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Assistant Professor
Pauli Murray Hall 501
Office Hours: W 1:00-2:30pm, F 9:15-10:45 am and by appointment
ljarvis@email.unc.edu
Curriculum Vitae

Education

BA Duke University, 2005
PhD Stanford University, 2012

Research Interests

I am a social and cultural historian, interested in religion and economic inequality in South Africa. My first book is A Prophet of the People: Isaiah Shembe and the Making of a South African Church. It follows the famous prophet Isaiah Shembe (c. 1868-1935) across the places he lived, visited, and learned to avoid to show how he became an emblem of a rapidly changing South Africa.

Studying Shembe offered a window into how rural South Africans rallied around a leader who modeled a different distribution of resources than many of his contemporaries. This observation spurred my interest in charting other ways that people have pushed for a fairer distribution of resources in South Africa’s past. My next book project will trace the shifting ways that Africans pursued economic equality (or something closer to it) from 1800 through the present. These pursuits ranged from strategies of mobility and appeals to imperial officials to, later, the transnational activism of the anti-apartheid movement. This book aims to show how, for two centuries, Africans have shaped debates about economic inequality by the movement of bodies, words, and ideas across borders.

Some Notable Publications

  • A Prophet of the People: Isaiah Shembe and the Making of a South African Church (Michigan State University Press 2024)
  • “Popular Christianity and Populist Politics in Southern Africa” Religious Studies Review 49:1 (March 2023): 7-9.
  • “A Not-so-Zulu Zion: Ethnicity and Belonging in Isaiah Shembe’s Nazaretha Church,” Journal of Southern African Studies 47:6 (2021): 1083-1098.
  • “The Nazaretha, Zionists, and Other Rebels in Segregated South Africa,” Oxford Handbook of South African History, ed. Daniel Magaziner (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), 1-14.

Graduate Students

  • This faculty member is accepting applicants for the 2024-2025 application cycle
  • Laura Cox
  • Kaela Thuney (Co-advised with Lisa A. Lindsay)

Courses Taught (as schedule allows)

For current information about course offerings, click here.

  • HIST 130 – Twentieth Century Africa
  • HIST 279 – Modern South Africa
  • HIST 534 – African Diaspora