Elizabeth Dyer

Ph.D. Candidate

M.A. History, University of Pennsylvania, 2012

B.A. summa cum laude History and Anthropology, University of Virginia, 2007


As a cultural historian and a specialist in sub-Saharan Africa, my research centers on aesthetic forms and performances of everyday life that have fallen outside the historian’s gaze.  My dissertation, Kenyan Theater: To Stage a Nation, Rehearse an Uprising, 1895-2002, reconstructs the history of theater in colonial Kenya as a racially integrated, informal political institution.  This discovery leads me to challenge the limits of conventional scholarly approaches to race and ethnicity in East Africa.  My new research, Colonizing Sleep, examines colonial efforts in British East Africa to standardize time through regulations of the nighttime.  By placing these regulations into conversation with protestations in the form of public napping and dream discourse, my research illustrates the history and relativity of so-called “global time.”  In both projects, I bring new source bases and complex textures to the study of Africa in the Western Academy.  In so doing, I draw attention to blind spots in accepted historical narratives and frameworks.


Steven Feierman (doctoral advisor)

Eve Troutt Powell

Kathleen Brown

Joseph Miller (outside committee member)

Research Interests: 

Modern African History, East African Social History, Cultural History, World History, Comparative History of Africa and the Middle East, Indian Ocean World History, History of Theatre and Film, China in Africa, Histories of Sleep

Selected Publications: 

"Whitewashing African Film Sets: King Solomon’s Mines and Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams, 1947-2015." 2016. The African Studies Review 59 (3): In press.

Other Affiliations: 

History and political philosophy instructor at the Leadership for a Diverse America Summer Institute at Princeton University.  Instructorship, 2016-

Visiting Scholar, Kenyatta University. Nairobi, Kenya, 2013-2014

Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellow, 2013-2014

American Historical Association, Bernadotte Schmitt Research Grantee, 2014

Phi Beta Kappa, 2007