Alvita Akiboh

Alvita Akiboh's picture
Assistant Professor
HQ 241
Fields of interest: 

United States; U.S. imperialism; Caribbean; Pacific; material culture; nations and national identity

Alvita Akiboh (pronunciation) is a US historian specializing in the history of US overseas colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific. She earned her PhD in History from Northwestern University and BA in History from Indiana University. Before coming to Yale, Akiboh was a postdoctoral fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows.
Akiboh’s first book, Imperial Material: National Symbols in the US Colonial Empire, is available for pre-order and comes out October 2023 with University of Chicago Press. Imperial Material tells the story of how objects laden with US national symbols—flags, money, and postage stamps—became an arena in which contests over national identity played out in the US colonial empire from the turn of the twentieth century to the post-WWII era of global decolonization. In these overseas colonies occupying the tenuous space between foreign and domestic, these seemingly mundane objects became central for both US imperialists who sought to establish and maintain US colonial rule and for people living in the colonies who made claims to belonging, resisted US rule, and used these symbolic objects to articulate their own understanding of their relationship to the United States.
Akiboh has conducted research throughout the continental United States and the overseas territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Hawai‘i, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Her work has been supported by a variety of organizations, including the American Historical Association, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and National Museum of American History.
At Yale, Akiboh teaches courses on US history, national identity, colonialism, and empire. Please check for current offerings.
Advance praise for Imperial Material:
  • “In this vividly written history, Akiboh traces ideas and artifacts in motion. Whether saluting the Stars and Stripes, raising a seditious flag, or marking political heroes on the stamps of the independent Philippines, colonized people throughout the Pacific made and remade the meanings of national symbols. Imperial Material boldly demonstrates that at stake in these contests was nothing less than life or death.”—Chris Capozzola, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • “Akiboh’s original and compelling story shows us that empire was as much a matter of stamps, money, and flags as it was about raw colonial domination—and that indeed the latter did not happen without the former. At once seminal and revelatory, this book covers uncharted territory in the historiography of American empire and empire more broadly.”—Julian Go, University of Chicago
  • “With crisp prose and a sweeping narrative arc, Akiboh offers an original, ambitious, and deeply researched work of scholarship. By focusing on the uses and meanings of US national symbols that were exported to the colonies—flags, stamps, and currency—Akiboh uncovers the quotidian practices that made real the experience of colonialism.”—Sarah Miller-Davenport, Columbia University
  • Imperial Material is an important, innovative history that examines the crucial role of quotidian objects in effort to foster allegiance or loyalty. Akiboh shows how the imperial fetishization of flags, stamps, and currency reveals imperial insecurity about its reliance on the colonized for the imperial arrangement to work. In turn, the objects serve to foster pride in a newly decolonized nation. A major contribution to our understanding of the affective dimension of US empire.”—Naoko Shibusawa, Brown University
  • “This is terrific scholarship. Akiboh presents a highly original, impressively researched, clearly written, and helpfully illustrated study of the official accoutrements of US imperialism.”—Bartholemew Sparrow, University of Texas at Austin
Selected Awards
  • Harold Perkin Prize for Best Dissertation (2019)
  • Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award (2018)
Southeast Asia
Empires & Colonialism
Race & Ethnicity