Professor Lal teaches courses on African history and modern world history. Her research focuses on the politics of national development in decolonization-era and postcolonial Africa. Professor Lal's first book, African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World, tells the story of Tanzania's socialist experiment, the ujamaa villagization initiative of 1967-75. Drawing on a wide range of oral and written sources, this study examines the political imaginary of ujamaa (Swahili for "familyhood") and explores the varied ways in which ujamaa policy was implemented and experienced. More broadly, it restores a sense of possibility and process to the early years of African independence, refines prevailing theories of nation building and postcolonial development, and expands our understanding of the 1960s and 70s world. Currently, Professor Lal is working on a second book, tentatively entitled Human Resources, about the training, labor, and circulation of educational and medical professionals in and beyond southeastern Africa since independence. She has also written about topics including Maoism in Tanzania, African engagement with the New International Economic Order, unorthodox socialist projects across the 20th century world, reproductive labor in decolonization-era Africa, and Marxism’s varied lives in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Decolonization and the Gendered Politics of Developmental Labor in Southeastern Africa,” in Stephen Macekura and Erez Manela, eds., The Development Century: A Global History, 173–196. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
"Tanzanian Ujamaa in a World of Peripheral Socialisms,” in Martin Klimke, et al., eds., Routledge Handbook of the Global Sixties, 367–380. New York: Routledge, 2018.
“Villagization and the Ambivalent Production of Rural Space in Tanzania,” in Andrea Fischer-Tahir and Sophie Wagenhofer, eds., Disciplinary Spaces: Spatial Control, Forced Assimilation and Narratives of Progress since the 19th Century, 119–136. Berlin: Transcript Verlag, 2017.
African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
“African Socialism and the Limits of Global Familyhood: Tanzania and the New International Economic Order in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Humanity 6, 1 (2015) 17-31.
“Maoism in Tanzania: Material Connections and Shared Imaginaries,” in Alexander Cook, ed., Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History, 96–116. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
“Self-Reliance and the State: The Multiple Meanings of Development in Early Post-Colonial Tanzania,” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 82, 2 (2012) 212–234.
“Militants, Mothers, and the National Family: Ujamaa, Gender, and Rural Development in Postcolonial Tanzania,” Journal of African History 51, 1 (2010) 1–20.