Dawson McCall

Senior Men’s Race 5th Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series-Anti-Doping Awareness with Saturday Market in Background (Location Field, Iten, Kenya – January 4, 2020) (Photo Credit: Dawson McCall)

I am a Ph.D. candidate at MSU studying Modern African History with an emphasis on the social history of Kenyan sports and education. My research is informed by the study of social history, sports studies, postcolonial thought, gender studies, nationalism, and development studies, especially as they relate to 20th Century Africa. Through the study of Kenyan sports and education, my research represents 20th Century Africa as a collection of complex and dynamic communities that have shown a remarkable ability to creatively incorporate external influences while also retaining important local and regional values, knowledge, and social relations.

My dissertation, titled “Run, Pray, Read at St. Patrick’s High School: A Social History of Irish Missionary Education, Global Runningscapes, and Community Building in Iten, Kenya,” contributes to this approach by providing a detailed case study of the history of St. Patrick’s High School in Iten, Kenya. A Catholic school founded by Irish missionaries in the small, west-Kenyan town of Iten in 1961, St. Patrick’s is considered one of the country’s most famous and influential schools in both sports and academics. It is a valuable case through which to study the role played by African students, African teachers, coaches, and educational staff, and foreign teachers and coaches in the formation of Kenyan educational and sporting practices. Relying on oral testimonies, personal papers, school magazines, national archival materials, and national newspapers, I argue that the emergence of Kenya’s world-renowned sporting culture is intimately tied to the values, ideals, and social practices fostered in Kenyan schools like St Patrick’s.

My interests in these topics stem from a long personal relationship with the fields of history, sport, and education. As an undergraduate student at Loyola University, New Orleans, I studied history and played inter-collegiate basketball. Prior to coming to MSU, I spent ten years as a high school history teacher, focusing on Global History and US Government, and coached basketball/track/cross-country in southern Mississippi and Louisiana. During this time, I led several grant-funded study-abroad trips with high school students to East Africa and the Middle East. In 2015, I was awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to attend MSU’s Africa in World History Summer Institute for School Teachers. In addition, as a coach, my cross-country and track teams regularly competed for and won district and state championships in both boys and girls divisions.

Since arriving at MSU, I have received several grants for both research and the acquisition language skills. From June, 2019 to April, 2020, I conducted dissertation research in Kenya with the support of the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, administered by the US Department of State. During my dissertation research, I was an affiliated research scholar at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya and the United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. During this time, I was fortunate to travel throughout central and western Kenya conducting interviews, observational fieldwork, and archival research. Prior to this, I conducted pre-dissertation research in Kenya, funded by the MSU History Department and the MSU College of Social Science, and took part in Kiswahili language training in Tanzania and through MSU’s African languages program through grants from the US Department of Education’s Foreign Language and Area Studies Program (FLAS).

My graduate assistantship responsibilities at MSU have included teaching assistant positions for courses in African History, World History, and US History, as well as research assistant positions in MSU’s Lab for the Education and Advancement of Digital Research, where I worked with undergraduate students to help in the instruction and integration of digital humanities in their coursework.

With Professor Mike Boit (St Patrick’s graduate, former Olympian, and current professor) in Nandi County, Kenya (Near Kaptumo) (August, 2019)

General Areas of Study: African History, Sports, Education

Research Specialization: 20th Century East Africa; History of Sport; History of Education; Nationalism; Gender; Hegemony and Agency; Oral History.

Committee: Laura Fair (Chair), Peter Alegi, Walter Hawthorne, Bethany Wilinski

Research Language(s): Kiswahili