Faculty Steering Committee

Co-Chair, Faculty Steering Committee, Columbia Global Centers | Nairobi; Herbert Lehman Prof. of Govt. and Prof. of Anthropology, Dept. of Anthropology, Dept. of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, and SIPA.

Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1974 and specializes in the study of African history and politics. His works explore the intersection between politics and culture, a comparative study of colonialism since 1452, the history of civil war and genocide in Africa, the Cold War and the War on Terror, and the history and theory of human rights. Prior to joining the Columbia faculty, Mamdani was a professor at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania (1973-79), Makerere University in Uganda (1980-1993), and the University of Cape Town (1996-1999). He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being listed as one of the “Top 20 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy (US) and Prospect (UK) magazine in 2008. From 1998 to 2002 he served as President of CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa). His essays have appeared in the New Left Review and the London Review of books, among other journals.

He teaches courses on: major debates in the study of Africa; the modern state and the colonial subject; the Cold War and the Third World; the theory, history, and practice of human rights; and civil wars and the state in Africa.

Co-Chair, Prof. of Epidemiology and Sociomedical Sciences; Director of the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP); Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiologic Research (CIDER) at Mailman School of Public Health

Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr's activities focus on various aspects of the HIV and tuberculosis epidemics domestically and globally. She led the development of several international programs focused on development of HIV care and treatment programs in several resource-limited countries. Her focus has been the development of programs that address the needs of adults and children by using a family-focused model of care provided by well-trained multidisciplinary teams of providers. Dr. El-Sadr has also championed the establishment of care programs that integrate the management of tuberculosis in HIV care programs. Dr. El-Sadr's has focused on both domestic as well as international issues related to HIV and tuberculosis. The programs she established at Harlem Hospital Center in New York City have informed her international efforts. Dr. El-Sadr has extensive research experience. She has received funding from National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations and foundations. Her research work has focused on identification of strategies for management of HIV disease and for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis. She is a founding member of the NIH-funded Community Programs for Clinical Research on AIDS (CPCRA), a research network committed to providing access to research to underrepresented populations. She leads a unit of the NIH-funded HIV Prevention trials network where her work has focused on microbicide research. She is also an established researcher for the CDC-funded Tuberculosis Treatment Consortiuma and the Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium. Dr. El-Sadr has authored many articles in professional journals and serves on numerous professional committees.

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Barnard College

Séverine Autesserre joined the faculty of Barnard College in July 2007. Prior to coming to Barnard, she was a postdoctoral associate and lecturer at Yale University where she conducted research on civil and international wars, international intervention, and African politics. Her teaching duties at Barnard include such courses as Aid, Violence, and Politics in Africa (Colloquium); Senior Research Seminar in International Relations; and Civil Wars and International Interventions in Africa. She also teaches a seminar on civil wars and peace settlements at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. She is affiliated with the Barnard's Africana studies program, Columbia's Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies, and Columbia's Institute of African Studies.

Autesserre’s current research project examines how various shared cultures and practices influence peacebuilding interventions on the ground, with a primary case study on the eastern Congo and comparative research on South Sudan, Burundi, and Cyprus. She has published an article on this topic in Critique Internationale and conducted extensive fieldwork for this project in 2010 - 2011. Professor Autesserre's previous research project focused on local violence and international intervention in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she has traveled regularly since 2001. It culminated in the book The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press, 2010), which won the Chadwick Alger prize presented by the International Studies Association to the best book on international organizations and multilateralism published in 2010. Research for this project has also appeared in Foreign Affairs, International Organization, the Review of African Political Economy, the African Studies Review, the African Security Review, the Revista de Relaciones Internationales, and the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs.

Dean of The School of Arts and Professor of the Arts

Carol Becker is Dean of Faculty and Professor of the Arts at Columbia University School of the Arts. She was previously Dean of Faculty and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs as well as Professor of Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She earned her B.A. in English literature from State University of New York at Buffalo and her PhD in English and American literature from the University of California, San Diego. With research interests that range from feminist theory, American cultural history, the education of artists, art and social responsibility, to South African art and politics, she has published numerous articles and books on cultural criticism including: The Invisible Drama: Women and the Anxiety of Change (translated into seven languages); The Subversive Imagination: Artists, Society and Social ResponsibilityZones of Contention: Essays on Art, Institutions, Gender, and AnxietySurpassing the Spectacle: Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art and Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production. She lectures extensively in the U.S. and abroad and is the recipient of numerous awards. She also is a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Art in Society for the World Economic Forum.

Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs; Professor of History

Christopher L. Brown, professor, specializes in the history of eighteenth century Britain, the early modern British Empire, and the comparative history of slavery and abolition, with secondary interests in the age of revolutions and the history of the Atlantic world. He is now at work on two projects, one on British experience along the West African coast in the era of the Atlantic slave trade, and a second on the decline and fall of the British Planter class in the era of abolition and emancipation.


Marina Cords studies the social behavior and behavioral ecology of primates. She is interested in both proximate and ultimate explanations of social systems and social cooperation, particularly in animals (like primates) that form long-lasting individualized social relationships. Her work on proximate mechanisms has addressed behavior that maintains cohesiveness within social groups, paying special attention to grooming, dominance, reconciliation after aggression, and conventions of ownership that settle potential conflicts of interest before they escalate. Her work on ultimate explanations of behavior concerns reproductive and social strategies (both within and between groups) among forest guenons, especially blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis). Dr. Cords is also interested in social and ecological relations between species. She has carried out behavioral experiments with captive monkeys as well as field research on a population of wild guenons in an East African forest since 1979.

Dean of Science, Faculty of Arts & Sciences; Thomas Alva Edison/Con Edison Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professor deMenocal has received several research awards throughout his Columbia career as a faculty member and, previously, a Ph.D. student, including the Bruce Heezen Award for excellent graduate research at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in 1989, the Flint Lectureship at Yale in 2006, and the Elsevier Top 50 highly cited paper award in 2007 for his paper “African Climate Change and Faunal Evolution During the Pliocene-Pleistocene,” published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. In addition to his award-winning paper on African climate change and faunal evolution, deMenocal cites the following works that he co-authored as representative of his work: “The Pliocene Paradox: Mechanisms for a Permanent El Nino,” published in Science in 2006; “Biomarker Records of Late Neogene Changes in Northeast African Vegetation,” published in Geology in 2005; and “Cultural Responses to Climate Change During the Late Holocene” published in Science in 2001.


As a professor and vice chair in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, deMenocal teaches graduate courses related to his research, in addition to the undergraduate courses Frontiers of Science and Science and Society. He says of his experience teaching the Columbia core course Frontiers of Science: “It’s one of the most exciting teaching opportunities for me because I have access to one thousand incredibly bright students. We really do give them the frontier of research, and I think the students appreciate being given an inside track on what they certainly think is relevant.”


Peter deMenocal serves the Earth Institute as a member of the Earth Institute faculty. He earned his B.S. in geology cum laude at St. Lawrence University in 1982, his M.S. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island in 1986 and his Ph.D. in geology from Columbia University in 1991. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by St. Lawrence University in 2009.

Assistant Professor, Columbia School of Journalism

Howard French received his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. He worked as a French-English translator in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in the early 1980s, and taught English literature at the University of Ivory Coast. His career in journalism began as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and many other publications in West Africa. He was hired by The New York Times in 1986, and worked as a metropolitan reporter for three years, and from 1990 to 2008 reported for The Times as bureau chief for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, Japan and the Koreas, and China in Shanghai. During this time, his work was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; he was twice the recipient of an Overseas Press Club Award, and he has also won the Grantham Environmental Award, among other awards. From 2005 to 2008 alongside his work for The Times, Mr. French was a weekly columnist on global affairs for the International Herald Tribune.

He is the author of  "A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa" (2004), which was named non-fiction book of the year by several newspapers, and won the 2005 American Library Association Black Caucus Award for Non-Fiction, and was runner up for the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage and for the Hurston Wright Foundation's non-fiction prize. Other awards include an honorary doctorate from the University of Maryland. His work has been published in The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Transition, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Crisis, and Travel and Leisure. He is also a documentary photographer, whose work, "Disappearing Shanghai," has been displayed in Asia, Europe and North America. French is a fellow of the Open Society Foundations and is presently researching a book about Chinese migration to Africa, under contract with Alfred A. Knopf.


Associate Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies

Kai Kresse studied Philosophy, Anthropology, African Studies and German Literature in Hamburg, Vienna and London, and taught at Hamburg and SOAS. His ethnographic research focuses mainly on East Africa and the Swahili coast in contemporary Kenya, with a view to wider African and Indian Ocean contexts. Conceptually, he has developed a general approach for the anthropology of philosophy, in his book Philosophising in Mombasa (2007). Other research strands involve the investigation of historical axes and social networks across the Indian Ocean, Swahili texts in social and historical context, Islam in East Africa, African literature, knowledge and intellectual practice, African philosophy, cultural philosophy and philosophical anthropology. He has published widely in these fields. He is a co-editor of the book series Society and History in the Indian Ocean (Hurst and Columbia University Press), a co-editor of the online journal polylog: journal for intercultural philosophy (www.polylog.org), and is on the advisory board for the journals Islamic Africa (Evanston University Press), Africa: Journal for the International African Institute (Cambridge University Press) and the book series Welten der Philosophie (Alber Verlag).

Professor of Mechanical Engineering


Prof. Vijay Modi is leading the Earth Institute’s efforts that cut across energy, rural infrastructure and development. He led the UN Millennium Project (MP) effort on the role of energy and energy services in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). Currently, he is focused on three projects: leading the infrastructure team for the Millennium Villages Project (10 countries, 14 sites across sub-Saharan Africa); developing planning and decision-support tools for infrastructure; and looking at the food-energy-water nexus in Indian agriculture.

Modi’s areas of expertise are energy sources and conversion, heat/mass transfer and fluid mechanics. In addition to the projects above, he leads projects in: energy technologies for sustainable development; energy infrastructure, design & planning; solar energy; energy, food & water nexus; technology & intervention; adoption, diffusion and impact assessment. His primary geographic regions are India and Africa. Modi also works on projects in water (with fellow Earth Institute Faculty Member, Professor Upmanu Lall), urban infrastructure and energy consumption (through the IGERT program led by Professor Trish Culligan), optics of concentrated solar energy, and software systems for m-Health with lab colleague Matt Berg. He has authored or co-authored numerous journal papers, and served as the principal or co-principal of a number of research grants from government and industry.

Professor of Anthropology


Rosalind Morris focuses her fieldwork in two main areas: South Africa and mainland Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. Her earlier scholarship focused on the history of modernity in Southeast Asia and the place of the mass media in its development, particularly in the encounter between old and new forms of mediation. More recently, she has been writing an ethnography of South Africa’s mining communities. Traversing these fields of inquiry, her work addresses questions of the relationships between value and violence; aesethetics and the political; the sexualization of power and desire; and the history of anthropological thought and social theory. In her formally wide-ranging writings on all of these issues, she attends specifically to the problem of language, and the matter of representation.

Rosalind Morris has served as a Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, an Associate Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and is the former co-editor of CONNECT: art, politics, theory, culture.  She is also the founding editor of ‘The Africa List,’ for Seagull Books.

Dean of Social Science; Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies

Alondra Nelson is dean of Social Science and professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University, where she has served as director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Prior to joining Columbia, Nelson was on the faculty of Yale University from 2003-2009 and received the Poorvu Family Award for teaching excellence.

An interdisciplinary social scientist, she writes about the intersections of science, technology, medicine, and inequality. These themes are taken up in her most recent book, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination, which was recognized with four professional prizes, including the Mirra Komarovsky Book Award from the Eastern Sociological Society and the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award from the Race, Class and Gender section of the American Sociological Association. Also named a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award, Body and Soul is the first book-length exploration of the radical organization’s health-focused activities.

Her next book, The Social Life of DNA: Race and Reconciliation after the Genome, is forthcoming from Beacon Press in 2015. Drawing on interviews and fieldwork, this book traces how claims about heritage and ancestry are marshaled together with genetic analysis in a range of social ventures, including kin-keeping, reparations politics, citizenship projects, and public commemoration.

Alondra is also an editor of Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History; Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life; and “Afrofuturism,” a special issue of Social Text on technology and cultural politics. Nelson is the author of more than a dozen articles and chapters on topics ranging from the use of racial categories in medicine and the social implications of direct-to-consumer genetic testing to the intersection of genetic genealogy and social media. In addition, her essays, reviews, and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Science, Scientific American, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dissent and the Guardian, among others venues.

Nelson serves on the editorial boards of the journals Social Studies of Science and Social Text. She is a council member of the Eastern Sociological Society; serves on the advisory board of the Data & Society Research Institute, and is a member of the NSF-funded Council for Big Data, Ethics and Society. At Columbia, she is a member of the governing board of The Society of Fellows in the Humanities and of the executive committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

An internationally recognized scholar, she has been a visiting fellow at BIOS: Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society at the London School of Economics; the Bavarian-American Academy; the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science; and the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies. She is also the recipient of Ford, Woodrow Wilson, and Mellon fellowships. Nelson received her B.A. in Anthropology (magna cum laude), from the University of California, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University in 2003.

Associate Professor, Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology

Dustin is a behavioral and evolutionary ecologist who studies the causes and consequences of sociality in animals. He is interested in social behavior, mating systems, and sexual selection among other topics. He currently works primarily on African starlings at the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya, and snapping shrimp throughout the Caribbean. He has conducted fieldwork throughout Africa and Central America, as well as in the Galapagos Islands working on birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and crustaceans. He combines intensive field work and modeling with a variety of lab techniques, including molecular genetics, endocrinology, immunology, and stable isotope analysis. Dustin received an AB from Dartmouth College in 1999, followed by a year in the Galapagos Islands as a Reynolds Scholar conducting independent research. He received his PhD in 2006 as a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. He then moved to the University of California, Berkeley as a Miller Research Fellow. In 2009, he joined the faculty at Columbia University.

Executive Director of International Affairs, Teachers College; Adjunct Assistant Professor, International & Transcultural Studies, Teachers College

Portia Williams is the executive director of International Affairs (OIA) and an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her current work explores internationalization practices within higher education, transnational cooperation, and strategic global mobility. With more than 20 years of experience in education and development, Williams has directed, advised, or collaborated on policy and program initiatives in East and Southern Africa, Eastern Europe, East and Southern Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. Williams holds a doctorate in International Educational Development and Policy Studies and an Ed.M in International Family and Community Education from Teachers College Columbia University. She also holds an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Williams is a former Spencer Research Fellow and David L. Boren Fellow. Her research investigates the politics of foreign aid and its impact on educational policy and teacher shortage.