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Judith Byfield Byfield

Associate Professor
Director of Undergraduate Studies

Office: 320 McGraw Hall
Phone: (607) 254-5334
Fax: (607) 255-0469

Office Hours: See department listing, 450 McGraw Hall

Research and Teaching Interests

My research interests have evolved over time.  I began with a very strong interest in African art and literature and gradually added  the colonial state, nationalism, women's history, and the African Diaspora, specifically the Anglophone Caribbean.  Most of my research and writing thus far has focused on women's social and economic history in colonial Nigeria.  My first book, The Bluest Hands: A Social and Economic History of Women Indigo Dyers in Western Nigeria, brought many of my interests together for it examined the transformation of indigo dyeing and textile production in Abeokuta, a town famous for its indigo dyed cloth, adire.  It illuminated the ways in which the colonial state transformed women's economic life as well as the ways women navigated the new economic landscape and pressed the colonial state to protect their livelihoods.  My current manuscript, The Great Upheaval: Women, Taxes and Nationalist Politics in Nigeria, 1945-1951,  explores a women's tax revolt in Abeokuta after WW II, and follows the projection of this political episode unto the national stage as the organization that led the tax revolt grew into a national women's organization that tried to shape the nationalist movement. 

My courses reflect the full range of my interests.  They include lecture courses on Caribbean history,  Africa After 1800,  Popular Culture in Africa as well as seminars on a range of topics - Nationalism and Decolonization; Marriage and Divorce; Cloth, Dress and Identity.


For more information and links to current courses, go to: History's Courses Page


Ph.D. Columbia Universtiy, 1993
B.A. Dartmouth College, 1980

Recent Publications and Awards


Africa and World War II, Judith A. Byfield, Carolyn Brown, Timothy Parsons, Ahmad Sikainga, eds. (Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming 2015).

Gendering the African Diaspora: Women, Culture, and Historical Change in the Caribbean and Nigerian Hinterland, Judith Byfield, LaRay Denzer and Anthea Morrison eds. (Indiana University Press, 2010).

Cross Currents: Building Bridges Across American and Nigerian Studies, Judith Byfield, ed. (Ibadan, Nigeria: Book Builders, 2009).

The Bluest Hands: A Social and Economic History of Women Indigo Dyers in Western Nigeria, 1890 – 1940 (Heinemann, 2002).


"Beyond Impact: Toward a New Historiography of Africa and World War II" in eds. Thomas Zeiler with Daniel DuBois, A Companion to World War II (Blackwell Publishing, 2013).

"Gender, Justice and the Environment: Connecting the Dots" African Studies Review (55:1) Apr 2012, 1-12.

"Echoes of History: Peace, Justice and Idealism in the 21st Century" in Ernest Uwazie & Chaunce Ridley (eds.) Contemporary Issues in African Studies: A Reader (Kendall Hunt, 2011).

"Finding Voice, Giving Voice: Gender, Politics and Social Change" South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 109, No. 2 (2010): 357 -368 .

"Feeding the troops: Abeokuta (Nigeria) and World War II" African Economic History 35 (2007)77-87.

"Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti: Affirmations and Remembrances" with Cheryl Johnson-Odim and Deidre Badejo in Women Writing Africa: West Africa and the Sahel, Esi Sutherland-Addy and Aminata Diaw (eds). (Feminist Press C.U.N.Y., 2005), 238-240.

"Dress and Politics in Post World War II Abeokuta (Western Nigeria)" in Jean Allman, ed. Fashioning The Nation: Power and the Politics of Dress, (Indiana University Press, 2004), 31-49.                                                                             

"Taxation, Women, and the Colonial State: Egba Women's Protest in Abeokuta (Nigeria), 1918-1948” Meridians: A Journal on Feminism, Race, and Transnationalism (Vol. 3, no. 1, 2003), 250-277.

"Women, Marriage, Divorce and the Emerging Colonial State in Abeokuta (Western Nigeria)" Dorothy L. Hodgson and Sheryl McCurdy, eds. "Wicked" Women and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa (Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2001), 27-46.


Humanities Research Grant, Cornell University, 2014-2015.

Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, 2013-2014.

Mellon Diversity Post-Doctoral Seminar, Cornell University, 2012-2013.

W. E. B. Du Bois Institute Resident Fellowship 2010-2011 (Declined).

Institute for Social Sciences Small Grant Competition, Cornell University, 2008-2009.

Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies Seed Grant Competition, Cornell University 2008-2009.

Mellon Interdisciplinary Writing Group, Cornell University, 2008-2009, Ithaca, NY.