Kate Skinner

Katharine Skinner

Colleges, School and Institutes

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

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, and I now participate in the Institute of Global Innovation’s Gender Equality stream.

Education/Academic qualification

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Birmingham

Professional Qualifications

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (incl. associate module), PGCert


Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

Dr Skinner is currently supervising graduate students working on a range of topics in African history and contemporary 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, print cultures, mass literacy and education in other African countries.

My current PhD students:

Nathalie Raunet, working on traditional chiefs, state agents, and gatekeepers on the Ghana-Togo border
Chloe Bent, working on race, migration, and heritage in Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Tessa Pijnaker, working on ICT, design, and public performance among technology entrepreneurs in Accra, Ghana
Julia Fernando, based at Aston University and co-supervised through a doctoral training partnership arrangement, working on women’s entrepreneurship in Uganda
Henry Brefo, working on modernisation, bureaucracy, and chieftaincy in Ghana
Veera Tagliabue, working on migration and identity in South African higher education
Sangu Delle, working on women tech entrepreneurs in Ghana
My former PhD students:

Jovia Salifu - worked on women and microcredit in Ghana, and now a postdoctoral research assistant at the Institute of African Studies, University of 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

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