Serah Shani, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor, School of Social & Behavioral Science
Serah Shani.jpg

Serah Shani is an Associate Professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She conducts research in Africa and the African Diaspora. In the USA, her research broadly explores the intersection of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, health and sociocultural life of immigrants in urban settings and how these aspects inform access to social services and socioeconomic mobility. In Africa she has conducted research on the configuration and consolidation of elites in Kenya. She is also author of two books: African Immigrant Families in the United States: Transnational Lives and Schooling and Indigenous Elites in Africa: The Case of Kenya’s Maasai. Most recently, she has been awarded a generous grant from The John Templeton Foundation for her project titled: The Cultural Evolution of the Conscience, Virtues, Character Development, and Human Progress.

Ph.D. Cultural Anthropology and Education, Columbia University

M.Phil. Cultural Anthropology and Education, Columbia University

Ed.M. International and Transcultural Studies, Columbia University

M.A. Sociology of Health and Medicine, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

B.A., Community Development and a minor in Music, Daystar University, Nairobi Kenya

 

Although all human societies have beliefs about what is right and wrong, the study of the conscience and moral development across cultures is understudied. The proposed research combines qualitative and quantitative research methods to answer the following questions about the conscience and character development among the Maasai: (1) What moral values and virtues are parents teaching their children to help them succeed in a competitive market economy? (2) In what ways do religions influence the moral values of children? (3) In what ways does moral enculturation differ between groups of different socioeconomic status, geographic locations, and levels of exposure to global religions and market influences? (4) What are the moral values held in common by traditional Maasai thought and the global cultural influences that it has confronted? (5) To what extent do the traditional moral values of the Maasai overlap with those introduced by the market, formal education, missionary work, and other globalizing forces? (6) Does that overlap provide a basis for negotiating the development of the conscience in this time of rapid change? Findings from this research will be presented at six conferences and published in six peer-reviewed journals. Findings will help reveal how human values evolve and are accepted, challenged, transformed or take new forms in situations of cultural change. This will be the first research of the conscience studied from both qualitative and quantitative methods and from interdisciplinary perspectives including the intersections of religions, cultural practices, socioeconomic status, geographic location and exposure to market economies. These findings will contribute to an understanding of the nature and evolution of the conscience cross-culturally.

  • African immigrants adaptation strategies in New York City: Education, health and social economic mobility.

This research broadly explores the intersection of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, health and sociocultural life of immigrants in urban settings and how these aspects inform access to social services and socioeconomic mobility. My current research looks at urban immigration, global and transnational movements, identities and the sociocultural economic adaptation of recent African immigrants to the United States. My research addresses these dynamics through the lens of a particular ethnic community. Utilizing ethnographic methods, I compare and contrast how elite and nonelite Ghanaian-born parents in New York City influence their children’s socioeconomic mobility and identity formation

  • Configurations and Consolidation of Indigenous Elites in Africa: Kenya

Through the lens of the Maasai community, this research seeks to examine contemporary modes of elite formation and the place of social reproduction theories in contemporary elite formation theorizing. This research engages ethnographic methods, genealogies and archival research, to address the following questions: As the economy becomes globalized how are conventional education elite formation trajectories influenced? What does social reproduction of elite theories mean in a globalized economy? 

  • The Ecological   Origins of Cross-Societal Variation in Cooperation

A large-scale collaboration of about 25 anthropologists working in small communities around the world on: The Ecological Origins of Cross-Societal Variation in Cooperation

 

  • Medical Sociology
  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Race Culture and Ethnicity

Books

  • Shani, Serah. 2021. Indigenous Elites in Africa: The Case of Kenya's Maasai. New York and London: Routledge Publishing Press.

Articles, Book Chapters and Book Reviews

  • Shani, Shani. 2022. Muslim Youth, Religion, and Educational Aspirations: The Case of West African Immigrants in New York City, in Atterberry, A. L., McCallum, D. G., Tu, S., & Lutz, A. (2022). Children and Youths’ Migration in a Global Landscape: Sociological Studies of Children and Youth (Vol. 29). Bingley, UK: Emerald (Forthcoming)
  • Shani, Serah. 2020. “Education and human capital among geographically isolated regions and marginalized Groups in Kenya in Education and the Development of Human Capital: Outcomes for Equality and Governance in Africa, Ndulo, Muna B., Assié-Lumumba, N'Dri T. (Eds.), London: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Shani, Serah. 2020.  Mobile urbanity: Somali Presence in Urban East Africa. By Neil Carrier & Tabea Scharrer Berghan Publishers: 2019 Journal of City and Society
  • Shani, Serah. 2020. From Pews to Politics: Religious Sermons and Political Participation in Africa by Gwyneth H. McClendon and Rachel Beatty Riedl. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. 2019. African Studies Quarterly
  • Shani, Serah. 2019. Studying the Image: Critical Issues in Anthropology for Christians Eugene, OR: WIPF and STOCK        Publishers (Book forward)
  • Shani, Serah. 2019. Downwardly Global: Women, Work, and Citizenship in the Pakistani Diaspora. By Lalaie Ameeriar. Duke University Press: 2017 Journal of City and Society, September.
  • Shani, Serah. 2018. Becoming elite in a contested terrain: The post-colonial experiences of the Franco-Mauritian population in Mauritius. A review of The Franco Mauritian Elite: Power and Anxiety in the face of change. By Tijo Salverda. New York: Berghahn Books. Anthropology Book Forum and also Anthropology News, August 27
  • Shani, Serah. 2017. Elusive Janna: The Somalis Diaspora and the Borderless Muslim Identity. Cawo M. Abdi. 2015. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 289 pp. African Studies Quarterly, December, pp. 89-90
  • Shani, Serah. 2017. Mothers on the move: Reproducing belonging between Africa and Europe. By Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Journal of City and Society, October.
  • Shani, Serah. 2015. & Coe, C. Cultural Capital and Transnational Parenting: The Case of Ghanaian Migrants in the United States. Harvard Educational Review: Winter 2015, Vol. 85, No. 4, pp. 562-586. (Boahen-Wilks Outstanding Scholarly Article Prize in Ghana Studies (Honorable Mention), Ghana Studies Association, 2016)
  • Shani, Shani. 2005. Regional Economic Stratification and its Impact on Women’s Educational Access and HIV/AIDS Prevalence in Kenya: A Comparison between the Nyanza and Central Provinces. Society for International Education (4) 8-13.

2021-2024

  • Serah Shani, PI. The Cultural Evolution of the Conscience, Virtues, Character Development, and, Human Progress: For research in Africa-Kenya funded by The John Templeton Foundation

2021-2024

  • Visiting Associate Professor, Maasai Mara University, Narok-Kenya  

2020-2025

  • Serah Shani (collaborator) with Daniel Balliet, PI. Vrije University Amsterdam. A large-scale collaboration on: The Ecological Origins of Cross-Societal Variation in Cooperation. European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant

2016

  • Shani, Serah. 2015. & Coe, C. Cultural Capital and Transnational Parenting: The Case of Ghanaian Migrants in the United States. Harvard Educational Review: Winter 2015, Vol. 85, No. 4, pp. 562-586. (Boahen-Wilks Outstanding Scholarly Article Prize in Ghana Studies (Honorable Mention), Ghana Studies Association, 2016)

2011-2013

  • Postdoctoral, Visiting Research Scholar, Teachers College Columbia University, Department of International and Transcultural Studies, Anthropology Program, 2011-2013