Robert M Rouphail

 Robert Rouphail

Contact Information

309 Gregory Hall
810 S. Wright Street
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801
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Research Interests

  • Africa, Indian Ocean World, Environmental History, History of Science, Global History, Empire, Race, Gender

Research Description

I work primarily on the history of Indian Ocean Africa, empire, and the environment. My dissertation, Embodying Resilience: Race, Gender, and Natural Disaster in Mauritius, 1890s-1970s, brings together major historiographical points of debate and research questions within African and Indian Ocean World scholarship with debates central to imperial and environmental historians. My research asks how deep histories of mobility, cosmopolitanism, imperial citizenship, and diasporic belonging intersect with increasingly interventionist colonial and post-colonial states that sought not only to produce legible and stable human subjects, but to also integrate those subjects into projects aimed at mitigating risks posed by the natural world.

Drawing from archival work conducted in French, English, and Mauritian Creole in England and Mauritius as well as on oral histories collected in Mauritius, my research argues that the notion of “resilience,” the capacity of a community to rebuild and recover from a shock, natural or otherwise, emerged as an operative ideological commitment of colonial rule in twentieth century Mauritius, and that ideas of resilience were central in the production of racialized and gendered imperial subjectivities. State attempts to manage, rationalize, and further enumerate the lives of Mauritian subjects were appropriated, rejected, or otherwise wielded by human (and at times non-human) actors. It shows that the collisions between imperial ambitions for control of its human subjects and the ecological and meteorological spaces they inhabited produced enduring ideas about race, belonging, and gender in twentieth century Mauritius and the Indian Ocean World

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

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


  • 20th Century Global History (Instructor of Record--University of Illinois)
  • Modern Middle East (TA--North Carolina State)
  • East Asian Civilizations (TA--University of Illinois)

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

"Agro-Meteorology in the Indian Ocean World: Cyclone Science, Sugar, and the Limits of Empire in Mauritius, 1870s-1930s" ISIS (currently under review) 2018.

Book Contributions

Natural Worlds The Cultural Histories of Western Empires, Vol. 6, 1920-2000 (forthcoming) 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.

Website Articles