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Robyn Pariser



My research focuses on labor, gender, and urbanization in colonial and post-colonial East Africa. My current research project, Houseboy: Domestic Service and Masculinity in 20th Century Dar es Salaam, constructs a history of the largest occupational group in Tanzania’s colonial capital—domestic servants. I investigate how domestic service changed from being a well-paid, respected occupation in the early years of colonial rule to cheap work at the bottom of the urban labor hierarchy, and examine the struggle between servants and the state over labor standards and servants’ status as workers. My analysis of correspondence between servants and state officials, union documents and petitions, labor legislation, personal memories, and official discussions about domestic service in Dar es Salaam sheds new light on the shifting visions and meanings of work and masculinity in the colonial era. Complicating accepted paradigms of African labor and colonial rule, my research reveals that the state possessed multiple, conflicting images of African labor and African laborers. Moreover, African notions of honor and masculinity became increasingly tied not only to work, but to permanent, regulated wage labor and ideas of time.

I teach African and World History. I currently teach “HIST 371: African History to 1850,” “HIST 372: African History Since 1850,” and “HIST 385: Violence in African History” at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Before coming to UT-Knoxville, I was a Visiting Lecturer at Georgia State University, where I taught “World History to 1500.” I also taught introductory and upper–level courses in African and World History at Emory University and Morehouse College, where I was a Mellon Teaching Fellow.

When I am not working, you can usually find me rock climbing.


PhD, Emory University 2013

MA, Emory University 2011

BA, University of Florida 2007

Selected Publications

  • “Masculinity and Organized Resistance in Domestic Service in Colonial Dar es Salaam, 1919-1961,” International Labour and Working Class History 88 (2015).
  • “The Servants Problem: African Servants and the Making of European Domesticity in Colonial Tanganyika,” in Towards a Global History of Domestic and Car Workers, edited by Marcel van der Linden (Leiden: Brill, 2015).

Contact Information

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