John Hanson

Professor, Department of History

Department of History

IU, IU Bloomington

Full Biography

My research explores the religious imagination and social initiatives of Muslims in western Africa. My current projects focus on the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a trans-national Islamic movement that gained a significant following in twentieth century Ghana; previously I analyzed Muslim Sufi movements in nineteenth century Senegal and Mali. I also reflect on historical methods and am co-editor of History in Africa: A Journal of Method.  My teaching concerns the full range of transformations associated with Africa during the last six hundred years. I also am interested in Middle Eastern history and hold an adjunct appointment in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

Honors and Awards

  • John W. Ryan Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Studies, IU, 2011
  • Fellow, National Humanities Center, 2009-10
  • Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad fellowship, 2005
  • Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, 2004
  • Trustee's Teaching Award, IU, 2001

Research Interests

  • Africa
  • Religion
  • Intellectual and cultural


  • Ph.D. at Michigan State University, 1989

Courses Taught

  • African Civilizations; and African History I: Ancient Empires and City-States
  • History of Christianity in Africa; and History of Islam in Africa
  • History of Western Africa
  • Graduate colloquiums and seminars on African religious identities; memory and literacy: colonial encounters



  • Friday Prayers at Wa (CD-ROM unit), in Patrick McNaughton, John Hanson, dele jegede, Ruth Stone, and N. Brian Winchester, Five Windows Into Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000).
  • Migration, Jihad and Muslim Authority in West Africa; the Futanke Colonies in Karta 
  • (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).
  • After the Jihad: The Reign of Ahmad al-Kabir in the Western Sudan, an anthology of Arabic documents, edited, translated into English and annotated by John Hanson and David Robinson (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1991).


  • 'Sub-Saharan Africa after World War One,' in Francis Robinson, ed., New Cambridge History of Islam, Volume Five, Islam in the Age of Western Domination (Michael Cook, series ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
  • 'Modernity, religion and development in Ghana: the example of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community,' Ghana Studies, Volume 12/13 (2009/10), 55-75
  • 'Jihad and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community: non-violent efforts to promote Islam in the contemporary world,' Nova Religio, Volume 14 (2007), 77-93
  • 'Islam, migration and the political economy of meaning: fergo Nioro from the Senegal River valley, 1862-1890,” Journal of African History, Volume 35, no. 1 (1994), 37-60.