Kwame Essien’s interdisciplinary research focuses on comparative histories of slavery, reverse migrations, race, cultures in Africa and the African Diaspora/Atlantic world, and the history and colonization of herbal medicine, health interventions in Africa from the pre-colonial times.
Essien’s book, Brazilian-African Diaspora in Ghana: The Tabom, Slavery, Dissonance of Memory, Identity and Locating Home (Michigan State University Press, 2016) is the first academic book that examines the untold story of freed slaves from Brazil who resettled in Gã (Accra), Ghana from the early 1820s. Essien argues that freed Africans escaped slavery in Brazil into colonial oppression in Ghana. The returnees’ unmatched fortitude enabled them to make various contributions to the social history of colonial Accra. Essien provides ample archival and ethnographic evidence to show how the returnees thrived socially, culturally, and economically despite the challenges they encountered after their settlement.
Essien’s new project, a comparative study tentatively entitled Another Long Journey Home traces the histories of African America reverse migrations to Ghana. Another on-going project, a comparative study tentatively entitled Collaborators, Traitors and Opportunists in Ghanaian History, explores the complex interactions between Europeans, Kwaku Andoh II, the chief of Elmina (1884-1898) and other kings and chiefs of coastal Ghana from the late nineteenth century. Essien explores individual and collective interactions and exchanges between Europeans and selected coastal leaders, during the abolition of slavery and the onset of British colonization.
Essien was selected as a Co-PI for the $100,000.00 Accelerator Grant in 2017: "Enhancing the Value of Short-term Volunteer Mission in Health from Host Perspective." The proposed study was the first to rely on in-country researchers to investigate the specific concerns of host communities with regards to interactions with volunteers and students and the first to study the efforts made by host countries to ameliorate these concerns. It involves conducting in-depth interviews with key individuals from the major in-country stakeholders, including government entities, health associations, and host organizations involved with medical missions, regional and community medical facilities, healthcare NGOs, church and service organizations, universities, and medical schools.