Securing Ablodé Blibo: Togolese Women Merchants and the Transnational Politics of Decolonization, 1933-1993.


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation demonstrates how a wealthy group of Togolese women entrepreneurs, known as the Nana Benz, used the wealth they acquired from trading imported batik textiles to finance political movements that spanned the contemporary Ghana-Togo border. The Nana Benz’s influence extended to the United States where African-American periodicals including The Crisis, Ebony, and Essence magazines depicted them as embodiments of black women’s revolutionary potential. Using an interdisciplinary methodology that combines archival research, oral history, visual analysis, and a close reading of print media, this project traces the lives of the Nana Benz across the colonial and post-colonial era to reveal the role women played in the expansion of consumer economies during colonialism, the formation of anticolonial consciousness, and the consolidation of state power in the post-independence West Africa.