Joseph Mbele Growing up in rural southern Tanzania, Joseph wanted to be a teacher. He realized his dream when he graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1976 and started teaching in the Literature Department. From 1980 to 1986 he studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning a Ph.D. in African Languages and Literature. After teaching again at the University of Dar es Salaam from 1986, he was recruited by the English Department at St. Olaf College in 1991, to introduce and teach Post-colonial literature.

Over the years, Joseph has taught courses such as Swahili Literature, Theory of Literature, African Literature, Sociology of Literature, Post-Colonial and Third World Literature, The Epic, and African-American Literature. As a folklorist, fascinated by tales of tricksters, outlaws, and epic heroes, he has done folklore fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, and the USA, and has given lectures and conference papers on folklore in Canada, Finland, India, Israel, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and USA. He has published widely in this field. On November 23, 2017, his book, Matengo Folktales, was featured on "Jeopardy," the famous American TV show.

Joseph is also a cultural consultant, helping African and Americans navigate cultural differences. As part of this work he has published two popular books: Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences and Chickens in the Bus: More Thoughts on Cultural Differences.