Vanicléia Silva-Santos, PhD

Vanicléia Silva- Santos

Associate Curator, African Collection, Penn Museum

University of Pennsylvania

Vanicléia Silva Santos is a professor of African History and a specialist in African material culture and its diaspora. She concluded her B.A., MA, and PhD. in Brazilian institutions. Before joining the University of Pennsylvania as the Curator of the Africa Galleries in the Penn Museum, Professor Silva-Santos taught at Universidade do Tocantins/UFTO (2002-2003), Universidade do Estado da Bahia/UNEB (200-2010), and 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 has been a visiting Professor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina (2014), and the University of Texas at Austin (2015/2016). She served as the founding Director of the Center for African Studies at UFMG (2012-2018). She was the Principal Investigator in the international project between UFMG and Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique (2013-2017); a co-investigator in the project between UFMG and the Universidade de Lisboa and Universidade de Évora in Portugal (2015-2021). She is a Member of UNESCO's International Scientific Committee for preparing the Ninth Volume of the General History of Africa Collection (2013-2018). She co-edited the Volume on the African Diaspora (forthcoming in 2023).

Her research interests include African History and its Diasporas, Material Culture, Atlantic History, museums, and gender. Silva Santos published works examine the African material culture in its diaspora, meanings, production contexts, circulation, and collections by museums and personal collectors. Her single articles and edited volumes stress the colonial narrative on African objects, such as ivories and amulets, and other insignias, their meanings, afterlives in contemporary societies, and the essentiality of objects and other things to tell the history of Black People in Africa and its diaspora.

Professor Santos has written over 30 scholarly articles. She is the editor of six books on African Material Culture: African Ivory As Insignia Of Power. Contexts of production and uses, inside and outside of Africa (2022); Intellectual Heritage, History and Culture in West Africa (2019); Archaeology and history of material culture in Africa and the African diaspora (2018);  Ivory trade in the Atlantic World: (15th to 19th centuries) (2018); Ivory in the Modern World: trade, transit, faith and social status (16th to 19th centuries) (2017); Africa and Brazil in the Modern World (2012). In addition, she guest-edited four journal issues: “Nations, trade, and work in Africa, Varia Historia Journal (vol. 29, 2013); “Sources for Writing African History,” E-HUM Journal (vol.8, 2015); “History of Africa made in Brazil,” Temporalidades Journal (vol.7, 2012); and “New studies in the History of Africa,” CCH Journal (vol.14, 2015). All these edited volumes are available in Portuguese. Finally, Professor Santos is completing a book on gender and material culture in West Africa (forthcoming in English and Portuguese).

To date, Professor Silva-Santos has supervised 15 M.A. theses and 3 Ph.D. dissertations focusing on the history of the Atlantic, the slave trade, material culture, gender, and religiosity in Africa. Currently, she has eight Graduate students under her supervision.


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