Kalle Kananoja is an expert on the history of medicine in precolonial Atlantic Africa and the early modern African diaspora. He has published extensively on Angolan and Afro-Brazilian religious and medical history. Most recently, he has co-edited Healers and Empires in Global History: Healing as Hybrid and Contested Knowledge (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), and a special issue on “Namibia: History, Memory, Society” for the Nordic Journal of African Studies.
Kalle Kananoja works as a Lecturer in African studies (fixed-term) at the University of Helsinki. Since completing his PhD at the Åbo Akademi University (2012), he has worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the European University Institute (Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow 2012–2013), King’s College London (Visiting Research Associate 2013–2014), as an Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher (2013–2016) and CORE Fellow at the Collegium of Advanced Studies at the University of Helsinki (2016–2017). He has taught courses on culture and health in global history, slavery and the Atlantic slave trade, modernisation in Africa, and research methods in African history. He is currently PI in charge of a Finnish Cultural Foundation funded project (2018–2019), which explores early modern networks between the Netherlands and Sweden  in a global history framework.

Kananoja’s book manuscript, Healing Knowledge in Atlantic Africa: Cross-cultural Medical Encounters 1500–1850, explores health, disease and medical knowledge in precolonial Atlantic Africa. It deals with African and European perceptions of health, disease, and healing in tropical Africa. The book highlights cross-cultural medical exchanges and argues that local African knowledge was central to shaping European responses to illness. Medical interaction between Africans, Europeans residing in Africa for extended periods, and Eurafricans, in turn, shaped natural history collections in European centers of learning, but the true value of medico-botanical knowledge lay in its applicability in day-to-day health concerns among those who lived and settled in Atlantic Africa.


Ph.D History, Åbo Akademi University. June 2012.

M.A. African Studies, University of Helsinki. May 2005.

Other Publications

Journal articles

2016         “Infected by the Devil, Cured by Calundu: African Healers in Eighteenth-Century Minas Gerais, Brazil.” Social History of Medicine 29: 3, 490–511.

2015         “Bioprospecting and European Uses of African Natural Medicine in Early Modern Angola.” Portuguese Studies Review 23:2 (Special issue “Angola – Then and Now”), 45–69.

2013         “Pai Caetano Angola, Afro-Brazilian Magico-Religious Practices, and Cultural Resistance in Minas Gerais in the Late Eighteenth Century.” Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage 2:1 (Special issue “Atlantic Approaches on Slave Resistance in the Americas”), 19-39.

2010         “Healers, Idolaters and Good Christians: A Case Study of Creolization and Popular Religion in Mid-Eighteenth Century Angola.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 43:3, 443-465.

2007         “’Ask the Dog about the Cold, Ask the Slave about Early Hours’: Contours of Slavery in Ovamboland during the Late Nineteenth Century.” Studia Orientalia (Helsinki) 101, 21-43.

2005         “The Trade in Slaves in Ovamboland, c.1850-1910.” African Economic History 33, 31-68.

2003         “A Continent of Slaves: Anti-Slave-Trade Rhetoric and the Image of Africa in Finland in the Nineteenth-Century.” Nord Nytt 87, 68-89.


Other articles

2018    “As raízes africanas de uma doença brasileira – o banzo em Angola nos séculos XVII e XVIII.” Ponta de Lança (Special issue: “Escravidão e Sociedade em Espaços Lusófonos”), 69–94.

2018    “Melancholia, Race, and Slavery in the Early Modern Southern Atlantic World,” in Jari Eilola, Markku Hokkanen ja Tuomas Laine-Frigren, eds., Crises of Mind: Cultural and Institutional Approaches to Insanity, 88–112. Leiden: Brill.

2013         “Portuguese Slave Trade in the Americas,” coauthored with Jelmer Vos, in Immanuel Ness, ed., The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

2013         “Mariana Pequena, a Black Angolan Jew in Early Eighteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro.” Max Weber Working Paper 2013/16, European University Institute. Open access online publication: <http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/27607/MWP_2013_16.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y&gt;

2010         “Katolicism och synkretism i Centralafrika och Brasilien på 1600- och 1700-talen,” [“Catholicism and Syncretism in Central Africa and Brazil in the 17th and 18th Centuries,”] in Holger Weiss, ed., Atlantiska religiösa nätverk: Transoceana kontakter, trossamfund och den enskilda individen i skuggan av slavhandeln [Atlantic Religious Networks: Transocean Contacts, Religious Communities and Individuals in the Shadow of the Slave Trade]. Nora: Nya Doxa, 2010, 173-216.

2006         ”Afrikaner i den brasilianska världen under 1700-talet,” [“Africans in the Brazilian World in the 18th Century,”) Finsk Tidskrift 3-4 (2006), 170-182.


Nordic Journal of African Studies, Culture and history section co-editor

Finnish Historical Society, invited member

Kalle Kananoja

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