Texas Tech University

Paul Bjerk

Associate Professor
Africa, Oral History, International Politics

Email: Paul.Bjerk@ttu.edu

Office: 50 Holden Hall

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Paul Bjerk teaches African History, with a particular emphasis on the continuities across the ruptures of the twentieth century. His research has focused on the broad historical context of modern Tanzania under Julius Nyerere.  Dr. Bjerk has a particular interest in helping students understand the analysis and use of oral history, and its interaction with scholarship on myth and memory. Dr. Bjerk received a Fulbright Fellowship for dissertation research in Tanzania, and recently received a Fulbright Faculty Fellowship to teach at the University of Iringa, and do research on a second project that will look at the socialist economy of the 1960s and 1970s in Tanzania. Prior his PhD studies the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Bjerk taught for three years at Tumaini University in Tanzania (now the University of Iringa) as a Lutheran volunteer. There he initiated the publication of a college newspaper with wide community distribution and helped to develop and implement a voters' education project that reached nearly 140,000 people in preparation for the 2000 elections in Tanzania.

Paul Bjerk

Select Publications

Julius Nyerere

Julius NyerereBased on multinational archival research, extensive reading, and interviews with Nyerere's family and colleagues, as well as some who suffered under his rule, Paul Bjerk provides an incisive and accessible biography of this African leader of global importance. Recognizing Nyerere's commitment to participatory government and social equality while also confronting his authoritarian turns and policy failures, Bjerk offers a portrait of principled leadership under the difficult circumstances of postcolonial Africa.

Building a Peaceful Nation Julius Nyerere and the Establishment of Sovereignty in Tanzania, 1960-1964

building a peaceful nationWith extensive archival research and interviews with scores of participants in this history, Bjerk reorients our understanding of the formative years of Tanzanian independence. This study provides a new paradigm for understanding the history of the postcolonial nations that became independent in global postwar order defined by sovereignty.

Journal Articles

Africa is a Country (2021): “Exit the Bulldozer, Enter Mama Samia”

AHA Perspectives (2020): “Looking at what's wrong to see what's right: Teaching Slavery in Africa through Film:”

International Journal of African Historical Studies 50.3 (2017), 379-408. “African Cuba, Comic Opera, a Miracle: The Iterability of Sovereignty in the Cold War Archive” 

Africa is a Country (2016): “Enter the Bulldozer”


Africa is a Country (2015): “The Impasse in Zanzibar”

International Journal of African Historical Studies, 46.2 (2013), 255-282. “The Allocation of Land as a Historical Discourse of Political Authority in Tanzania”

Africa After Fifty Years: Retrospections and Reflections. ed. Toyin Falola, (Africa World Press, 2012), 21-41: “Remembering Villagisation in Tanzania: National Consciousness Amidst Economic Failure”

International Journal of African Historical Studies, 44.2 (2011), 215-247: “Postcolonial Realism: Tanganyika's Foreign Policy Under Nyerere, 1960-1963”

History in Africa, 37 (2010), 275-319: “Sovereignty and Socialism in Tanzania: The Historiography of an African State”

Journal of African History, 47.1 (2006), 1-19: “'They Poured Themselves Into the Milk':  Zulu Political Philosophy Under Shaka”

Journal of Religion in Africa, 35.3 (2005), 324-61: “'Building a New Eden':  Lutheran Church Youth Choir Performances in Tanzania”