Department ofHistory

Neal Sobania

Neal Sobania


253-535-7410 (office)



African History with a particular focus on Ethiopia, and Eastern and Southern Africa ,as well as visual culture, museum studies, and the use of photographs as historical documents.


Ph.D., University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies), 1980


Neal Sobania has extensive experience in living, working, and conducting research in Africa that began as a freshly minted college graduate with his assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. He is the author of Culture and Customs of Kenya (Greenwood, 2003), a broad introduction to the rich cultural, geographic, ethnic and linguistic diversity of this vibrant country, and a major contributor to the research and catalogs of Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw (2005) and Ethiopia: Traditions of Creativity (1999) that accompanied the traveling national exhibitions of the same names. Additionally, he has curated museum exhibitions, including at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian), filmed and written short documentaries to introduce Africa to broader audiences, and had his photographs exhibited and published. He is presently completing the manuscript of a book on contemporary painters and painting in Ethiopia, with the working title, Icons of Devotion/Icons of Trade.

Prof. Sobania has also had a significant career as an international educator. He has held many elected positions in both regional and national organizations. In 2006 was the recipient of the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) and in 2009 led the effort that resulted in PLU being a recipient of the Sen. Paul Simon Award for Internationalizing the Campus from NAFSA: Association of International Educators - the first private school in the west to be so recognized.