 2020): 28-55.

 ‘Before the Bright Star: Football in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan’ Journal of Eastern African Studies 12, no. 4 (2018): 735-753

“Render to Caesar”: Missionary Thought and the Sudanese State, 1946-1964’ Social Sciences and Missions 34, no. 2 (2018): 341-374.

‘Race, religion and resistance: revelations from the Juba archive’ Journal of Eastern African Studies 11, No. 2 (2017): 249-265.

‘Khartoum Goliath: SPLM/SPLA Update and Martial Theology during the Second Sudanese Civil War’ Journal of Africana Religions 4, no. 2 (2016): 129-153.     

Awards and Services

2019 Career Enhancement Junior Faculty Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Foundation

2015 Doris G. Quinn Fellowship, Doris G. Quinn Foundation

2014-2015 Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellows Dissertation Grant, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

2013 Rackham Humanities Candidacy Fellowship, University of Michigan

2012 Multi-Country Fellowship, Council of American Overseas Research Centers

Areas of Specialization: