John Aerni-Flessner

Position: Adjunct Associate Professor
Field: Africa

Office: C210 Snyder Hall
Phone: 517-884-6008

Twitter: @LesothoJohn

I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and earned a bachelor’s degree in history with a secondary education certificate from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. I taught high school in Lesotho, Southern Africa and in Kwethluk, Alaska–a Yup’ik Eskimo community–before going back to graduate school. Earning an MA and PhD from Washington University in St. Louis in African History, I first taught at SUNY Cortland in Upstate NY for three years before joining the Residential College in Arts and Humanities (RCAH) at MSU.

My research focuses on youth, nationalism, development, borders, and decolonization in Lesotho, but the stories I tell are, of necessity, transnational. I am currently working on a book manuscript entitled “I Didn’t Even Know What Independence Meant:” Foreign Assistance, Development, and Nation-Building in Lesotho, 1952-1975″ based on my PhD research, but also on significant new archival work I have conducted in the interim in London, Washington DC, Pretoria, and Lesotho. I also do oral history, having done extensive interviews with Basotho in Lesotho as well as American Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Lesotho from 1967-1973. I had an article come out in 2014 in the Journal of African History and I had another piece on refugee smuggling and women in rural Lesotho published in Wagadu: A Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies.

I have also written extensively for popular media in both print and online about contemporary politics in Lesotho. My writing on Lesotho has appeared on the Huffington Post, and the news aggregator site, while I have been featured on Radio France International multiple times. A co-authored piece appeared in South Africa’s Mail and Guardian in 2014 ahead of Lesotho’s parliamentary elections. My election analysis appeared in the collective blog Africasacountry, with further analysis appearing there in May 2015. I tweet extensively about Lesotho and Southern African politics, history, and development at @LesothoJohn. My analysis has also appeared in news articles on Lesotho published on four continents, ranging from The Guardian (UK), to Jeunne Afrique (France) to Xinhua (China), The Daily Maverick (South Africa), Sunday Express (Lesotho), and Foreign Policy (USA).

As I teach in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities here at MSU, I do not formally teach in the history department, but it is my disciplinary home and I regularly venture over the Old Hort for seminars, talks, and just to kvetch with historians. At MSU I have, so far, taught courses on Global Slavery, Decolonization, Leisure and Nationalism in 20th Century Africa, and Malcolm X in Lansing.