Kalle Kananoja

Dosentti, FT
Tieteiden ja aatteiden historian yliopistonlehtori
Medical pluralism, slavery and abolition

Historia-, kulttuuri- ja viestintätieteet
Humanistinen tiedekunta

I’m a versatile historian with a background in African and (southern) Atlantic studies, and work (since August 2021) as a lecturer in History of Science and Ideas at University of Oulu. My research focuses on social, cultural and intellectual histories of slavery, religion and medicine. My book Healing Knowledge in Atlantic Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2021; included on the ALA’s Choice list of outstanding academic titles 2022) analyses continuous knowledge exchanges and perceptions of health, disease and healing in West Central and West Africa in the early modern period.

I have co-edited Healers and Empires in Global History (Springer 2019), which explores cross-cultural medical encounters and the intertwined and plural medical histories involving non-Western healers from the Arctic, Asia, Africa, Americas and the Caribbean. My Finnish-language monographs have focused on African experiences of Atlantic slavery (Kahlitut, Gaudeamus, 2021) and quackery in modern Finnish medical landscape between 1850 and 1950 (Ihmelääkärit, SKS, 2021; listed for the scientific book of the year prize in Finland). I have also (co-)edited 3 books in Finnish, two of which are available in open access.

My current research tackles the effects of modernisation and spread of literacy on popular medical medical knowledge and healing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By analysing go-betweens and cultural brokers, it problematises notions of “traditional” medicine and scientific biomedicine as separate and incompatible fields of practice and focuses instead on the interplay and fruitful, yet unequal exchanges between physicians, folk healers and laypeople.

Broadly speaking, I teach (extraeuropean) global history of science and ideas in the early modern and modern periods. I have taught research methods for African history, Africa in the twentieth century, as well as histories of slavery and global health. I am currently developing courses on the comparative history of Catholic inquisitions, African political thought, and tropicalismo as a cultural and intellectual movement. I am also responsible for running the 3rd year BA thesis seminar in history of science and ideas as well as small group teaching in the 2nd year research methods course.


  • Medical pluralism
  • Slavery and abolition