Associate Professor of History, Cornell University
Judith Byfield's research interests 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 her research and writing thus far has focused on women's social and economic history in colonial Nigeria. Her first book, The Bluest Hands: A Social and Economic History of Women Indigo Dyers in Western Nigeria, brought many of her interests together in an examination of 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. Her current research, The Great Upheaval: Women, Taxes and Nationalist Politics in Nigeria, 1945-1951 (2017, forthcoming), 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.
Her 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, including Nationalism and Decolonization; Marriage and Divorce; and Cloth, Dress and Identity.