Ph.D., Boston University

B.A., St. John’s College (Annapolis)

Research Interests

Professor Cooper is interested in intersections between culture and political economy, focusing upon the intertwined histories of gender, law, health, religion, agriculture and family life.

Biographical Notes

Barbara Cooper’s undergraduate and graduate training ranges from the “great books” of the Western tradition to the languages and cultures of Africa, with detours into experiential learning and art school. Her doctoral work at the African Studies Center of Boston University exposed her to the Hausa language, the political economy of agriculture, and the anthropology of gender. Professor Cooper’s research draws upon both oral and archival sources to reconstruct the social and cultural history of West Africa. Her focus is on the former French colonies of the Sahel, particularly Niger, where she has conducted fieldwork for thirty years. She is the author of three books and numerous articles and chapters on the history of Niger and the Sahel.

Awards, Fellowships, and Grants

  • Melville J. Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association for the best book published in 2006 (Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel)
  • Finalist for the African Studies Association Herskovits Award for the best book published in 1997 (Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in a Hausa Society in Niger, 1900-1989)
  • Resident Fellow Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Paris, France, Spring 2015.
  • Resident Fellow, IAU College, Aix-en-Provence, France, Spring 2014.
  • Enseignant invité, Université de Paris 8, May 2013.
  • Mellon New Directions Fellowship 2008-2010 for training in demography and public health for future research on history of debates about reproduction in the Sahel.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 1998.

Selected Publications

  • Countless Blessings: A History of Childbirth and Reproduction in the Sahel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019)
  • Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel. (Indiana University Press, 2006)
  • Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in a Hausa Society in Niger, 1900-1989. Portsmouth: Heinemann (Social History of Africa Series, 1997)
  • “Chronic nutritional crisis and the trope of the bad mother,” in Jean-Herve Jezequel and Xavier Crombe eds., A Not-So Natural Disaster: Niger 2005 (Columbia University Press 2009)
  • "La rhétorique de la ‘mauvaise mère’," in /Niger 2005 Une catastrophe si naturelle/, Xavier Crombé and Jean-Hervé Jézéquel (eds.), Karthala, 2007, 199-226.
  • “The Strength in the Song: Muslim Personhood, Audible Capital and Hausa Women’s Performance of the Hajj,” in Gendered Modernities: Ethnographic Perspectives, edited by Dorothy Hodgson, Palgrave, 2001, 79-104.
  • “Le genre sexuel, le mouvement et l’histoire: transformations sociales et spatiales au XXè siècle à Maradi au Niger,” translated by Denise Ganderton and reprinted in Géographies Anglo-Saxonnes: Tendances contemporaines, edited by Jean-Francois Staszak et al, Belin, 2001, 80-94.

Professional Affiliations

  • AHA
  • African Studies Association
  • West Africa Research Association

Courses Offered


  • 01:508:220 Ancient Africa
  • 01:508:222 Modern Africa
  • 01:508:224 Women and Gender in African History
  • 01:508:326 Islam in African History
  • 01:508:429 Research in African Historical Studies


  • 16:510:539 Colloquium in Women's & Gender History
  • 16:510:625 Colloquium in African History