Kate Skinner


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Dr Skinner is currently supervising graduate students working on a range of topics in modern and contemporary African history and interdisciplinary African Studies. She is interested in supervising further projects relating to the social and political histories of modern and contemporary Ghana and Togo. She also welcomes proposals relating to political activism, gender activism, law, print cultures, mass literacy, and education in other African countries.

My current PhD students:

Ryan Colton, working on everyday governance under Ghana's military regimes (with Prof Nic Cheeseman)
Henry Brefo, working on chieftaincy and education in Asante, Ghana (with Dr Insa Nolte)
Chloe Bent, working on race, migration, and heritage in Treasure Beach, Jamaica (with Prof Gavin Schaffer and Dr Nathan Cardon)
Veera Tagliabue, working on migration and identity in South African higher education (with Dr Jessica Johnson and Dr Max Bolt)
Ouborr Kutando - working on elections and candidate primaries in Ghana (with Prof Nic Cheeseman)
Anukware Tchiimavor - working on gender and migration in francophone West African fiction (with Dr Berny Sebe)

My former PhD students:

Sangu Delle - worked on women tech entrepreneurs in Ghana, now working in the private sector
Kiranpreet Kaur - worked on colonial-era travel writing about Central Africa, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wolverhampton
Nathalie Raunet - worked on citizenship and belonging in the Ghana-Togo borderlands, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Free University of Berlin (SCRIPTS cluster)
Jovia Salifu - worked on women and microcredit in Ghana, now a lecturer at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana
Nimrita Rana – researched on South Asian migrant communities in Ghana, now working in private sector
Saima Nasar, now a lecturer at the University of Bristol, working on race, empire and diasporic communities, particularly East African Asians
Kwame Kwarteng, worked on the environmental history of Ghana, and now Dean of Arts at the University of Cape Coast


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research interests

Disciplinary: History, political and social

Chronological: modern and contemporary

Regional: sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Ghana and Togo

Thematic: colonialism, nationalism, pan-Africanism, education, literacy, print culture, gender, law

Research interests

My first two book projects were concerned with literacy, print cultures, and visions of nationhood in West Africa, with a particular focus on the republics of Ghana and Togo, and the borderlands between them (see publications list below). I am now working on new projects, which build on my longstanding interest in this region, explore the gendered dynamics of its political history, and highlight the particular challenges of nation-building and citizenship.

I am currently the PI on a project entitled ‘An Archive of Activism: gender and public history in postcolonial Ghana’. This project extends my earlier interest in political activism, but focuses on the organisations and strategies and strategies of gender activists and ‘political women’, particularly in the period between the mid 1960s and the early 1990s.

In 2019, I held a Leverhulme International Academic Fellowship, entitled ‘Learning, Leveraging and Living with the Law’. I was based at the University of Cape Coast (Ghana) for eight weeks, where I studied the evolution of legal pluralism over the twentieth century, and attempts to legislate on matters pertaining to the family in the post-Independence period.

Finally, I have been investigating West Africa’s first coup d'état, in which President Sylvanus Olympio of the Republic of Togo was assassinated. The story of this 1963 coup has often been told in terms of a military protest against austerity policies and ethno-regional bias. My research tells a different kind of story, about the challenges of small nations in the broader context of Cold War alignments and pan-African ambitions.


I gained my first degree in Modern History from Oxford University, and took a Maîtrise at the Université de Paris I (Panthéon-La Sorbonne). 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 focussed on mass literacy, adult education, and citizenship in Ghana, from the colonial era through to the end of the twentieth century. I was appointed as a lecturer in 2007, teaching on the History of Africa and its Diasporas. I served as Head of Department from 2014-17, REF lead for Area Studies at UoB 2018-21, and I now participate in the Institute of Global Innovation’s Gender Equality stream.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Birmingham

Award Date: 1 Jan 2003


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