The Iowa Idea: Robert Hanserd
“That’s Why We Have Summer School.”
On this episode of The Iowa Idea Podcast, I’m joined by Dr. Robert Hanserd. Robert is an Associate Professor of African and Atlantic History at Columbia College Chicago. West African culture and history and its circulation throughout the Atlantic World serves as his central academic focus.
Robert and I discuss his journey from a sense of places and spaces and how his experience in Rockford, Des Moines, Chicago, and West Africa. We shared some fond memories for some of high school teachers, including the late, great K.D. Benson.
Robert’s journey to his PhD work and continued research interests include West African “Gold Coast”, cultures and histories, Afro-Atlantic inspirations to maroons’, free-blacks’ and slaves’ struggles for freedom and identity in the Caribbean and North America. We explore the history of the Maroon people. For fans of the podcast, you might remember our conversation with Howard Allen and the inspiration of the Maroon people for his business. Howard, Robert, and I all attended the same high school.
Robert discusses the research for his next book focused on 500 African narratives, which synthesizes 500 published accounts of African narratives of people that were enslaved and ended up in America.
We touch briefly on the role of humor in understanding and confronting and challenging a polished, whitewashed version of US history. We also talk about the importance of trust between researcher and participants when conducting qualitative research.
Robert’s most recent book is entitled Identity, Spirit and Freedom in the Atlantic World: The Gold Coast and the African Diaspora.
I appreciated Robert’s perspective on the importance finding one’s own voice when doing their research; the benefits of finding a good mentor; and the power of asking the right question. Robert highlights how there’s room for innovation in the way we understand and process history. It was an honor having Robert join me on the show. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Robert Hanserd, Associate Professor of African and Atlantic History at Columbia College Chicago West African culture and history and its circulation throughout the Atlantic World (West Africa, America and Western Europe) is a central academic focus. Research interests include West African “Gold Coast” and Bight of Benin cosmologies, cultures and histories, Afro-Atlantic inspirations to maroons’, free-blacks’ and slaves’ struggles for freedom and identity in the Caribbean and North America, and a range of topics related to African, Caribbean and African-American history and life. Recent publications include Identity, Spirit and Freedom in the Atlantic World: The Gold Coast and the African Diaspora by Routledge Press in 2019 and two forthcoming editing projects in 2022: 500 Voices: Catalog of Published Narratives by Africans Enslaved in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1586-1936 currently under review for publication and African Indigenous Systems by Sub-Saharan Publishers forthcoming in 2022. Hanserd is a member of the African Studies Association, Ghana Studies Association, and presented his research on numerous panels and symposia. His other interests include inquiry of Africa diasporas from a range of interdisciplinary, historical, and cultural settings, study abroad programming, multi-media research and production, and public history.
The Iowa Idea Podcast theme music written and performed by Paisley Bible (https://paisleybible.bandcamp.com/).