Thomas J Desch-Obi

Assc Professor

Weissman School of Arts and Sciences

Department: History

Areas of expertise:

Email Address: thomas.desch-obi@baruch.cuny.edu

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Education

Ph.D., African History, University of California Los Angeles

M.A., African Studies, University of California Los Angeles

B.A., Religion, Harvard University

SemesterCourse PrefixCourse NumberCourse Name
Fall 2023HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2023HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2023REL3085Spec Topics: Religion & Cult
Spring 2023HIS3860Top:Afr,Asia,Lat Am
Spring 2023HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2022HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2022HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2022HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2022IDC4050HHon Feit Hum Sem I
Fall 2021HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2021HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2021HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2021HIS3815History of African Religions
Spring 2021REL3815History of African Religions
Fall 2020HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2020HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2020HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2020REL3815History of African Religions
Spring 2020HIS3815History of African Religions
Fall 2019HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2019HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2018HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2017HIS3460Topics in American History
Spring 2017HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Summer 2016HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2015HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2015HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2015HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2015HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2015REL3815History of African Religions
Spring 2015HIS3815History of African Religions
Fall 2014HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2014HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2014BLS3063History of the Arican Diaspora
Spring 2014HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2014HIS3063The African Diaspora
Spring 2014HIS1001HHonors in Global History
Fall 2013HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2013HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2012HIS5001Independent Study History II
Spring 2012HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2012HIS1001HHonors in Global History
Spring 2012HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2012HIS3860Top:Afr,Asia,Lat Am
Spring 2012HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2011HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2011REL3815History of African Religions
Fall 2011HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2011HIS3815History of African Religions
Spring 2011HIS3860Top:Afr,Asia,Lat Am
Spring 2011HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2010HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2010HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2008HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2008HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2008HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2008HIS4900Capstone: Search His
Fall 2007HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2007HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2007HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2007HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2007HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2007HIS3063The African Diaspora
Fall 2006HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2006HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2006HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2006HIS3815History of African Religions
Spring 2006REL3815History of African Religions
Spring 2006HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2005HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2005HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2005HIS3860Top:Afr,Asia,Lat Am
Spring 2005HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2004HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2004HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2004HIS5000Independent Study History I
Summer 2004HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2004HIS1001HHonors in Global History
Spring 2004HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2004HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2004HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Spring 2004HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2003IDC4050HHon Feit Hum Sem I
Fall 2003HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2003HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2003HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2003HIS1003Global His Since1500
Spring 2003HIS1003Global His Since1500
Spring 2003HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2003HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2003HIS3063The African Diaspora
Fall 2002HIS1003Global His Since1500
Fall 2002HIS1003Global His Since1500
Fall 2002HIS3063The African Diaspora
Fall 2002HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2002HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2002HIS5001Independent Study History II
Summer 2002HIS5001Independent Study History II
Summer 2002HIS5000Independent Study History I
Spring 2002HIS5000Independent Study History I
Fall 2001HIS1001Global His To 1500ce
Fall 2001HIS1001Global His To 1500ce

Books

Desch-obi, T. (2008). Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Arts in the Atlantic World. Columbia, South Carolina, University of South Carolina Press.

Journal Articles

(2022). The Venezolano Moderno Style. The Immersion Review, 1(2). 22-40.

(2012). The Jogo de Capoeira and the Fallacy of ‘Creole’ Cultural Forms. African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, 5(2). 211-228.

Desch-obi, T. (2011). A Defesa Dançada de Bill Richmond. Revista de História do Esporte, 4(2). 1-29.

Desch-obi, T. (2010). Peinillas and Popular Participation: Machete fighting in Haiti, Cuban and Colombia. Memorias, 6(11). 9302 words.

(2009). Black Terror: Bill Richmond’s Revolutionary Boxing. Journal of Sports History, 36(1). 99-114.

(2009). Angola e o Jogo de Capoeira. Antropolitica, 24(1). 103-124.

(1993). Capoeira: Martial Arts as Spiritual Discipline. Journal of Caribbean Studies (Association of Caribbean Studies), 19(2). 87-98.

Book Chapters

Desch-Obi, T. (2020). Ritualized Violence in Africa and the African Diaspora. In Dwyer, P. (Ed.), Cambridge World History of Violence Cambridge,U.K.. Cambridge University Press.

Desch-obi, T. (2016). Le Defi: Exploring the History of Mascarene Martial Arts. In Weldemichael, A. T., Lee, A. A., & Alpers, E. A. (Eds.), Changing Horizons of African History (pp. 125-148). Trenton, New Jersey,U.S.A.. Africa World Press.

Desch-obi, T. (2012). Los Ayudados: Oral History of a Guapetón. In Valdés , V. K. (Ed.), Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora (pp. 31-38). Albany, NY. SUNY Press.

Desch-obi, T. (2010). Koup Tet: A Machete Wielding View of the Haitian Revolution. In Apter, A., & Derby, R. (Eds.), Activating the Past: History and Memory in the Black Atlantic (pp. 245-266). Newcastle upon Tyne,UK. Cambridge Scholars Publishers.

Desch-obi, T. (2004). Deadly Dances: The Spiritual Dimensions of Kongo-Angolan Martial Arts Traditions in the New World. In Bellegarde-Smith, P. (Ed.), Fragments of Bone: Neo-African Religions in a New World (pp. 70-89). Champaign-Urbana, IL. University of Illinois Press.

Desch-obi, T. (2001). Combat and the Crossing of the Kalunga. In Heywood, H. (Ed.), Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora (pp. 353-370). Cambridge,UK. Cambridge University Press.

Presentations

Desch-obi, T. (2017, March 31). Ethnicity and Identity in the Capoeira Societies of Rio de Janeiro. Capoeira Symposium. New York City: Colombia University Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.

Desch-obi, T. (2017, April 7). Martial Mothers in the Cross River and Caloto: Feminine Spirituality and the Aesthetics of Combat. New York Area African Workshop. New York City: C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center.

Desch-obi, T. (2016, March 25). Los Negros del Zurriago. Historical Conflicts and the Prospects for Peace in Colombia. Nashville: Vanderbilt University.

Desch-obi, T. (2016, June 20). Ritualized Violence in Africa and the Diaspora. The Cambridge World History of Violence Conference. Rome, Italy: Cambridge University.

Desch-obi, T. (2015, November 30). Martial Motherhood: Dike nwami and maestras de grima as socially sanctioned femininities in Calabar and Caloto. Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora. Charleston, SC

Desch-obi, T. (2015, April 30). Combative Connections: The Transnational Linkages in Afro-Colombian Martial Arts. Locating and Connecting Latin American and the African Diaspora. Charlotte, NY: University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Desch-obi, T. (2015, March 31). Bad-ass Femininity: Gendering the Aesthetics and Practice of Machete Fighting. National Council of Black Studies. Los Angeles

Desch-obi, T. (2014, October 31). honor and the Aesthetics of Agon in Jailhouse Rock. Marking Time: Prison Arts and Activism Conference. New Brunswick: Rutgers University.

Desch-obi, T. (2013, November 30). Cruzas and Cartillas: The Counter-archive of Afro-Colombian Martial Arts Styles. Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora. Santo Domingo

Desch-obi, T. (2012, November 30). Combat in Cimbebasia:A Counterpoint from the Southern Frontier. African Studies Association. Philadelphia

Desch-obi, T. (2012, April 30). Corporal Archives. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

Desch-obi, T. (2012, September 30). Angolan Aesthetics and the First American Pugilist. Duke university: Duke University.

Desch-obi, T. (2011, December 31). Esgrima de Machete: A Latin American Martial Art Tradition. Afro-Latin America: Rethinking Identity, Politics and Culture Symposium. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University.

Desch-obi, T. (2011, November 30). Negros Macheteros: Afro-Latino Martial Arts in the Popular Imagination. Afro-Latino Conference. New York City: Afro-Latino Forum.

Desch-obi, T. (2010, April 30). Los Ayudados: Spiritual Forces and the Machete Arts. Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora Conference. New York City: City College, CUNY.

Desch-obi, T. (2009, April 30). Muhammad Ali and Zaire. University of Nebraska Blacks in Film Festival. Lincoln: University of Nebraska.

Desch-obi, T. (2009, February 28). African Diaspora Pugilism and the Lowcountr. Charleston, SC: College of Charleston.

Desch-obi, T. (2008, May 31). ’That African Way’: Machete Fighting Arts in Cuba, Haiti, and Colombia. Caribbean Studies Association Conference. San Andres, Colombia: Caribbean Studies Association.

Desch-obi, T. (2008, March 31). Performing Combat: An Oral History of Afro-Colombian Escrima and Participation in the War of Leticia. Oral History Conference. New York City: Oral History Association.

Desch-obi, T. (2007, February 28). Combat and Creolization. Rethinking Boundaries Conference. New York City: NYU.

Desch-obi, T. (2007, October 31). Le Defi: Mascarene Pugilism and the African Diaspora. African Studies Association Conference. New York City: African Studies Association.

Desch-obi, T. (2006, April 30). History and the Language of Combat. Invited Lecture. Miami: Florida Memorial College.

Desch-obi, T. (2005, February 28). Masculinity and the 52 Combat Aesthetic. Black Masculinities Conference. New York: Graduate Center, CUNY.

Desch-obi, T. (2005, April 30). Koup Tet: Haitian stick fighting and the Haitian Revolution. Activating the Past Conference. Los Angeles: UCLA.

Desch-obi, T. (2005, October 31). History and Origin Myths: The Genesis of Brazil's Famous Capoeira Foot-Fighting. Conference. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Association for the Study of the Worldwide Arfican Diaspora (ASWAD).

Desch-obi, T. (2004, February 28). Battle Dancers: The Surprising Success of Early Black Boxers. Conference. New York University: New York Historians of Africa.

Desch-obi, T. (2004, October 31). Fighting Sweet: African Combat Aesthetics and British Boxing. African Diaspora Interdisciplinary Conference. New York: Graduate Center, CUNY.

Desch-obi, T. (2004, May 31). Medicine and Conflict in Central Arfica. Invited Lecture. New York: Charles Moore Center of Ethnic Studies.

Desch-obi, T. (2004, April 30). Guarda Negra: Art and Social Resistance. Invited Lecture. : John F. kennedy School African Diaspora in the Amercias Conference.

Desch-obi, T. (2003, April 30). Oceans Apart: the Origin and Spread of an Angolan Foot-fighting Tradition. Invited Lecture. : University of Pennsylvania, East Asian Studies & African Studies Center.

Desch-obi, T. (2002, December 31). Diving History: Historical Linguistics and African Divination in Historical Reconstruction. Washington D.C: African Studies Association.

Desch-obi, T. (2002, November 30). Historical Creolization: A Reappraisal for the Perspective of African martial art Traditions in Brazil. Conference. New York: Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean\ City University of New York.

Desch-obi, T. (2002, June 30). ASILI: Fieldwork and Computer Software in African History. Interdisciplinary Symposium on Fieldwork in Africa. Dakar, Senegal: The West African Research Association,.

Desch-obi, T. (2002, November 30). Philosophy in Motion. Public Performance and Lecture on African influence on dance in the Americas and the world of martial arts. New York: Baruch College.

Desch-obi, T. (2001, November 30). Giving Voice to Minority Groups among Enslaved Africans in North America. Keynote address. : Symposium on Slave Life and Culture, Indiana University.

Desch-obi, T. (2001, November 30). Cross-stepping: African Traditions in the Carolina Lowcountry. Houston, Texas: African Studies Association.

Desch-obi, T. (2001, November 30). African Origins of Virginia Slave Culture. Invited lecture. : University of maryland honors program.

Desch-obi, T. (2000, October 31). Angola and 'a luta brasileria'. Conference on Enslaving Connections: Africa and Brazil during the Era of the Slave Trade. Canada. UNESCO: York University.

Desch-obi, T. (2000, September 30). Triknology and Trip'em ups. Conference on Crossing Boundries: The African Diaspora in the New Millennium. : New York University.

Desch-obi, T. (2000, April 30). Capoeira and Co-optation: From 'National' Subcultures to a Brazilian National Form. African Studie Conference. : UCLA.

Desch-obi, T. (2000, July 31). Biafran Cultural Traditions in North America. Conference on Repercussions of the Atlantic Slave Trade: The Interior of the Bight and the African Diaspora. Enugu, Nigeria

Desch-obi, T. (1999, September 30). Combat and the Crossing of the Kalunga. Conference on Bantu into Black: Central Africans in the Atlantic Diaspora. : Howard University.

Desch-obi, T. (1999, January 31). Spiritual Dimensions of Martial Arts in the African Diaspora. Atlantic Series Colloquium. : UCLA.

Desch-obi, T. (1998, November 30). Military and religious of West Central Africa. Invited Lecture. : University of Houston.

Desch-obi, T. (1997, March 31). Linguas nacionais como fontes historicas. Invited Lecture, Instituto Superior de Ciencias da Educacao. : Department of History, Agostinho Neto University.

Desch-obi, T. (1996, October 31). Fieldwork Methods. Guest Lecture. : Loyola Marymount University.

Desch-obi, T. (1995, December 31). African Combat Dances in America. African American Theater. : UCLA.

Desch-obi, T. (1995, October 31). Quem Nao Pode com Mandinga. American Folklore Society Annual Meeting. : UCLA.

Desch-obi, T. (1995, May 31). The Surprising Success of Early Black Boxers. African Activists Association Annual Meeting. : UCLA.

Desch-obi, T. (1995, May 31). Batuque and Plays: Comparing Slave Cultures in Brazil and the United States. Invited Lecture, Fireside Lounge Series. : Univsity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Desch-obi, T. (1995, February 28). Stick fighting in the African Diaspora. Invited Lecture. : University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Desch-obi, T. (1994, December 31). African Combat Dances in America. African American Theater. : UCLA.

Other Scholarly Works

Desch-obi, T., & Palmer, C. (2005). Capoeira. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas.

Desch-obi, T., Eyoh, D., & Tiyambe Zeleza, P. (2003). Cape Verde. Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century African History. 62-64.

Desch-obi, T., Eyoh, D., & Tiyambe Zeleza, P. (2003). Windhoek, Namibia. Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century African History. 595-596.

Desch-obi, T., Eyoh, D., & Tiyambe Zeleza, P. (2003). Angola. Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century African History. 33-35.

Reviews

Desch-obi, T. (2009,January 1). Capoiera. American Historical Review.

Research Currently in Progess

Desch-obi, T. (.(n.d.). Hombres Históricos: Grima and the Afro-Colombian Struggle. In Progress.

Book manuscript. This manuscript traces the social history of the martial art of grima from 1840 to 1960. It begins with the stick and machete-based of grima during the last decade of legal bondage, and its role in toppling the institution of slavery. It explores the role of grima as an extra-military skill that made Afro-Colombians of the Cauca the lifeblood of the liberal armies in the frequent civil wars from 1851 to 1902. It similarly explores grima's role in male duels for honor and female struggles for community leadership and against domestic abuse. Grima became an important militarily in the Afro-Colombian struggle to retain their lands and in the service of the nation and liberal party respectively during the conflict with Peru in 1932 and the civil war of 1948. The manuscript concludes by looking at the transformations and legacies of grima academies in the wake of the 1948-52 period of violence.

TitleFunding Agency SponsorStart DateEnd DateAwarded DateTotal FundingStatus
Grima's West African AntecedantsPSC-CUNY 5007/01/201912/31/202204/15/20193500Completed
The Juego Cubano: A Transnational History of Machetes and Revolutionary StrugglePSC-CUNY 4507/01/201406/30/201504/15/20143494.2Completed
Grima in Caloto ViejoBritish Library06/15/201308/14/201306/05/201314799.91Completed
Grima: Machetes and Men of HistoryPSC-CUNY 4207/01/201106/30/201204/15/20113500Completed
Panga: The Machete Arts of Agriculture and WarPSC-CUNY 4007/01/200906/30/20104215Completed
Le Défi: A History of the Martial Arts of the Indian Ocean WorldPSC-CUNY 3807/01/200706/30/20085950Completed
Grima's African Archipelago Antecedants PSC CUNY 5307/01/202212/31/202304/15/20226000Funded - In Progress
Honor / AwardOrganization SponsorDate ReceivedDescription
Mellon Committee on Religion Fellowship2012
West Point Summer FellowshipWest Point2011Summer Fellowship for Military History at West Point.
Schomburg Scholar in Residence FellowshipSchomburg Center2010
2008 Hines Prize for the best book in Atlantic World History2008
Research FellowshipEugene M. Lang2004
Mellon Faculty SeminarCUNY2004
NEH Summer Stipend Award2004
Caribbean Theater and Culltural PerforamnceNEH Summer Seminar2003
Center for Place, Culture, and Politics FellowshipCUNY2003
Faculty Publication ProgramCUNY2003
Whiting Foundation Award2003
William Stewart Travel Award2003
The Slavery DebatesGilder Lehrman Institute Seminar2002
Minority Postdoctoral FellowshipFord Foundation2000
Presidents FellowshipAY1999
Chancellor's Dissertation Year FellowshipAY1998
Filbright IIE Fellowship, for research in Namibia AY1997
Project 88 Scholarship (1995-1997)1997
Social Science Research Council, for fieldwork in AngolaAY1996
Small Grant Fieldwork ib BrazilCenter for Latin American Studies1996
International Studies and Overseas Programs, Language StudyUCLA 1995
Small Grant, for archival work in AngolaUCLA History Department1995
Fieldwork in South CarolinaInstitute pf American Cultures Grant1994
Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS Title VI), for Kriolu 1994
Graduate Affirmative Affairs ScholarshipAY1993
Trustman Fellowship, for research in Nigeria and BrazilAY1990
Sally and Sressap Moore Prize, for best research thesis1990
John Harvard ScholarshipAY1989
Horvard Scholarship (1987-1988)AY1988

College

Committee NamePosition RoleStart DateEnd Date
Performing Arts BoardPresent
Religion and Culture ProgramMemberPresent
Advisor for History MinorsPresent
Curriculum CommitteeCommittee MemberPresent
Latin American and Caribbean StudiesMemberPresent
Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts ClubFaculty AdvisorPresent
Interim Department Chair12/31/2016
Executive Committee Committee Member12/31/2015
Executive Committee Committee Member12/31/2008
Department Planning CommitteeCommittee Member12/31/2007
Committee on Collegiate Athletic Activities12/31/2007
Collaboration with Baruch College Campus High School 12/31/2006
Committee Athletic ActivitiesCommittee Chair12/31/2006
Computers in Education Committee12/31/2006
History ClubCo-director12/31/2006
"Ologunde" Pre-performance lecture12/31/2003
"Philosophy in Motion" Lecture and Performance12/31/2002

University

Committee NamePosition RoleStart DateEnd Date
PSC-CUNY Grants Grant Proposal Reviewer, Internal1/1/20182/28/2018
CUNY Mellon Faculty Seminar1/1/200412/31/2005
CUNY Center for Place, Culture, and Politics Seminar1/1/200312/31/2004

Professional

OrganizationPosition RoleOrganization StateOrganization CountryStart DateEnd DateAudience
Articles reviewed for Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural StudiesReviewerArizonaUnited StatesPresentInternational
The University of the West IndiesExternal ReviewerTrinidadTrinidad and Tobago9/20/20226/17/2023International

Public

OrganizationPosition RoleOrganization StateOrganization CountryStart DateEnd DateAudience
CUNY Faculty Publication Program3/31/2003