Hanson's research explores the religious imagination and social initiatives of Muslims in western Africa. His current projects focus on the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a trans-national Islamic movement with origins in South Asia that gained a significant following in twentieth-century Ghana. Previously, he analyzed Muslim Sufi movements in nineteenth-century Senegal and Mali. He also reflects on historical methods and is co-editor of History in Africa: A Journal of Method. Hanson’s teaching concerns the full range of transformations associated with Africa during the last six hundred years. He is also interested in Middle Eastern history and holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.
Hanson received the Trustee’s Teaching Award in 2001 and was named the John W. Ryan Award for distinguished contributions to International Studies at Indiana University in 2011. Hanson’s books include: The Ahmadiyya in the Gold Coast: Muslim Cosmopolitans in the British Empire (IU Press, 2017) and Migration, Jihad, and Muslim Authority in West Africa: the Futanke Colonies of Karta (IU Press, 1996). He also was co-author, with Patrick O’Meara and Maria Grosz-Ngaté, of the textbook, Africa, 4th edition (IU Press, 2014). Hanson’s annotated English translations of West African Arabic texts appear in After the Jihad: Ahmad al-Kabir in the Western Sudan (Michigan State University Press, 1991) and the Islamic Pluralism website at aodl.org. His current book project concerns African Muslim responses to modernity. Hanson received his Ph.D. in African History at Michigan State University in 1989.