Sean Hanretta

Associate Professor of African History

At Stanford Since

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison; M.A., University of Wisconsin; B.A., The Colorado College

Bio Sketch:

Sean Hanretta received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He specializes in the intellectual and cultural history of West Africa. His particular interests are the history of Islam in West Africa and of West African religions more generally. Past research has focused on Sufism in Francophone West Africa. His current projects focus on Islamic political identity in Accra, on wedding and funeral reform in the Gold Coast/Ghana, and the history of higher education in West Africa. He also has strong interests in historical theory and methodology and the history of the African diaspora.

Courses Taught

  • Islam and Christianity in Africa
  • Nationalism, Pan-Africanism and Beyond
  • Africa in the Twentieth Century
  • History without Documents
  • African History through Literature and Film (intro sem)
  • History of Death and Dying
  • Capitalism and Its Discontents

Selected Publications


  • Islam and Social Change in French West Africa: History of an Emancipatory Community (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Developing Love and Death: Ghanaian Muslim Weddings and Funerals in an Age of Reform (in preparation)

Recent Articles:

  • “‘Kaffir’ Renner’s Conversion: Being Muslim in Public in Colonial Ghana,” Past & Present no. 210 (Feb., 2011), 187-220.
  • “Gender and Agency in the History of a West African Sufi Community: The Followers of Yacouba Sylla,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 50:2 (2008), 478-508.
  • “’To Never Shed Blood’: Yacouba Sylla, Félix Houphouët-Boigny and Islamic Modernization in Côte d’Ivoire,” Journal of African History 49:2 (2008), 281-304.
  • “Muslim Histories, African Societies: the Venture of Islamic Studies in Africa,” Journal of African History 46 (2005), 479-492.


  • Mellon Fellow, 1995-1996
  • SSRC Fellow, 1998-1999, 2000-2001
  • Fulbright Fellow, 2000-2001