About Hermann von Hesse
African and African Diaspora History and Art History; Early Modern global history; Material Culture and Architectural History.
My research mainly focuses on the nexus between the material cultures of the African Atlantic world, the Black Diaspora and early modern European imperial and capitalist expansion and the contemporary legacies of these historical processes. I’ve done archival and/or field research in Ghana, Denmark, Brazil and the United States. I am an interdisciplinary scholar. My research and training straddles the disciplines of African history, art history, architectural history and anthropology. I am an affiliate of the Center for African Studies.
- PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison (African History with Art History), 2021.
- MPhil, University of Ghana, Legon (African History), 2015.
- B.A, University of Ghana, Legon (History and Political Science), 2011.
Research and publications
Ongoing and upcoming research
"Love of Stone Houses": Urban Merchants, Ancestral Spaces and Sacred Objects on Africa’s Gold Coast (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press)
I’m currently working on my first book project, ‘Love of Stone Houses’: Urban Merchants, Ancestral Spaces and Sacred Objects on Africa’s Gold Coast. This book is somewhat autobiographical and was inspired by the fact that I partially grew up in eighteenth and nineteenth century stone houses in Osu, a historic Gã town which hosted the Danish-Norwegian Christiansborg Castle. This castle also doubled as the headquarters of that country’s slaving establishment on the southeastern Gold Coast.
My book discusses the Gold Coast’s global linkages, materiality, and regimes of value and debt from the era of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the British colonial era. At the end of the legal slave trade, European commercial establishments demanded stone houses and material goods rather than captives as collateral for foreign imports that Gold Coast merchants obtained on credit. But houses were inalienable spaces of ancestral burials, family memory and material accumulation. By subjecting their houses to the market, African merchants gained greater access to European credit, but risked losing their family heritage. Consequently, Gold Coast families began to contest which measure of security, protection and power was more important – monetary wealth through real estate or family/ancestral wealth and heritage. Despite this inequity in global trade, Gold Coast merchants contributed to the expansion of capitalism and market oriented value systems.
- “‘A Modest, but Peculiar Style’: Self-Fashioning, Atlantic Commerce, and the Culture of Adornment on the Urban Gold Coast.” The Journal of African History, (2023), 1-23. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-african-history/article/
“A Tale of Two “Returnee” Communities in the Gold Coast and Ghana: Accra’s Tabon and Elmina’s Ex-Soldiers, 1830s to the Present.” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 51(2), 197–217. http://www.jstor.org/stable/45176437
“Døde Rotter Under Christiansborg” in Kampen om de Danske Slaver: Aktuelle Perspectiver på Kolonihistorien. Edited by Frits Andersen and Jakob Ladegaard (Åarhus: Forfatterne og Åarhus Universitetsforlag, 2017),47-65 [“Dead Rats Under Christiansborg” in The Battle over Denmark’s Slaves]
Teaching and advising
Art History 491 Topics in Art History: Africa and the Museum.
Art History 299 Special Topics: African Arts and Architecture.
Art History 510: Material Cultures of Atlantic and Indian Ocean Africa.
Art History 299 Special Topics: African Atlantic Histories and Visual Cultures.