Yale University Department of Anthropology

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    Yale Universityhttp://www.yale.edu

Mike McGovern

Associate Professor of Anthropology with tenure

Ph.D. Emory University, 2004


Office address:
10 Sachem Street, Room 120
Tel: (203) 432-3686
Fax: (203) 432-3669

Media Page



McGovern is a political anthropologist who works in West Africa and uses a variety of sources from kinship idioms to the aesthetics of state-sponsored folklore to try to understand postcolonial states within the arc of longer historical trajectories. His first book focuses on the dramaturgy, sociology, and political economy of the Ivorian civil conflict, and is entitled Making War in Côte d'Ivoire (U Chicago Press, April 2011). He has recently finished a book on the Republic of Guinea entitled Unmasking the State, which traces the intertwined processes of state formation and ethnogenesis in Guinea over the course of the 20th century. His third book, provisionally titled Enemies Within and Without:  Explaining why Guinea did not Go to War, argues that certain elements of Guinea's socialist past may have helped to inoculate the country against dynamics that have favored the outbreak of civil conflict elsewhere.  Recent book chapters and articles have focused on the afterlife of authoritarian regimes in Guinean political practices and imaginaries; the politics of popular music in Côte d'Ivoire; the use of threats of international prosecution as a means of creating political leverage in the Ivorian conflict; and the interplay of Islamist conversion, local politics, and US counterterrorism policy in West Africa.

After completing a B.A. at Columbia, M.St. at Oxford and Ph.D. at Emory, he worked from 2004-2006 as the West Africa Project Director of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank that analyzes the causes of armed conflict. In that position he researched and wrote papers on post-conflict reconstruction in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the social reintegration of ex-combatant youths, Liberian security sector reform, and the links between political economy and political rhetoric in Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire.

McGovern is the Director of Graduate Studies of African Studies. His teaching focuses on politics, expressive culture, youth and rebellion. In addition to the courses listed below, in 2010-11 he will be teaching or co-teaching ANTH 500a "Seminar in Sociocultural Anthropology: Historicizing the Discipline, Theorizing its History" and ANTH 541a "Agrarian Societies: Culture, Power, History and Development." He currently supervises PhD students working on a variety of topics in West and East Africa.

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Anthropology of Time
The State in Africa
Bandits, Rebels and Freedom Fighters: Anthropologies of Insurgency
Power, Violence, Cosmology

Making War in Côte d'Ivoire

University of Chicago Press, 2011

Recent & Featured Publications

McGovern M, 2011. Popular Development Economics—An Anthropologist among the Mandarins.  Perspectives on Politics, Volume 9, Issue 2, pages 345–355.

McGovern M, 2011. Writing about conflict in Africa.  Africa, Volume 81, Issue 2, pages 314–330.


McGovern M (2012) Turning the clock back or breaking with the Past?: Charismatic Temporality and Elite Politics in Côte d’Ivoire and the United States. Cultural Anthropology. 27(2). 239-260. [doi:10.1111/j.1548-1360.2012.01142.x]

McGovern M (2011) Popular Development Economics—An Anthropologist among the Mandarins.  Perspectives on Politics. 9(2), June 2011. 345-355. [doi:10.1017/S1537592711000594]

McGovern M (2011) Writing about conflict in Africa: Stakes and strategies.  Africa. 81(2): 314-30. [doi:10.1017/S0001972011000052]

McGovern M (2011) The Ivorian Endgame: Can Ouattara Rebuild a Shattered Country?

McGovern article in Politique Africaine on Guinea's 2007 citizen uprisings

McGovern article in Politique Africaine on anti-refugee attacks and the dual rhetorical legacy of the Guinean socialist government

McGovern M. (2010) This Is Play:  Popular Culture and Politics in Cote d'Ivoire. in Hard Work, Hard Times:  Global Volatility and African Subjectivities.  Makhulu, Anne-Maria, Buggenhagen, Beth A., & Jackson, Stephen, eds. Global, Area, and International Archive.