Prof. Dr. Andrew H. Apter


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Division of the Social Sciences
Departments of History and Anthropology
6265 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473
Phone: +1 310 825-3779

Andrew H. Apter.png
© A. Apter

Academic Profile

Andrew Apter's educational background in philosophy and sociocultural anthropology shapes his critical approach to cultural and historical interpretation with reference to the Black Atlantic. His current research focuses on the complex historicities of Afro-Atlantic ritual "archives" with particular emphasis on West Africa's "Slave Coast" during the 17th and 18th centuries. Entitled Atlantic Slavery and the Spirits of Capitalism: Exploring the Ritual Archive, his project focuses on rituals and festivals associated with Ghana's historic slave forts and castles, demonstrating how Atlantic slavery and its fetishized forms of commodified life remain deeply buried within the core of modern capitalism.

Apter has held visiting appointments at the University of Utrecht; the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales; St. Antony's College, Oxford University; and the University of Lagos.

He is a founding member of the Atlantic History Colloquium at UCLA, where he also ran a three-year Mellon Transforming the Humanities Program in Black Atlantic Studies. He has conducted fieldwork in Nigeria, Ghana, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and among Congolese refugees in Zambia.

4 books, 1 co-edited volume, 30+ articles and numerous reviews and entrees

Atlantic Slavery and the Spirits of Capitalism: Exploring the Ritual Archive

The fundamental question driving my project remains: what kind of "fetish" is born of commodified human life? The answer involves rethinking the history of modern capitalism by penetrating even deeper into "the fetishism of commodities" and the "secrets thereof."

Focusing on the ritual assemblages associated with Ghana's historic slave forts and castles as an embodied "ritual archive," I ask: How do the ritual histories of Ghana's slave forts and castles illuminate the development of Afro-European commercial culture and exchange in the era of Atlantic slavery? What regional developments does a systemic survey of ritual histories reveal that cannot be disclosed by forts and castles in isolation? What historical relations do Ghana's dungeon fetishes congeal into icons of ritual power and healing? What repressed histories do they activate within the bodies of their avatars in modalities that are experienced but not consciously articulated? With these questions up front I relocate Ghana's slave forts and castles within Afro-European "conjunctures" that linked enslaved Africans to overseas plantations. Over the last decade I have conducted archival research, surveys, and collected oral histories and ethnographic data on shrines, rituals, deities, and dungeons associated with these monumental sites of human commodification. By studying these sites of Atlantic slavery from the standpoint of the "ritual archive" I highlight the African parameters of early modern capitalism and rethink the standard narrative of its historical development.

PhD (Distinction) Cultural Anthropology, Yale University, USA

MA Cultural Anthropology, Yale University, USA

BA (Hon.) Social Anthropology, Cambridge University, UK

BA (Hon.) Philosophy, Yale University, USA

Professor of History and Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), USA

Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago, USA

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago, USA

Mellon Fellow, Columbia Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia University
Assistant Professorial Lecturer, Department of Anthropology

Editorial Board, Global Perspectives Journal

Executive Editorial Board Journal of West African History

Editorial Board, Global, Area & International Archive, International & Area Stud. University of California Press

  • Oduduwa's Chain: Locations of Culture in the Yoruba-Atlantic. Chicago 2018.
  • Activating the Past: History and Memory in the Black Atlantic World. Co-edited with Lauren Derby. Newcastle-upon-Tyne 2010.
  • Beyond Words: Discourse and Critical Agency in Africa. Chicago 2007.
  • The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria. Chicago 2005.
  • Black Critics and Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society. Chicago 1992.
  • Queer Crossings: Kinship, Gender and Sexuality in Igboland and Carriacou. In Journal of West African History 3, 2 (2017),
  • Ethnographic X-Files and Holbraad's Double-Bind: Reflections on an Ontological Turn of Events. In HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7, 1 (2017), 287–302.
  • History in the Dungeon: Atlantic Slavery and the Spirit of Capitalism in Cape Coast Castle, Ghana. In American Historical Review 122, 1 (2017), 23–54.
  • Beyond Négritude: Black Cultural Citizenship and the Arab Question in FESTAC 77. In Journal of African Cultural Studies 28, 3 (2016), 313–326.
  • M.G. Smith on the Isle of Lesbos: Kinship and Sexuality in Carriacou. In New West Indian Guide 8, 3–4 (2013), 273–293.
  • The Blood of Mothers: Women, Money and Markets in Yoruba-Atlantic Perspective. In Journal of African American History  98, 1 (2013), 72–98. Special Issue on Women, Slavery, and the Atlantic World, Brenda S. Stevenson (ed.).
  • Yoruba Ethnogenesis from Within. In Comparative Studies in Society and History 55 (2), 356–387.
  • Matrilineal Motives: Kinship, Witchcraft and Repatriation among Congolese Refugees. In Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 18, 1 (2012), 22–44.
  • Griaule's Legacy: Rethinking "la parole claire" in Dogon Studies. In Cahiers d'Études Africaines 177, XLV, 1 (2005), 95–129.
  • On African Origins: Creolization and Connaissance in Haitian Vodou. In American Ethnologist 29, 2 (2002), 233–260.
  • On Imperial Spectacle: The Dialectics of Seeing in Colonial Nigeria. In Comparative Studies in Society and History 44, 3 (2002), 564–596.
  • Africa, Empire, and Anthropology: A Philological Exploration of Anthropology's Heart of Darkness. In Annual Review of Anthropology 28 (1999), 577–598.
  • Discourse and Its Disclosures: Yoruba Women and the Sanctity of Abuse. In Africa 68, 1 (1998), 68–97.
Wird geladen