Pamela Blakely


Dr. Pamela Blakely has been teaching African Studies courses in art, folklore, and women’s history at the University of Pennsylvania for 27 years.  In the early 1990’s, she established the university’s Kiswahili language program while living as a Faculty Fellow at Van Pelt (now Gregory) College House with her family.  

Dr. Blakely has an abiding research interest in East and Central African languages and cultures.  She and her husband, Dr. Tom Blakely, lived as ethnographers for six years in southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaïre), actively participating in and documenting daily and ritual life in a rural farming community.  Her Fulbright and Social Science Research Council sponsored research on women’s song-dances in Báhêmbá funerary events reveals insider interpretations, aesthetic evaluations, and social significations of this previously overlooked women’s performance genre.  While in the Congo, she also worked on the design team that created the innovative North Shaba Project, a large USAID-funded grassroots rural development project.

Dr. Blakely received her Ph.D. from Indiana University in the African Studies Program and Folklore Institute.  She studied Kiswahili at Indiana University and at the University of Dar Es Salaam in preparation for field research in the Congo and learned to speak a second Bantu language, Kíhêmbá, during her field stay.  She completed her undergraduate degree at Harvard University in Fine Arts.

Dr. Blakely is a coauthor of Seeing Anthropology: Cultural Anthropology Through Film.  She is also Honors Program Coordinator and Professor of Anthropology at Reading Area Community College.