Center for East African and the Indian Ocean Studies

Center for East African and the Indian Ocean


East Africa and the Indian Ocean (CEAIOS) is a research division of the Institute for the Advanced Study in Culture and the Environment (ASCE). The CEAIOS’s core functions are research, teaching, and public education. The CEAIOS research programs address central issues in culture and the environment. The CEAIOS field and laboratory research are supported by extramural grants. The CEAIOS research group investigates ancient technological, economic, and political systems.  The CEAIOS has two professors in tenured positions and two graduate students at USF. Additionally, we have collaborators at the National Museums of Kenya (Three), Columbia University, New York (Three), and Washington University in St. Louis (One).

Ongoing research current at the CEAIOS contributes to our understanding of the human role in climate change, the loss of biodiversity, the process of state-making, ethnicity and social interaction, episodes of mass extinction, and other questions relevant to life’s episodes of diversity and change. The CEAIOS research integrates theoretical and applied research to address key concepts and questions about the region’s past and contemporary lifeways. 

The CEAIOS research agenda is to understand and model the development of state societies in the Indian Ocean. CEAIOS members investigate urbanism as an outcome of global trade, migration, and integration. Members conduct anthropological, archaeological, and ethnohistorical fieldwork at ports, urban, and rural sites in Kenya, Madagascar, and India to address theoretical and methodological questions in the later prehistory of East Africa and the Indian Ocean. The CEAIOS team is conducting the first systematic study of how disease pandemics and climate-induced disasters such as tsunamis, cyclones, prolonged droughts, and warfare contributed to the weakening of Swahili urban societies - leading to their collapse and abandonment and eventual colonization. This research is centered around the Swahili city of Gede in Kenya, a medieval Swahili polity inhabited for 500 years, from 1000 to 1500 CE. The team is also involved in several other ongoing collaborative research projects in Kenya, Rwanda, Madagascar, and China. All the projects are interdisciplinary and integrate ecological and anthropological approaches. 

CEIAOS Leadership 

CEIAOS Research Projects

CEIAOS Publications