Faculty and Staff


Dennis D. Cordell

SMU Mourns loss of Associate Dean Dennis Cordell
Professor and Associate Dean for General Education, Dedman College
Africa, Middle East, Historical Demography

G02 Clements Hall

Educational Background

Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1977
M.Sc. Université de Montréal, 1987 
M.A. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1972
B.A. Yale University, 1968

Awards and Services

  • Editor, Revue canadienne des études africaines, 1996-2002 Grants
  • National Science Foundation (DFW) 2001-04 and (Paris) 2001-02; Wenner-Gren Foundation (Paris), 1998-2000
  • American Council of Learned Societies, 1973-75, 1992 & 1984: University Teacher Fellowship, International Rotary Foundation, Bamako, Mali, 1986-87  
  • Margareta Deschner Teaching Award and Core Curriculum Award (2)
  • SMU’s Women’s Studies Council, 1983 & 1991  
  • Peace Corps, Chad, 1968-70
  • Books and Essays
  • The Human Traditon in Modern Africa, Rowman and Littlefield, 2011.
  • The Demographics of Empire: The Colonial Order and the Creation of Knowledge, coedited with Karl Ittmann and Gregory Maddox.
  •  Hoe and Wage: A Social History of a Circular Migration System in West Africa, 1900-1975, with Victor Piché and Joel W. Gregory, Westview/Harper Collins, 1996.
  • African Population and Capitalism: Historical Perspectives, co-edited with Joel W. Gregory, Westview Press, 1987.
  • Dar al-Kuti and the Last Years of the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.
  • “The Myth of Inevitability and Invincibility: Resistance to Slavers and the Slave Trade in Central Africa, 1850-1910,”in Fighting Back: African Strategies against the Slave Trade, University of Ohio Press, 2003.
  • “Polygamy, disrupted reproduction, and the state: Malian migrants in Paris, France,” with Carolyn F. Sargent, Social Science and Medicine, 2003. 
The slave trade from Central Africa to North Africa and the Middle East, and the migration of Africans in the twentieth century Historian and demographer Dennis Cordell is one of the few specialists on the history of Chad and the Central African Republic.

He studies the last years of the slave trade from Central Africa,1850’s to the 1920’s, and the migration of Africans during the period of French colonial rule to the present. His attention has also focused on the roots of contemporary underpopulation in Central Africa.

Cordell reconstructs the commerce in human beings, from the violence of capture to their sale to merchants who took them to the Nile Valley, Egypt, and the Middle East, from Dar Kuti, one of the last slave-raiding states. He currently aims at fostering an understanding of contemporary upheavals in Chad and Sudan, including the violence in DarFur, and the recent revival of the slave trade.

Between the French conquest in the 1890’s and the depression of the 1930’s: European policies of forced labor, forced military recruitment, forced collection of natural resources, and obligatory cultivation of commercial crops led to higher rates of death and the abandonment of arable land famine and disease followed, further contributing to depopulation Contemporary social science surveys, oral histories, help Cordell under- stand the social and economic history of Africa.

One surprising discovery from his work on migration in the French colony of Upper Volta in West Africa, now Burkina Faso, is that African women migrated to international destinations much earlier, and in considerably larger numbers, than heretofore thought. Cordell suggests that earlier colonial administrators must have “turned” some women into men in their reports, the documents that historians now consult. Without the survey of hundreds of women, analyzed in the work of Cordell and his colleagues, we would never have known of their role in international migration from the interior of West Africa in the first three-quarters of the twentieth century.

With colleagues from SMU and UTA, Cordell contributes to an understanding of how today’s immigrants to DFW become incorporated into community life. Additionally, Cordell and SMU anthropologist Carolyn Sargent have studied immigrants in Paris from the West African country of Mali, virtually all of whom are Muslims. Life in the French capital has altered perceptions of men’s and women’s roles, reproduction, the family, and has taught them to organize to promote immigrant rights.

The number of immigrants arriving in the U.S. since the late 1970’s exceeds the number of arrivals during the last great wave of immigration between 1890 and 1910. The number of new African immigrants exceeds those who came here during the slave trade era.

Last updated 11/11