Meet a Niner: Akin Ogundiran

Akin Ogundiran
Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Akin Ogundiran, Chancellor’s Professor and professor of Africana studies, anthropology and history, is preoccupied with studying the past, specifically the African past.Disciplinary norms and methods don’t define his research. Ogundiran asks questions and looks for answers in any source available, including working with archaeological materials, collecting and analyzing oral traditions, doing ethnographic research and using documentary sources. Learn more about Ogundiran in this Q&A.

How long have you been at UNC Charlotte, and what brought you here?

I was hired in 2008 as chair of the Africana Studies Department. I spent 10-and-a-half years in the position and thoroughly enjoyed that leadership opportunity. Working with my colleagues and students, we built a strong department. I stepped down in December 2018 to spend more time teaching, researching and sharing my knowledge with the global community.

Can you tell us about your current research?

I’m currently studying the history of the Oyo Empire, a cavalry state whose political boundaries cut across the borders of three contemporary countries in West Africa — Nigeria, Benin Republic and Togo. The empire came into existence during the Little Ice Age, the global cooling effect that led to many ecological and political upheavals worldwide between the 1300s and 1800s. I am interested in how this empire came into existence, how it was organized, how its leaders managed human, economic and natural resources in the face of scarcity, and why this powerful political edifice crumbled in the mid-19th century. What was the effect of the Little Ice Age on all of these? The answers to these questions promise to tell us how an African society managed unstable climate events and what we can learn from its success, challenges and failure. The research is part of my long-term interest in social organizations at different scales, from households to empires.

What keeps you coming to work every day?

The excitement of learning something new from students, colleagues or an object in my lab keeps me coming to work every day.

What advice would you give students to encourage their success at UNC Charlotte?

Manage your time so you can get the best result from your study. Be proactive, and don’t procrastinate. Always ask questions if you don’t know. Make use of the vast University resources available for your support. Four years go quickly. Stay the course, make wise decisions and have fun.

What are three words to describe UNC Charlotte?

Three words to describe UNC Charlotte are exciting, creative and energetic.

What's a fun fact about you many people may not know?

I love to dance. My body uncontrollably shakes to the beat of the djembe drum.