Robert M Rouphail

 Robert Rouphail

Contact Information

309 Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright Street
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801
IPRH Mellon Fellow in the Biohumanities
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I am PhD candidate in African, Indian Ocean, and environmental history here at Illinois. Between my undergraduate degree and returning to graduate school, I worked as an education consultant and  EFL instructor for three years in Rabat, Morocco and Jakarta, Indonesia. 

I am currently a Mellon pre-doctoral fellow in the Biohumanities at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. In this interdisciplinary initiative, I collaborate with scholars interested in integrating research questions, methods, and analytical approaches from the life sciences with those in the humanities.   

Research Interests

  • Africa, Indian Ocean World, Environmental History (Tropical Meteorology), Empire, Race, Gender

Research Description

My research interests are in the social, cultural, and environmental histories of modern Africa and the Indian Ocean World. My dissertation, Embodying Resilience: Race, Gender, and Natural Disaster in Mauritius, 1890s-1970s, aims to understand the ways in which the risks posed by the landfall of tropical cyclones reshaped the social and cultural history of Mauritius, an island in Africa's Indian Ocean.

Drawing from a number of diverse sources that include meteorological and ecological studies, the records of colonial bureaucracies, and oral histories in English, French, and Mauritian Creole, my research suggests that these landfalls were moments of economic, political, and social uncertainty, and that imperial efforts to navigate and mitigate this uncertainty produced normative ideas about race, gender, and social belonging that were both embraced and challenged by Mauritius' diverse population. In so doing it positions Mauritius as a critical node of multiracial governance and scientific knowledge production in the Indian Ocean World in the twentieth century. It affirms that the island's history is one shaped not only by its connections to the imperial metropole, but also by its long and intersecting histories of race, labor, and the environment.

Beyond this project, I am also interested in global histories of mobility and technology, as well as Afro-Asian politics, decolonization, and the making of the "Third World."


  • MA in African History: North Carolina State University, 2013
  • BA in History: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2008

Distinctions / Awards

  • IPRH Andrew Mellon Fellow in the Bio-Humanities, 2017-2018
  • UIUC Graduate College Fellow, 2013-2015
  • Yale University Council on African Studies FLAS for Swahili, 2014, (Kenya and Tanzania)


  • Modern Middle East (TA--North Carolina State)
  • East Asian Civilizations (TA--University of Illinois)

Selected Publications

Book Contributions

Natural Worlds The Cultural Histories of Western Empires, Vol. 6, 1920-2000 Natural Worlds London Bloomsbury 2018.


Rouphail, Robert Global Environmental History: An Introductory Reader compiled by John McNeill, compiled by Alan Roe. Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities 3 Winter/Spring/Fall Compiled by John McNeill, Compiled by Alan Roe, 2016, p. 427-434.

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