Insa Nolte

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

My research focuses on the role of everyday life for the political and religious history of the Yoruba-speaking Southwest of Nigeria. My current work centres on interfaith relations between Yoruba Muslims, Christians, and traditionalists: I explore historical patterns of gendered and religious preference and the accommodation of religious difference in marriage and extended family life.

As the disciplinary divisions in modern academia do not always reflect the conceptual histories of African societies, I am committed to inter- and multidisciplinary research. This is reflected in the breadth of the over £1.6m in external funding I have raised over the course of my career. In addition to support from the Economic and Social Research Council (2003-5, 2013-15), the British Academy (2006, 2009, 2012-14), the Department for International Development (2005-10), I was the PI of an ERC grant entitled “Knowing each other: everyday religious encounters, social identities and tolerance in southwest Nigeria” in 2012-17, which carried out the first large-n survey on religious identification and attitudes in southwest Nigeria since 1963. As research on African societies relies on collaboration with colleagues and institutions on the African continent, the project was based both at the University of Birmingham and Osun State University, Nigeria, where I remain an honorary member of staff. 

After serving as President of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) in 2016-18, and as Head of Department in 2018-21, I hold a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship in 2021-23 to carry out research on the theme of “Muslim Men, Christian Women: An African history of gender and coexistence”.


After a first degree at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, I joined the Centre of West African Studies at the University of Birmingham as a PhD student to work on the history and politics of Ijebu-Remo the home area of the important Nigerian Nationalist politician Obafemi Awolowo, under the supervision of Paulo de Moraes Farias and Karin Barber.

After my graduation, I held the Kirk-Greene Junior Research Fellowship at St Antony’s College, Oxford. I returned to Birmingham to take up a lectureship in the Department for African Studies and Anthropology in 2001, where I am now a Reader. I have been Head of Department since January 2018.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I supervise doctoral research students working on African and Nigerian history, politics, gender and religion. Recent and current supervision topics include ethno-religious conflict and women’s lives in the Nigerian Middle Belt, The portrayal of Pentecostalism and traditional religion in Edo language popular video films, Local Debates and Struggles over 'Prostitution' in Southern Nigeria, 1890-1960, and Modernisation, Bureaucracy and Traditional rule in Ghana: The case of the Otumfuo Education Fund.