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Jonathan Roberts and Nkrumah statue

Associate Professor and Chair
BA, MA McGill University
PhD Dalhousie University

902-457-5404
msvu.ca

Jonathan Roberts is a specialist in the history of medicine and religion in West Africa. His recent book, Sharing the Burden: A History of Healing in Accra, is the culmination of years of archival and interview research in the capital of Ghana. Roberts asserts that a commitment to pluralism, rather than a singular medical tradition, allowed several forms of a healing to flourish in Accra. This meant that Western medicine, rather than triumphing as the dominant healing paradigm, became only one of many options for patients and their caregivers. This focus on pluralism guides his current project: A History of Western Medicine in Africa. 

Jonathan has also written about the history of pandemics, teaches a course at the Mount called Plagues and Peoples, and has offered public commentary on outbreaks of Ebola, influenza and the coronavirus. He advocates for transparency and openness during pandemics, as a way to avoid the scapegoating and conspiracy theories that have been prevalent during past outbreaks. 

Jonathan also has several side interests, including the history of food (which he teaches at Mount Saint Vincent), the problem of witchcraft in Africa (which has addressed in academic journals), and the politics of heritage tourism at slave forts in West Africa (including the troubling outcomes of the leasing of slave castles by white investors).

Select Publications

2016. “Western Medicine in Africa to 1900,” History Compass (forthcoming)

2016. Book Review: Canadian Journal of African History. Carina Ray. Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2015.

2016. “Robert Fidler demolishes his other castle – the one he built in England,” Today (Ghana), July 18 2016, 25.

2015. “Heritage vs. History in the Commemoration of War in Cape Breton Highlands National Park,” David Campbell, Jonathan Roberts, Corey Slumkoski, and Martha Walls. ActiveHistory.ca. July 7, 2015 (http://activehistory.ca/2015/07/heritage-vs-history-in-the-commemoration-of-war-in-cape-breton-highlands-national-park/).

2015. “‘Mother Canada’ elevates bombastic heritage over subtlety of history,” David Campbell, Jonathan Roberts, Corey Slumkoski, and Martha Walls. Chronicle Herald (Halifax, NS) June 5, 2015.

2014. “Let’s rebrand Ebola as EHF (Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever),” Today (Ghana) October 20, 13.

2014. “Dungeons, castles or resorts? The changing utility and meaning of the slave forts of Ghana” Transitions 114 (2014) 88-107.
- nominated for the Pushcart Prize, November, 2014.

2014. “Brit Fights Ghana Gov’t Over 300-year-old Fort at Dixcove,” published in Today (newspaper, Accra, Ghana). Apr 24th, 2014. http://www.todaygh.com/2014/04/24/brit-fights-ghana-govt-300-year-old-fort-dixcove/
Republished on:

2011. “Medical exchange on the Gold Coast during the Atlantic slave trade of the 17th and 18th centuries,” in Canadian Journal of African Studies 45, no. 3 (2011)

2011. “Memories of Korle Bu: biomedicine, racism, and colonial nostalgia in Accra, Ghana,” in History in Africa 28 (2011): 193-226.

2011. “Ritual interment as a challenge to funerary conventions in Accra, Ghana: the case of agbalegba,” in Funerals in Africa: Explorations of a Social Phenomenon, edited by Michael Jindra & Joel Noret (New York: Berghan): 207-226.

2010. “Korle and the mosquito: Histories and memories of the antimalaria campaign, Accra, 1942-5,” Journal of African History 51, 3: 343-365.

Kwame Nkrumah statue in greyscaleAfrican Children posing for a greyscale photo