Department of History > Faculty & Staff > John Warne Monroe

John Warne Monroe


PhD. in European History, Yale University, 2002 (with the Theron Rockwell Field dissertation prize)

MPhil in European History, Yale University, 1998
A.B. in History, summa cum laude, with certificates in European Cultural Studies and Creative Writing, Princeton University, 1995


Current Research

I am currently working on a history of the reception of African sculpture in inter-war France, and its crucial role in establishing “primitive art” as a Western esthetic category.  The growing acceptance of this category had a wide range of consequences, not only in metropolitan France, but also in the empire and elsewhere.  My book, an interdisciplinary study based on extensive research in Paris, New York and Dakar, will explore those consequences, showing how the concept of what dealers and collectors now call “tribal” or “ethnographic” art emerged from a complex, often ambivalent interaction between esthetic Modernism and France’s imperial project.


Selected Publications

“Surface Tensions: Empire, Parisian Modernism, and ‘Authenticity’ in African Sculpture,  1917-1939,” in the American Historical Review, 117:2 (April 2012): 445-475.

Laboratories of Faith: Mesmerism, Spiritism and Occultism in Modern France. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008.

French translation forthcoming from the Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux.

“Crossing Over: Allan Kardec and the Transnationalization of Modern Spiritualism,” in Cathy Gutierrez, ed., Handbook of Mesmerism and Spiritualism (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

“The Way We Believe Now: Modernity and the Occult,” in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, 2 (Summer 2007): 68-78.

Cartes de Visite from the Other World: Spiritism and the Discourse of Laïcisme in the

Early Third Republic,” in French Historical Studies, 26 (Winter 2003): 119-153.

“Making the Séance ‘Serious’: Tables Tournantes and Second Empire Bourgeois Culture, 1853-1861,” in History of Religions, 38 (Feb. 1999): 219-246.



“Imaging Others: Cultural Intersections in the Colonial Period.”  Anderson Gallery, Drake University, November 19-December 17, 2010 (curated in collaboration with Lenore Metrick-Chen and Michael Chiang).

“Time and Space in African Art.”  University of Iowa Museum of Art, February 2006-June 2008.


Courses Taught

HIST 202, Europe from the Reformation to the Present

HIST 396a, France From the Old Regime to the Present

HIST 414, Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History (Enlightenment-Present)

HIST 420x, France’s Revolutionary Century, 1715-1815

HIST 512c, Proseminar in Modern European Historiography

HIST 583a, Writing Historical Narrative


Selected Awards and Honors

Profiled in The Best 300 Professors (Princeton Review Books, 2012), as one of the nation’s top teachers of undergraduates.

Western Society of French History Millstone Interdisciplinary Paper Award, 2008.

Cassling Family Faculty Award for Teaching, 2007-2008.

Iowa State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Early Achievement in Teaching Award, 2007.

Curatorial Fellowship in African Art, University of Iowa Museum of Art, 2005-2006.

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend Fellowship, summer 2005.

Yale University Theron Rockwell Field dissertation prize, 2002.

Bourse Chateaubriand, 1999.

Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, 1995.