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Emily Burrill
205 Smith Bldg
CB #3135
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

919-962-3908 (phone)
919-962-5839 (fax)

Associate Professor
Department of Women’s and Gender Studies
Department of History


B.A., Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College, 1997

M.A., History, University of Vermont, 2001

Ph.D., History, Stanford University, 2007

Areas of interest:

modern African history, West Africa, legal and gender history, French empire, global histories of women’s rights, postcolonialism, feminist theory.


Emily Burrill’s research centers on twentieth century francophone West Africa and histories of gender and power within colonial and postcolonial contexts. She is the author of States of Marriage: Gender, Justice, and Rights in Colonial Mali (Ohio U. Press, 2015). States of Marriage is the 2016 winner of the Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize from the French Colonial Historical Society, which recognizes the best book dealing with the French colonial experience from 1815 to the present. In the book, Burrill takes up marriage as a cultural practice related to value, exchange, and belief, as well as an instrument for managing rights, obligations, and privileges between individuals and political communities. She examines how the contours of marriage reform in French Soudan (colonial Mali) can be traced through transformations in the colonial court system and local African engagements with state-making processes. Burrill is currently working on a book-length project on themes of gender, mobility, and belonging in post-WWII Francophone West Africa. Her research has been funded by fellowships through Fulbright, Mellon, and the Institute of Arts and Humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Select Publications:

2016. “Historicizing Social Justice and the Longue Durée of Forced Marriage in Africa.” In Marriage By Force?: Contestation Over Consent and Coercion in Africa. Ed. Annie Bunting, et al. Ohio University Press.

2015. States of Marriage: Gender, Justice, and Rights in Colonial Mali. Ohio University Press.

2010. Emily Burrill, Richard Roberts, and Elizabeth Thornberry, eds. Domestic Violence and the Law in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa. Ohio University Press.

2008. “‘Wives of Circumstance’: Slave Emancipation, Vulnerability, and Gender in Late Nineteenth Century Senegal,” Slavery and Abolition, 29 (1): 49-64.

2007. “Disputing Wife Abuse: Tribunal Narratives of the Corporal Punishment of Wives in Colonial Sikasso, 1930s,” Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines, 47 (3-4): 603-622.

Teaching areas:

Gender and Imperialism

African Gender History

Women and the Law in Africa and the Middle East

Feminist Approaches to the Past

Women and Islam in Africa