Gender, Sexuality, and Power from Colonial to Contemporary Africa


Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights tips and resources to help you with research for the course Gender, Sexuality, and Power from Colonial to Contemporary Africa.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

Personal Librarians:

Shannon O'Neill

Vani Natarajan


Finding Books and Media

CLIO includes the online catalog of Columbia University Libraries, Barnard Library, and Union theological Seminary (Law Library and Teachers College Library have separate catalogs). To search within the CLIO catalog, select "Catalog" from the left-hand menu.   CLIO also includes records of CUL materials held offsite, which you can use CLIO to request.

Some CLIO Search Tips:

  • It can often be helpful to start with a more expansive search (i.e. fewer terms entered into the search box), and then use facets and sorting to narrow down your results.
  • Use the asterisk (*) as a wild card. Decoloniz*  searches for the words deconolonize, decolonized, deconolonization, etc. 
  • Surround words with quotes to search them together as a phrase, i.e. "South Africa."
  • If using CLIO to find primary sources, make sure to include a date limit for the time period you are studying. Also, you could use the Subject (Genre) facet to narrow down to the kind of source you are looking for. Some examples:
    • Correspondence
    • Diaries
    • Interviews
    • Maps 
    • Memorabilia
    • Personal Narratives
    • Photographs


Beyond Barnard and Columbia

BorrowDirect allows you to borrow books directly from the libraries of Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, the University of Chicago, Yale, and more. Items requested through BorrowDirect typically deliver in 3 to 4 business days, with a 6-week loan period + one 6-week renewal.

Interlibrary Loan lets you borrow books, music scores, and selected audiovisual items (i.e. maps or films) that are not currently available at Columbia University Libraries. You can use ILL to request PDF scans of journal articles, as well. ILL has a larger scope of participating institutions than Borrow Direct.

New York Public Library  offers a variety of ways to search and explore their collections:

  • Classic Catalog searches materials across all branches and divisions of the library.
  • Digital Collections offers access to a limited, yet extensive, selection of digitized images, text, sound, and video from the library's collections.
  • Find Archival Materials searches archival collections across the library's research divisions, in most cases offering full text access to finding aids and further directions for planning visits.

The New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem, collects, preserves, and provides access to materials related to Africa and the African Diaspora. You can use the search tools listed above to start exploring the Schomburg's holdings. Five divisions comprise the center:

Worldcat is a union catalog that brings together the collections of over 72,000 libraries around the world. Search here for items held in other libraries.


Primary Sources: Digital Collections, Catalogs, and Portals

Be sure to check out the Barnard Archivists' Guide to Archival Research at Barnard and Beyond.

African Newspapers from the World Newspaper Archive brings together collection of historical African newspapers. Includes newspapers published between 1800 and 1922 in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Titles include: East African Standard, Mombasa Times and Uganda Argus (Kenya), Leselinyana la Lesutho (Lesotho), O Africano (Mozambique), Lagos Standard (Nigeria), Cape Town Gazette and African Advertiser (South Africa), Ilanga Lase Natal (South Africa), and Buluwayo Chronicle (Zimbabwe).

African Online Digital Library features archival audio, video, images, and text, with strengths in West African and South African history

Aluka includes maps, interview transcripts, photographs, full text periodicals, pamphlets, and other primary sources, with a focus on Southern Africa.

ArchiveGrid is a searchable database of collection descriptions from thousands of archives, libraries, museums, and special collections around the world. Includes links to finding aids and contact information for arranging research visits.

Black Studies Center describes itself as a “fully cross-searchable gateway to Black Studies.” The database combines Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, The HistoryMakers Videos and full transcripts for interviews with 100 contemporary African Americans, International Index to Black Periodicals (coverage up to 2006), historical black newspapers, Black Abolitionist Papers, and the Black Literature Index.

Black Thought and Culture offers full text access to works of non-fiction, written from colonial times to the present, by African American authors. Sources represented include books, articles essays, interviews and letters. Sources can be browsed by year of publication, historical events, author names, and more. Of note: The database includes fully scanned copies of the Black Panther Party newspaper from 1967-1980.

Center for Research Libraries Catalog has particularly strong holdings of world newspapers on microfilm, including many newspapers from Africa. There's also a strong selection of other periodicals, including African American independent magazines and journals. Use the catalog to search these holdings, and then submit an interlibrary loan request for the microfilm reels you'd like to view (these can be delivered to the Columbia libraries).

Confidential Print. Africa, 1834-1966 provides access to facsimiles of documen ts housed in the UK National Archives and originally generated under British colonial rule in Africa. These documents include letters, telegrams, dispatches, investigative reports, treaties, and photographs. 

Digital Innovation South Africa (DISA) makes accessible digitized copies of journals, books, speeches, pamphlets, photographs, circulars, letters, testimonies, policy documents, and a range of other materials related to South African struggles for freedom during the period from 1950 to 1994. You can browse or search these collections.

South African History Archive (SAHA) is an independent human rights organization based in South Africa, committed to the documentation, support, and promotion of social justice movement histories. SAHA's archival collections include documents, posters, photographs, ephemera and oral histories donated to SAHA by individuals and organizations involved in past and ongoing struggles for justice in South Africa. While most of their collections are paper-based, a significant number of digitized copies of materials can be searched and browsed online. 

Women and Social Movements International collects published and manuscript sources documenting women's activism around the world, from the nineteenth century onward. Sources include letters, memoirs, conference proceedings, pamphlets, books, and journal articles, among others.


Finding Articles

If you aren't sure where to start your search for articles, you might try Find Articles. It searches across multiple databases, including some of the ones listed below, and can even recommend subject specific databases that yield the most results for your search terms.

African E-Journals Project offers access to digitized, full-text articles from the following open access journals: Africa media review, African journal of political economy, African journal of political science, Critical arts, Glendora books supplement, Glendora review, Institute of African Studies research review, Journal of social development in Africa, Pula, Transformation, Utafiti and Zambezia


  • Africa-Wide Information features citations and abstracts to books and journal articles in African Studies, including content from the sources South African Studies, African Studies, and African HealthLine.
  • Gender Studies combines databases in women's studies, men's studies, and child development & adolescent studies, along with selected material on sexuality studies. Sources covered include journal articles, books, conference papers, reports, dissertations, web sites, and more.
  • Historical Abstracts indexes citations and articles in world history, including African history, from 1450 to the present, with many in full text.
  • LGBT Life with Full Text provides indexing and abstracts of worldwide literature on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, as well as full text for more than 50 journals, magazines and regional newspapers and dozens of monographs; also includes a specialized LGBT thesaurus with over 6,400 terms.

JSTOR includes page images of key scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences. Coverage spans the late 19th century to the present.

ProjectMUSE provides full text scholarly journal articles, with citations and abstracts, from key sources in the humanities and social sciences. Content is updated daily, and coverage is extremely current.


  • Arts and Humanities Full Text includes articles, in full text, from over 500 journals across a range of disciplines: modern languages and literatures, history, cultural studies, philosophy, art, classics, geography, and anthropology, among others.
  • GenderWatch offers access to a full-text collection of international journals, magazines, newsletters, regional publications, special reports and conference proceedings devoted to women's and gender issues.
  • International Bibliography of the Social Sciences indexes over 2,700 journals and about 7,000 books each year; fields covered include anthropology, political science, sociology, and economics.
  • Periodicals Archive Online archives journals in humanities and social sciences from around the world, in full text. The collection includes 99 journals in Spanish.


Writing and Citing

OWL: Purdue University Online Writing Lab provides general and subject specific writing tips and techniques, along with research advice and detailed citation and formatting standards for the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles.

Zotero is a free, open source program that allows you to quickly save, organize, format, and share your bibliographic citations.