Dr. Denise Lim is a postdoctoral scholar for the African Collections project at the Stanford University Archaeology Collections (SUAC). Denise has a BA in English and Sociology from Bryn Mawr College, an MA in African Studies, and a PhD in Sociology from Yale University, where she was both a lecturer and a research fellow at the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). Denise has worked for over 16 years in the transdisciplinary sociology of diverse African communities, concentrating on southern Africa and the region’s diverse cultural practices. She co-curated the 'Contemporary Art/South Africa' exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2014 and has undertaken curation, research, and teaching within Yale’s notable African art collection. As part of her dissertation fieldwork, Denise collaborated with South African artist Mikhael Subotzky to access and research his and Patrick Waterhouse’s 'Ponte City' (2014) art archive.

As part of her dissertation fieldwork, Denise photographed and catalogued thousands of artifacts that the two artists collected from an infamous residential tower named Ponte, a Brutalist building in the heart of Johannesburg that was constructed during apartheid in 1975. Changing owners had attempted to renovate and gentrify the residence, forcibly evicting tenants from their homes in 2008 to make way for wealthier clients. Denise recontextualized these artifacts with multimedia forms of data including Ponte’s photographic archive, architectural blueprints, city planning documents, tenant applications from the National Archives, documentary films, and newspaper articles. She is now completing her most recent project, a survey on behalf of the Yale IPCH and the Global Consortium for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage to evaluate the impact that COVID-19 has had on cultural heritage and preservation training programs throughout the African continent.

While at Stanford, Denise has co-taught a course entitled, 'The African Archive Beyond Colonization' with Dr. Sarah Derbew in the Autumn 2021 quarter where students curated a virtual exhibition featuring 15 of SUAC’s highlight African artifacts spanning from Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Sudan. Denise will co-teach 'Museum Cultures: Exhibiting the African Imaginary' with Dr. Christina Hodge in the Spring 2022 quarter, where SUAC will continue to work with students to plan, design, and curate an on-site exhibition at the Stanford Archaeology Center featuring materials from Nubian Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. The on-site exhibition is scheduled to launch on May 27, 2022, with a keynote address given by Swedish-Somali archaeologist, Dr. Sada Mire.

Professional Education

  • Ph.D, Yale University, Sociology (2020)
  • M.A., Yale University, African Studies (2014)
  • B.A., Bryn Mawr College, English and Sociology (2008)

Stanford Advisors

Research Interests

  • Collaborative Learning
  • Diversity and Identity
  • History
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Sociology

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Denise has extensive experience in writing, teaching, and curating scholarship on Africa for both academic and general audiences. Spanning over 16 years, Denise’s travels to southern Africa have resulted in a diverse range of interdisciplinary research projects, including HIV/AIDS prevention education in rural Malawi and South Africa, the sociopolitical construction of African literature in South African universities, the social role of multimedia art in exploring trauma and landscape in postcolonial Namibia, and the use of photography to document the embodied practices of African-initiated religious groups in Southern Africa.

Denise’s doctoral dissertation explores a Brutalist residential tower in Johannesburg called Ponte City. Originally developed as a bastion of white privilege, luxury, and global aspiration during apartheid, Ponte has since retained the mythological reputation of harboring socially deviant populations submerged in lives of crime, illicit activity, and urban decay. Collaborating with a diverse team of visual artists, urban architects, and web designers, Denise analyzes a vast collection of multimedia forms of data with which she explores the building’s rich geological, architectural, and urban heritage. These include the building’s art archive, architectural design and layout, bureaucratic documents, and material artifacts. Denise is committed to developing decolonial methods of inquiry that highlight the importance of Africanist scholarship in an increasingly globalizing world. She is also passionate about unlocking the potential that digital scholarship and data curation has in making historically-neglected scholarship accessible to the general public.


  • African Collections Exhibition, Stanford University Archaeology Collections (5/1/2021 - Present)

    Organizing both a physical and virtual exhibition featuring highlight African objects to be launched by June 2022.


    Palo Alto, CA

  • COVID-19 Impact Survey on African Cultural Heritage Institutions and Training, Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (8/1/2020 - 10/31/2021)

    Measuring the impact of COVID-19 on African cultural heritage training programs and institutions


    New Haven, CT


    • Alison Gilchrest, Director of Applied Research, Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage

    For More Information:

2021-22 Courses

All Publications

  • Conversations Across Place: Reckoning With An Entangled World Diasporic Entanglements Lim, D. L., Vally, S. 2021: 107-128
  • Quiet Images of the Zionist Christian Church Lim, D. L. City Press. Johannesburg, South Africa. 2018
  • What the Landscape Recalls: Articulating Scales of Violence in Landscape Trauma in Namibia Lim, D. L. Art Africa. 2018