Christopher Tounsel (Associate Professor, History, and Director, African Sudies Program) is an historian of modern Sudan, with special focus on race and religion as political technologies. His first book, Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan, was published by Duke University Press in 2021. Chosen Peoples explores the ways that Southern Sudanese intellectuals used Judeo-Christian Scriptures to frame their revolutionary work against the Sudanese state. Chosen Peoples was named a finalist for the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora's Outstanding First Book Award and was also a finalist for the 2022 Christianity Today Book Award (History/Biography section). Dr. Tounsel's articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Religious History, Journalof African American History, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Journal of Africana Religions, and Social Sciences and Missions.
In addition to his historical research, Tounsel provides commentary on current events in Sudan and South Sudan. He has written for The Conversation and has been interviewed by BBC World Service Radio, Al Jazeera English, Radio Miraya (South Sudan), BeFM (South Korea), and Power FM (South Africa). Dr. Tounsel has also provided interviews for Christianity Today, Radio France Internationale, and Vox, appeared on podcasts hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, and given lectures for universities based in the United States, England, the Netherlands, Scotland, South Africa, and Uganda.
Support for Tounsel's research has come from institutions and organizations including the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (now Institute for Citizens & Scholars), Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Council of Overseas American Research Centers, and Doris G. Quinn Foundation.
Tounsel's second book, Bounds of Blackness: African Americans, Sudan, and the Politics of Solidarity, will be published by Cornell University Press in 2024. Bounds of Blackness explores the history of Black America's intellectual and cultural engagement with the modern state of Sudan. While ancient Sudan occupies a central place in the Black American imagination as an exemplar of Black glory, pride, and civilization, contemporary Sudan--often categorized as part of "Arab Africa" rather than "Black Africa"--is often marginalized. Bounds of Blackness unpacks the vacillating approaches that African Americans have taken to the Sudanese state and its multiethnic populace through periods defined by colonialism, postcolonial civil wars, genocide in Darfur, and South Sudanese independence. By exploring the work of Black intellectuals, diplomats, organizations, and media outlets, the book shows how this transnational relationship reveals the robust yet capricious terms of racial consciousness in the African Diaspora.