Marissa J. Moorman

Professor, Department of History

Department of History

IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

I am a historian of southern Africa. My research focuses on the intersection between politics and culture in colonial and independent Angola. My book Intonations (Ohio University Press, 2008) explores how music was a practice in and through which Angolans living under extreme political repression imagined the nation and how the particularities of music and historical moment cast this process in gendered terms. In other words, I am interested in the ways that cultural practice is productive of politics and not just derivative of it. Much of my evidence comes from interviews with musicians and consumers of music and I explore how memory, experience, and pleasure shape politics and history.

I am currently working on a book project entitled Powerful Frequencies: Radio, State Power, and the Cold War in Angola, 1933-2002 which looks at the relationship between the technology of radio and the shifting politics of southern Africa as anti-colonial movements established independent states in the context of a region newly charged by Cold War politics. This book attends to state dynamics of consolidation through techno-political processes and the human interferences that jam those grand plans.

My work looks at different media and how their uses, the practices and meanings people develop around them, and their relationship to power shift over time. Whether music, radio, film, or photography (sound or visual), I am interested in questions of mediation of presents that become pasts and the past as a discipline of study.

I have published on music, fashion, film, radio, and urban space. I serve on the editorial collective of the Radical History Review and on the editorial board of Africa is a Country where I also contribute as a blogger.   

Honors and Awards

  • College Arts and Humanities Institute Faculty Fellowship, 2015
  • College Arts and Humanities Institute Workshop Grant for Abderrahmane Sissako: a Retrospective, 2014
  • American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), 2010-2011
  • Fulbright Hays Faculty Research Abroad, 2010-2011
  • New Frontiers Grant in the Arts and Humanities (2007), Tuning in to Nation: Radio Technology and Politics in Angola, 1961-2002
  • Project on African Expressive Traditions (2005)
  • Dissertation Fellowship on Social Science and the Arts, Social Science Research Council (2001-02)

Research Interests

  • Popular cultural practices and politics
  • History of media/history and media
  • Gender, sexuality, Africa and nation


  • Ph.D. at University of Minnesota, 2004

Courses Taught

  • African Popular Culture
  • Mandela: Media Icon
  • Blessing or Curse? African Oil
  • African Histories of Technology
  • African History and Film
  • Politics and Culture in African History
  • Gender and Sexuality in African History


  • “Intimating Nationalism: Gender in the MPLA's maquis,” in Pantoja, Selma; Bergamo, Edvaldo A.; Silva, Ana Cláudia (org.). Angola e as angolanas: memória, sociedade e cultura. São Paulo: Intermeios, 2016.

  • “Along the Edges of Comparison,” in Jon Soske and Sean Jacobs, eds., Apartheid/Israel: the Politics of an Analogy (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015).

  • “City Building in Post-Conflict, Post-Socialist Luanda: Burying the past with phantasmagorias of the future,” with Anne Pitcher in Ntone Edjabe and Edgar Pieterse, eds., African Cities Reader III: Land, Property, & Value (Johannesburg: Chimurenga, December 2014 online, in print 2015).

  • "Anatomy of Kuduro: Articulating the Angolan Body Politic After the War," African Studies Review 57(3), December 2014: 21-40.
  • “Airing the Politics of Nation: Radio in Angola Past and Present,” chapter 15 in Liz Gunner, Dumisani Moyo and Dina Ligaga, eds., Radio in Africa: Publics, Cultures, Communities (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, November 2011): 238-255.
  • Intonations: a Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, 1945-Recent Times. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2008 (praise for the book)
  • “Dueling Bands and Good Girls: Gender and Music in Luanda’s musseques, 1961-74,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 37(2), 2004: 255-88.
  • “Putting on a pano and Dancing Like Our Grandparents: Dress and Nation in Late Colonial Luanda,” in Jean Allman, ed., Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 84-103.
  • “Of Westerns, Women and War: Resituating Angolan Cinema and the Nation,” Research in African Literature 32(3), Fall 2001: 103-22.

Other Activities

  • Editor and contributor to the blog Africa is a Country:
  • member of the NEMLIA (New Media and Literary Initiatives in Africa) working group of IU African Studies Program: a faculty-led initiative dedicated to exploring the important-but-little-understood relationships between the different modes of literary and media production in literature, film, photography, art, and music as well as issues of intellectual property, copyright, piracy and access.