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Madina Thiam

Contact Information

Email    mthiam@ucla.edu
Office  Bunche 2155


Why is a neighborhoud in Mali's capital named after Egypt, while a neighborhood in Egypt's capital is named after a province of the Mali empire? What connects Mecca to Jamaica? My dissertation tackles these questions by examining the global travels and writings of pilgrims, merchants, and enslaved individuals from the Western Sahel, over the span of two centuries.

In 2016-2018, I am serving as co-editor-in-chief of Ufahamu: a Journal of African Studies, along with Janice R. Levi

In 2016-2017, I was the President of the UCLA History Graduate Students Association.

Prospective students: feel free to email me if you have any questions! 

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Fields of Study

  • Islam in the Sahel and Sahara; 
  • The Black Atlantic; 
  • New Imperial History. 


"From Mecca to Jamaica: Sahelian Itineraries and Imaginaries, 1790s - 1970s" | My dissertation investigates the stories of Muslim travelers from present-day Mali over the course of two centuries. Blending microhistory and global history, it explores the trans-Atlantic, trans-Saharan, and West African circulations of people and ideas originating from Djenne, Timbuktu, Mopti, Segu, or Bamako, from the late 18th through the 20th century. Drawing from a variety of sources in several languages, including private and official correspondence, commercial and shipping records, colonial documents, Sahelian chronicles, and oral histories, "From Mecca to Jamaica" provides a more complex picture of the place of Mali, and the Western Sahel, in global intellectual exchanges and political movements in the modern era.



Reviews / Book Contributions

  • 2019 "Nicholas Said, étonnant voyageur," in Sahara Connecté (Paris: Gallimard) --- work in progress
  • 2018 “Review: Mali Blues,” in Research Africa Reviews 2:2
  • 2018 "Review: Etre Etudiant au Mali," Ufahamu: a Journal of African Studies 40:2

Media and Short Pieces

Grants and Awards

Conference Presentations

    Academic Conferences

    • 2018 Global Africa and Ethnographies of Interconnection Workshop: "Unveiling Silences, Reconnecting Historiographies: Using 19th-century Sahelian Narratives to Write Global History" (Apr. 20-21, Cornell, NY, United States)
    • 2017 International Conference of the Dakar Institute of African Studies: "African Men of Letters, Atlantic Slavery, and the Intellectual History of the Sahel, 19th and 20th c." (Jul. 7-8, 2017, Dakar, Senegal)
    • 2017 UNESCO World Heritage Young Professionals Forum. Theme: “Memory: Lost and Recovered Heritage” (Jun. 25 - Jul. 4, Warsaw & Krakow, Poland)
    • 2017 ULCA HGSA Conference: "Empire State of Mind: Best of Intentions, Unsolicited Interventions, and the 2012 Crisis in Mali" (Apr. 14, Los Angeles, CA, United States)
    • 2016 African Studies Association Conference: "A Trail of Scented Salams: Migrating and Settling along the Tarīq-al-Sūdān in the 19th and 20th centuries" (Dec. 1-3, Washington DC, United States)
    • 2016 University of Bern 'Transpositions' Summer School: "Westerners along the Nile: West African Muslims in Sudan in the 19th and 20th centuries" (Sept. 4-7, Kandersteg, Switzerland)
    • 2016 UCLA Futures of History Conference: "The Futures of History: What Do We See and Envision?" (Feb. 25-26, Los Angeles, CA, United States)



    C. Phil., History, UCLA,  2018
    M.A., History, UCLA, 2017
    B.A., History and International Affairs, Economics Minor, George Washigton University, 2012