Alvan Ikoku works at the intersection of literature and medicine, specializing in the study of African and African diasporic literatures, twentieth-century fiction, narrative ethics, and histories of tropical medicine and global health.

He is primarily concerned with literary, medical, and public health discourses on Africa and its diasporas. His research situates these discourses within post-nineteenth-century movements in world literature and world health. And currently, as part of a book project, he studies the place of the long narrative forms, particularly the novel, in the emergence of global health as a modern medical specialty.

Prof Ikoku has written for the World Health Organization, Small Axe, Literature and Medicine, Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, and Virtual Mentor, the ethics journal of the American Medical Association. He has also received president's teaching awards at Columbia and Harvard Universities.

Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • Andrew W Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities, Stanford University (2013-2014)
  • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, Columbia University (2010-2011)
  • Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, Columbia University (2010)
  • Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellowship, Columbia University (2009-2011)
  • Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Gabon (2003)
  • Derek Bok Award for Excellence in Teaching, Harvard University (2001)
  • Rhodes Scholarship, Rhodes Trust, Oxford (1996-1999)

Professional Education

  • PhD, Columbia University, English and Comparative Literature (2013)
  • MD, Harvard Medical School (2004)
  • MA, University of London - SOAS, African Literature (1999)
  • MPhil, University of Oxford, History of Medicine (1998)
  • AB, Stanford University, Human Biology (1996)

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Ikoku's research traces confluences in science and literature that have long constituted modern medical and ethics discourse — dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present period, and particularly where Africa and its diaspora are points of representation

His scholarship has thus been in three areas. First, work that details the place of colonial, postcolonial, and world literatures in the evolution of tropical medicine and global health as medical fields, with writing on malaria and Africa as a primary focus. His current book, Forms of Global Health, and a forthcoming article, 'Reading Malaria Literature,' are part of this research, as is previous writing for the World Health Organization. Second, a series of long articles that detail efforts by writers of African descent to examine space, race and gender as genres of self-governance. And third, work that traces the emergence of modern fiction as an alternative mode for ethical thought regarding humane care and human subjects research. Here, he has published with Virtual Mentor as well as Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, and he is developing a second book project on the Literature of Human Experimentation.

Finally, Ikoku's research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University Research Grants, the Marjorie Hope Nicolson Fellowship, and the Rhodes Trust.


2016-17 Courses