Vanicléia Silva Santos is a professor of African History and a specialist in African material culture and African diaspora. Before joining the University of Pennsylvania as the Curator of the Africa Galleries in the Penn Museum, she was an Associate Professor at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais/UFMG (2010-2022). At UFMG, she was the first tenured professor of African History (graduate and undergraduate Studies) in the History Department. She is a Member of UNESCO's International Scientific Committee for preparing the Ninth Volume of the General History of Africa Collection. She co-edited the Volume on the African Diaspora (forthcoming in 2023).
Her research interests include African History, History of the African Diasporas, Material Culture, Atlantic History, and museums. Silva Santos published works examine the African material culture in Africa and the diaspora, meanings, production contexts, circulation, and collections by museums and personal collectors. Her research focuses on the colonial narrative of African objects, such as insignias of power and amulets, their meanings, afterlives in contemporary societies, and the essentiality of material culture to tell the history of Black People in Africa and the African diaspora.
Forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2024, the catalog “From Makers for Museums” with Tukufu Zuberi offers the public a new way to curate museums, objects, and narratives about the creators and their contexts. Her forthcoming books are, “Empowered Figures: The Congolese Saint Anthony in the Early Modern Kongo and Angola and Brazil” which presents and analyzes for the first time a set of unpublished and unparalleled sculpture and other iconographies created in the Black Atlantic in the 18th and 19th centuries; “Bolsas de Mandinga no Mundo Atlántico,” and, a biography of Crispina Peres, a merchant from Upper Guinea, and her material life.
She is the editor and a contributor to six volumes: African Ivory as Insignia of Power: Contexts of Production and Uses, Inside and Outside Africa, published at Fino Traço press (2023); Ivory in the Modern World: Trade, Transit, Faith and Social Status (16th-19th centuries) (2018); Intellectual Heritage, History and Culture in West Africa, with Leopoldo Amado, Taciana Garrido e Alexandre Marcussi (2019); Archeology and History of Material Culture in Africa and the African Diaspora, with Augustin Holl and Luis Symanski (2018); Ivory Trade in the Atlantic World: Transit and Production (15th to 19th centuries) with Eduardo Paiva and Rene Gomes (2017), and Africa and Brazil in the Modern World, with Eduardo Paiva (2012). Also, she has been the guest editor for four academic journals: Temporalidades, E-Hum, Revista de Ciências Humanas, and Varia Historia.
Her essays on African and African Diaspora have appeared, among other venues, African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, Ler História, Afro-Ásia, Politeia, and various edited volumes as well. Support for her research and writing includes grants and fellowships from the CAPES, CNPQ, Harvard University, the Federal University of Minas Gerais, and the University of Pennsylvania.