Great Plains Virtual Affiliate Fellowship

The Kansas African Studies Center (KASC) is accepting proposals for the Great Plains Virtual Affiliate Fellowshipfor the Fall 2023 semester. The fellow will receive official KU affiliate status which will grant them remote and in-person access to KU Libraries and other resources. In addition, the fellow will receive an honorarium of $250 for a virtual presentation or exhibition of their work. KASC will highlight this presentation during the fellowship term and then archive it a gallery on the KASC website.  Although the topic of scholarship and research is open, KASC especially welcomes proposals related to our annual theme of Migration, Identity, and Citizenship.


The fellowship is open to educators and researchers at any post-secondary institution in the Great Plains region: that is, from Iowa in the north to the US-Mexico border in the South and from the Mississippi River in the east to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in the West. However, KASC will give preference to applicants from community colleges and Federally designated Minority-Serving Institutions. To apply for the fellowship, please send a CV and a 500-word description of your interest in being a KU affiliate to by the deadline of September 8, 2023.


Fall 2023 Fellow

Brian Norris
Associate Professor of Political Science at Lincoln University, Missouri

I hold a PhD from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies . I am currently an Associate Professor of Political Science at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, USA.
Brian Norris with

Dr. Norris' Research Statement

I am a political scientist, and my current research, described below, is funded by a Fulbright global scholar award. In it, I compare decentralization of government power in Mozambique and Colombia. My intellectual path to this topic has been circuitous.

I have two intellectual homes: area studies and comparative politics. Area studies emphasizes foreign language acquisition, extended periods abroad, and granular familiarity with systematic knowledge of a particular foreign country or region. Comparative politics, complementarily, gives us a theoretical vocabulary to understand what is universal among human societies and what is particular.  

My area studies background comes from a quarter century’s study of Latin America and includes study at the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, erstwhile proficiency in Quechua, and about 30 professional trips to the region.

My comparative politics background comes from study at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, and the application of methodological and conceptual tools from that training to fieldwork in India, Latin America, and Africa since 2014.

My object of study is the state, defined by Max Weber as a human community with a monopoly of legitimate force in a given territory. Nietzsche wrote that the state was the coldest of all cold monsters. Thus, more properly, my object of study is the democratic state, or the state that mitigates the worst characteristics identified by Nietzsche while still providing basic functions needed for collective living in a modernized and complex environment.

I utilize midrange theory and ethnographic field methods. Midrange theory is neither fully nomothetic, as is the abstract field of economics, nor fully ideographic, as are anthropology and history.

My fieldwork usually consists of unstructured interviews, which are identified through a snowballing methodology, and direct observation. The result is ethnographic data, which I synthesize with knowledge from an ‘all sources’ review of relevant area studies and appropriate theoretical knowledge.

This approach has allowed me to produce what I describe as a comparative ethnography of public administration in developing countries, which I explored in my first book, Prison Bureaucracies in the United Stated, Mexico, India, and Honduras (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2018).   

Since independence from Portugal in 1975, Frelimo—which was founded as a military force to expel the Portuguese—has controlled Mozambique’s national political institutions. If opposition parties, such as Renamo and MDM, are to share in Mozambique’s governance, therefore, it will for now be at the provincial and local levels. Mozambique has 11 provinces (akin to US states or Latin American departments) and 154 districts (akin to US counties or Latin American municipalities).

Both Colombia and Mozambique are post-conflict societies in which the government has had trouble making its presence felt in isolated rural areas. Both countries formally decentralized government institutions in the 1980s and 1990s, in part to respond to this institutional deficiency.

In 1986, Colombia changed the method of selecting 1,009 local officials throughout its national territory from appointment to direct election. Mozambique’s 1992 democratic constitution provided the legal framework for a multiparty democracy, and subsequent political negotiations provided for the election of local officials in 33 to 65 of the country’s 154 local districts.

However, Mozambique’s decentralization, which was always shallower by design, has been much more fitful and troubled in actual implementation. Election of mayors, called presidente do conselho in Mozambican Portuguese, has been limited to a subset of the 154 districts in the country, and all districts—whether possessing an elected mayor or not—have an administrator appointed by the partido no poder (party in national power), which has been Frelimo for the 48 years of Mozambican independence. Governors of Mozambican provinces, elected since 2019, similarly serve alongside centrally appointed secretaries of state. These subnational government institutions have been described by scholars of Mozambican as “bicephalous.”

Other roadblocks to more fundamental decentralizations have been erected in Mozambique. In 2019, both Frelimo and Renamo supported the change from direct election of mayors to indirect election of mayors by party list. In 2023, Frelimo reneged on a 2018 deal with Renamo to extend election of mayors to all of Mozambique’s 154 districts by 2024, leaving this reform which is codified in Mozambique’s constitution for an undefined time in the future.

What are the prospects for further decentralization in Mozambique? My research suggests that desire for decentralization, far from being an imposition of donor conditionality, has significant local support. For instance, one group of community leaders in rural Manjacaze told me of their desire to be ruled not by their current chefe de posto(chief of post), but by a more competent chefe de posto from a neighboring administrative division. Urban intellectuals, from the cosmopolitan and Frelimo-dominated Maputo to the opposition centers of Beira and Quelimane, publish scathing criticisms of Frelimo’s slow-walking decentralization reforms.

And decentralization has substantively increased, as between 1998 to 2023 the number of districts with elected officials has increased from 33, to 43, to 53, to the current 65.

Under Review:

The Journal of Global South Studies is reviewing my article manuscript, titled “Decentralization, Rural Areas, and National Political Integration in Mozambique, Colombia, and Bolivia”, and publisher of my first book, Lexington Books, is expecting a book proposal for Rural Politics in the Global South in October of 2023. 

Spring 2023 Fellow

Daria Trentini, PhD Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Drake University
My research adheres to a tradition in anthropology of being a repeat researcher, over many years, to a prescribed place and to the same social actors. This has allowed me to record transformations in the socio-political context of the city and in the life-trajectories of the people I have been working with.
Daria Trentini headshot

I hold a PhD in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, awarded in 2012. Between 2013 and 2016, I was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I am currently an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology in the Department for the Study of Culture and Society at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, USA.

I have conducted fieldwork research among the Makhuwa and Makonde people of Nampula city, in northern Mozambique, since 2005. My writing has explored the work and life of spirit healers in the wider cultural and social contextof northern Mozambique, and in relation to religion, history, violence, kinship, and statepower.

My research adheres to a tradition in anthropology of being a repeat researcher, over many years, to a prescribed place and to the same social actors. This has allowed me to record transformations in the socio-political context of the city and in the life-trajectories of the people I have been working with.

This perspective informs my first book, At Ansha’s. Life at the Mosque of a Spirit Healer in Northern Mozambique, that I published for the Medical Anthropology Series at Rutgers University Press. The book follows a tradition of ethnographic writing that foregrounds a single story as a point of entry for understanding an entire cultural and social world. AtAnsha’stakes the reader inside the hut of a female healer (her “spirit mosque”) in Nampula, where Ansha cures the resisting ailments of her patients, discloses fragments of her illness story, and engages the world outside her mosque. Structured around a series of events which occurred in Ansha’s spirit mosque, the book situates her story in relation to Mozambican history, the legacy of violence, structural adjustment programs, global and national health policies, and transformations in global Islam and Christianity.

My commitment to a certain model of ethnographic fieldwork is also reflected in published peer-review articles and ongoing research on competing Islamic discourses, the coexistence of Islam and matriliny, traditional understandings of and responses to children’s ailments, religious change, and memory.

I am currently working on a second book project, provisionally entitled “Spirituality, Memory and Power among the Makhuwa of northern Mozambique”. The book project focuses on a variety of discourses on and practices around spirit mediumship – illness narratives, spirit stories, religious conversion, family genealogies, healing sessions, private and public rituals, personal accounts of magic warfare – all analyzed as forms of historical consciousness through which Makhuwa mediums, and their patients not only reconnect with their ancient past but also refashion Mozambique’s recent historical events into their own history.


Main publications

"At Ansha’s: Life in the Spirit Mosque of a Healer in Mozambique (Medical Anthropology Series, Rutgers University Press, 2021) 

“Resisting deliverance. Majini spirits, matriliny and religious change in northern Mozambique”. In Fancello, S., & Gusman, A. (Eds.) Charismatic Healers in Contemporary Africa: Deliverance in Muslim and Christian Worlds (Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies). London: Bloomsbury (2022) pp. 91-108.

“I Am a Man of Both Sides: Female Power and Islam in the Life and Work of a Spirit Healer in Northern Mozambique”.International Feminist Journal of Politics23/2 (2021): 198–220.

“Muslims of the Mosque, Muslim of the Spirits: Competing Ideas of Being Muslim in Northern Mozambique.”Journal for Islamic Studies 35 (2016): 70–106.

“The Night War of Nampula: Vulnerable Children, Social Change, and Spiritual Insecurity in Northern Mozambique.”Africa, the Journal of the International Institute 86/3 (2016): 528–551.

Fall 2022 Fellow

Ryan Gibb
Assistant Professor of International Studies at Baker University

I hold a PhD in Political Science awarded in 2013 from the University of Kansas. I am currently an Associate Professor of International Studies at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas USA.
Ryan Gibbs headshot

Dr. Gibb's Research Statement

I have conducted fieldwork research in Uganda as Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad recipient and have enjoyed several returns since then. Students have joined me, too. In 2017 I took students to Uganda for Baker University course credit, and I hope to bring them with me again in 2024. This spring, I’ll be enjoying a sabbatical in Uganda, where I will conduct research and deepen professional networks which draw together Kansas and African communities. 

As a Great Plains Virtual Affiliate, I am interested in how candidates used social media as part of their presidential campaigns. Uganda’s President Museveni, and his party, the National Resistance Movement, continued their dominance at the polls in 2021, but a new, popular challenger, known as Bobbi Wine, brought attention to the importance of social media as part of a national political campaign. Indeed, his savvy use of Twitter and other social media propelled his message, and he gained national, youth support in a country with a young median age. Years earlier, another presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye, livestreamed his detention in his home prior to the formal start of the campaign, revolutionizing the way that opposition members would publicize mistreatment by the government. Social media provides information and mobilization tools which compel the government to be responsive, whether or not social media aids in fundamentally altering the country’s political makeup, as it did in the Arab Spring. 

There are several important contributions of this research. The research promises to advance an understanding of the use of social media in campaigns in Uganda and in Africa in general. In Uganda, social media has met with censorship like other media, and just as in other media, the government has successfully blocked both users’ access and journalists’ content by shutting down internet access as well as inhibiting popular use through taxation. These physical and bureaucratic hurdles illustrate the government’s rightful fear of social media as a political tool for information and mobilization, and my study serves explore how political parties used social media in the recent election.

I am most interested in the Facebook and Twitter presence of presidential candidates. To explore this social media content, I will employ text mining strategies that are used in communication studies, political science, and business – fields interested in marketing and narratives.


As an instructor at a small liberal arts college, I am committed to acting as a conduit between my students and the world. To that end, I help to direct them to East Africa. Bridging my research interests and my teaching interests is easy. For instance, this semester in my Global Problems class, students are teleconferencing with Ugandan students to discuss challenges that they face in the pursuit of their education. They discuss strategies to overcoming these challenges and often find out that they are more alike than different.

To further bring Uganda to my community, these students are working with Baldwin City library to educate the city about Uganda’s people and culture. We have four projects with the library to help to illustrate this. Global Problems students are educating Baldwin City kids with Uganda-themed games and puzzles. Global Problems students are educating the older members of the community by introducing them to Ugandan authors (via books and book reviews on display) and culture through a KiSwahili proverb tree. The tree’s leaves are KiSwahili proverbs on one side of the leaf with an English translation on the other side.

The Global Problems class, like my research, addresses very real challenges in Uganda. However, it is important to know the country for much more than just these things.  Introducing the community to the cultural and people of Uganda, as well as the struggles, helps to reduce inherent ‘othering’ that can occur when we just study problems. My work as a Fellow and instructor compels me to educate from this wholistic perspective.

2023. ‘Political Philosophy Through Memes: 21st Century Comics’, Political Science Educator –

APSA Political Science Education.


2022. Games without Frontiers: Simulations in the Classroom. James Fielder, Ryan Gibb, and

Mark Harvey, eds, Routledge Press.


2022. ‘Model Diplomacy in the Classroom’ in James Fielder, Ryan Gibb, and Mark Harvey, eds,

Games without Frontiers: Simulations in the Classroom. Routledge Press. 


2022. ‘All Experts on Deck: Best Practices for Invited Speakers Using Distance Education

Technology’ in Clementine Msengi, Grace Lartey, and Katherine Sprout, eds, Handbook of Research on Contemporary Issues in Multicultural and Global Education. IGI Global, Hershey Pennsylvania.


2019. ‘Semi-Structured Interviews and Modern Ugandan Land Law,’ SAGE Research Methods



2016. “The Elections in Uganda, February 2016,” Africa Spectrum. Vol 51, No. 2: 93-101.


Under Review

Under review.  ‘Parliamentary Power in a New East Africa.’ in Darlingtina Esiaka and Jamaine

Abidogun, eds, Africa Rising, Red Sea Press.


Under review. ‘Inferences from Big Data: Varieties of Democracy in Africa,’ SAGE Research Methods

Cases: Doing Research Online.