Jane Guyer

Jane Guyer

Academy Professor and George Armstrong Kelly Professor, Anthropology


Jane I. Guyer came to Johns Hopkins from Northwestern University in 2002, having served previously on the faculties of Harvard and Boston University. Her research career has been devoted to economic transformations in West Africa, particularly the productive economy, the division of labor and the management of money. Theoretically she focuses on the interface between formal and informal economies, and particularly the instabilities that interface gives rise to. Her co-edited book is the result of collaborative work with a Nigeria-based network of social scientists, on currency devaluation in the popular economy under structural adjustment and military rule in the 1990s (Money Struggles and City Life, 2002). The work of the group continues, on the topic of accountability. Her last book, Marginal Gains (2004), re-examines the anthropological and historical record on monetary transactions in Atlantic Africa. Since that publication she has developed two research themes: African land use, as a continuation of An African Niche Economy (1997) into a comparative study published with colleagues in a special issue of Human Ecology (2007); and a series of papers on Cultures of Monetarism, which draws on West African, Western and other non-Western sources. Papers and abstracts on that topic are attached, in the interests of communication about these crucial issues.

In 2008 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (Anthropology Section).

She served on several national and international committees, including:

  • 2001-9: The International Advisory Group to the World Bank and the Governments of Chad and Cameroon on the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project
  • 2003-8: Panel, The Lost Crops of Africa series, National Academy Press.
  • 2006-9: The Board and the Executive Committee of the African Studies Association.

A long-term involvement with African Studies has fostered her interest in the humanities and arts. She has co-curated two exhibits and participated in humanities publications, largely by virtue of her work in various African Studies organizations, including her directorship of the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University for seven years.


Marginal Gains: Monetary Transactions in Atlantic Africa. 2004. University of Chicago Press.

Money Struggles and City Life: Devaluation in Ibadan and Other Urban Centers in Southern Nigeria, 1986-1996. 2002. Heinemann.

Major Publications

On Production, Past and Present

Family and Farm in Southern Cameroon. 1984. Boston University, African Studies Center. Research Study #15.

Feeding African Cities. Essays in Regional Social History (editor) 1987. Edinburgh University Press and the International African Institute.

An African Niche Economy. 1997. Edinburgh University Press and the International African Institute.

Time and African Land Use. Ethnography and Remote Sensing. 2007. Guyer and Eric Lambin (eds.) Special issue of Human Ecology, 35,1.

On Money

Money Matters. Instability, Values and Social Payments in the Modern History of West African Communities. (editor) 1995. Heinemann.

Money Struggles and City Life. (co-editor with LaRay Denzer and Adigun Agbaje). 2002. Heinemann

Marginal Gains. Monetary Transactions in Atlantic Africa. 2004. University of Chicago Press.

Cultures of Monetarism. Collected papers and abstracts


1986 To Dance the Spirit. Masks of Liberia. Peabody Museum, Harvard University

1998 Living Tradition in Africa and the Americas: The Legacy of Melville J. & Frances S. Herskovits, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University.