Geoffrey R Owens, Ph.D.

Sch of Social Sci's & Int'l Studies
Professor, Anthropology
Allyn Hall 321, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy, Dayton, OH 45435-0001

Geoffrey Owens is a Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology in the Department of Sociology/Anthropology. He was also Lead Editor of Semiotics: The Yearbook of the Semiotic Society of America from 2017 to 2021.  He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His areas of specialization include Tanzania, East Africa Swahili culture, History and Anthropology, political economy, oral traditions, suburbanization and semiotics. 

Education History



University of Wisconsin



Dissertation Title: On the Edge of a City: An Historical Ethnography of Urban Identity in the Northwest Suburbs of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, under the supervision of Professor Sharon Hutchinson.


University of Rochester


Anthropology, With Distinction & Highest Honors


Dutchess Community College


Liberal Arts, Honors



Comparative non-Western Cultures

Peoples & Cultures of Native North America

Peoples & Cultures of Africa 

Peoples & Cultures of South Asia

Peoples & Cultures of the United States

Political Anthropology

Anthropology of Religion

African Oral Traditions

Ethnographic Fieldwork

Anthropological Theory



Editorial Review Board, The American Journal of Semiotics 2020-

Editorial Review Board, Semiotics: Yearbook of the Semiotic Society of America 2015- 2017

Editorial Board, Southern Semiotics Review 2014-

City of Oakwood Beautification Committee 2014-2021

OTM Social Science Review Panel for Ohio Board of Regents 2012-

University Service:

Current: Co-chair, Faculty Governance Committee 2019-

 Current: AAUP Chapter Vice President 2016-

AAUP Chapter Liaison 2015-2016

Undergraduate Academic Policies Committee 2015-

Acalog Implementation Committee 2015-2017

Prerequisite Check Committee 2015-2017

Parking Committee 2013-2014

General Education Area II Faculty Coordinator 2011-2012

 Budget Priority Committee 2010-2011

Faculty Senate 2010

Full Graduate Faculty Member 2009-

College of Liberal Arts Service

AAFS Committee 2014-2018

Department Chair Evaluation Committee 2013

Faculty Development Committee 2012-2013

Co-Chair, Undergraduate Symposium Committee 2009-2010

Committee on COLA Conversion to Semesters 2009-2012

Undergraduate Symposium Committee 2008-2010

COLA Senate 2007-2009

Faculty Affairs Committee 2008-2010

Faculty Mentor 2008-2009

Department of Sociology and Anthropology Service:           

Chair, Ad hoc committee on bylaws revision 2013-2017

Chair, Promotion and Tenure Committee 2011-2013; 2014-2015; 2016-2017

Chair, Assistant Professor Search Committee 2011-2012; 2014-2015

Co-chair, Committee on Conversion to Semesters 2009-2010

Anthropology Instructor Search Committee 2011

Chair, Sociology Instructor Search Committee 2008

Sociology Search Committee 2007, 2008 and 2009

Faculty Development Committee 2012-

Promotion and Tenure Committee 2009-

Anthropology Curriculum Committee 2006-

Student Affairs Committee 2007-2009

Website Committee 2011-2012

Student Anthropology Club Advisor 2008-2012




2021 “Semiotics and the Suburbs: A Phenomenological Analysis of Urban Frontier Settlements.” The American Journal of Semiotics 37 (1-2) (R).

2020 (with Donna West) Semiotics 2019: New Frontiers in Semiotics. Charlottesville, NC: Philosophy Documentation Center.

2019 (with Elvira Katic) "Preface: Resilience in an Age of Relation" in Geoffrey Owens and Elvira Katic, eds. Semiotics 2018: Reslilence in an Age of Relation. Charlottesville, NC: Philosophy Documentation Center.2018 (with Jamin Pelky) “Preface: The Play of Musement” in Geoffrey Owens, Jamin Pelky and Sari Park, eds. Semiotics 2017: The Play of Musement. Charlottesville, NC: Philosophy Documentation Center.

2018 “Metaphor or Metonym: The Relationship between Biological and Cultural Evolution” in Geoffrey Owens, Jamin Pelky and Sari Park, eds. Semiotics 2017: The Play of Musement. Charlottesville, NC: Philosophy Documentation Center (R).

2017 “The Ever-Moving Signposts of Indigenousness.”  Semiotics 2016: The Archaeology of Concepts. Charlottesville, NC: Philosophy Documentation Center (R).

2016 “Working One’s Life Away: Precarity, Personhood and the Dissolution of Identity in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.” Semiotics 2015: Virtual Identities. Charlottesville, NC: Philosophy Documentation Center. (R).

2016 “‘We are Not Farmers’: Dilemmas and Prospects of Suburban Cultivators in Contemporary Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.” Journal of Modern African Studies 54 (3): 443-467 (R).

2016 “Recovering the Logic in Semiotics in Reflexive Anthropology” Southern Semiotics Review 7 (1):33-43

2014  “From Collective Villages to Private Ownership: Ujamaa, Tamaa, and the Postsocialist Transformation of Peri-Urban Dar es Salaam 1970-1990” Journal of Anthropological  Research 70 (2): 207-231, Summer. (R).          

2014 “Recovering the Logic in Semiotics in Reflexive Anthropology” ” in Jamin Pelky and Leonard G. Sbrocchi, eds. Semiotics 2013: Yearbook of the Semiotic Society of America. Ottawa: Legas Publishing, pp. 57-66 (R).

2012 “The Kamba War: Foundation Narratives, Ethnogenesis, and the Invention of the Zaramo in Precolonial East Africa.” Ethnohistory 59 (2):353-385, Spring (R).

2010 “Postcolonial Migration: Virtual Culture, Urban Farming, and New Peri-Urban Growth in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 1975-2000.” Africa 80 (2):249-274, May (R).

2007 “Exploring the Articulation of Sovereignty and Governmentality: The Chwaka Road and the Bombardment of Zanzibar, 1895-1896.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 8 (2),           Fall (R).

2006 “The Shomvi: A Precursor to Global Ethnoscapes and Indigenization in Precolonial East Africa.” Ethnohistory 53 (4):715-751, Fall (R).

2005 “The Secret History of TANU: Rumor, Historiography and Muslim Unrest in Contemporary Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.” History and Anthropology 16 (4):441-463, December (R).

2003 “What! Me a Spy?: Intrigue and Reflexivity in Zanzibar.” Ethnography 4 (1):122-144, March (R).


Professional Affiliations/Memberships

SSA (Semiotic Society of America)

ASA (African Studies Association).

AAA (American Anthropological Association).



2010 Wenner-Gren Foundation Post-Ph.D. Research Grant

1998-99 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Grant

1995-1996 University of Wisconsin Graduate School Travel Grant

1992 Fulbright-Hays Swahili Group Project Abroad

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