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Katherine Luongo studies legal systems in colonial and contemporary Africa and global legal regimes. She is particularly interested in the intersections of the supernatural, law, and politics in Africa and in the interactions of African witchcraft and forced migration.
Her book, Witchcraft and Colonial Rule in Kenya, 1900-1955, published by Cambridge University Press, examines how conflicts between state authorities and Africans over witchcraft-related crimes provided an important space in which the meanings of justice, law, and order in the empire were debated. A work of anthropological history, the book develops an ethnography of Kamba witchcraft or uoi.
Dr. Luongo has also published on diverse topics such as the Mau Mau rebellion, the Kenya National Archives, witchcraft as a form domestic violence, and the legal genealogies of key concepts such as “malice aforethought” and “provocation.” With Matthew Carotenuto, she is the author of “Dala or Diaspora? Obama and the Luo Community of Kenya” (African Affairs, 2009). Luongo and Carotenuto are also co-authors of an article-length manuscript examining popular histories of contemporary Kenya produced by the American Far Right and by the Luo cultural lobby in response to the election of Barack Obama.
Her new research project examines how African asylum-seekers appearing in immigration courts in North America and Europe and before UNCHR protection officers across the globe have mobilized witchcraft beliefs as a basis for asylum claims. Dr. Luongo is the author of an article-length manuscript, “Border-Crossing Beliefs: Witchcraft in the Global Arena of Asylum.” She has presented her new research at the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, McGill University, the African Studies Association Annual Meeting, and the workshop on “Witchcraft, Belonging and Citizenship in a Global World,” at the Université de Louvain. She is also on the steering committee of the 2012 Conable Conference on International Studies – “Refugees, Asylum Law, and Expert Testimony: The Construction of Africa & the Global South in Comparative Perspective.”
Dr. Luongo teaches undergraduate courses on precolonial and modern African history, the history of urban Africa, and world history. She teaches graduate courses on modern African history and anthropological history.