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Madina Thiam

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Contact Information

Email    mthiam@ucla.edu
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My work explores the circulations of West African people and ideas; social histories of Islam in Mali; race-making in the Sahel; Malian women’s histories; and pan-African decolonization.


Aside from doctoral research, I'm a member of the Projet Archives des Femmes, a Bamako-based digitization project. We are creating a public archive of papers of Malian women involved in the 1950s movement for independence, and post-colonial feminist activism. I'm also part of a working-group on contemporary migrations in southern Africa, under the direction of E. Tendayi Achiume.

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

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Field of Study



Mali and the Sahel
Black Women’s History
Saharan and Atlantic Worlds
Slavery, Race and Capitalism
Mobility, Migrations, and African Diaspora


Broadly speaking, my research interests span African migrations and the connected social and intellectual histories of Islam and race-making across the Atlantic and Saharan worlds. My dissertation, entitled "Seeking Freedom in the Sahel: Mobilities, Connectivity, and Islam, 1804-1960," probes historical intersections between freedom, mobility, Islam and political change in the Sahel, adopting a global and micro-historical approach. It draws on research I conducted in Mali, Senegal, France, England, Ireland, and Jamaica.



Book Chapters and Other Adademic Writings

  • “Struggle, Neglect and Archives,” Council for the Development of the Social Sciences in Africa (CODESRIA) Bulletin no. 5&6 Special Issue / The Crisis in Mali and in the Sahel Region (2020), 21-23.
  • "Nicholas Said, étonnant voyageur." In Sahara, mondes connectésedited by Sophie Caratini, Charles Grémont, Céline Lesourd et Olivier Schinz, 75-9. Paris: Gallimard, 2019. 


Media (selected)

Grants and Awards


Conference Presentations


    Invited Lectures

    • 2021 Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, "African Feminisms" (ASWAD Webinar)
    • 2021 Boston University, "Seeking Freedom in the Sahel (1805-1836) (Walter Rodney Seminar)
    • 2021 Bard College, "Writing Family Histories: Power, Stigma, and Malian Archives” (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, USA)
    • 2020 UIUC, "Seeking Freedom in the Sahel: Transnational Politics, Islamic Networks and Memory in Colonial Mopti" (Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA), ('Timbuktu Talks' Series)
    • 2019 CSULB, "Women and Decolonization in Francophone West Africa" (Long Beach, CA, USA)
    • 2019 UWI-Mona, “Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and the Muslim Sahel in Translation” (Kingston, Jamaica) 

    Conferences and Workshops

    • 2021 African Studies Association Meeting: "After the Caliphate: Mopti, US-RDA, and Mahammadu Caam's Fuutanke Archipelago (1940s-1960s)" (Washington, DC, USA
    • 2020 American Historical Association Meeting: “'Absolutely and utterly free.' Kinship, Muslim Education and Emancipation between Jamaica and the Middle Niger, c. 1790-1853" (New York, NY, USA)
    • 2019 Africa, Globalization and The Muslim Worlds Conference“‘Beyond Timbuktu’: Sahelian Networks and Texts in Pre-Emancipation Jamaica” (Cambridge, MA, USA)
    • 2019 Luskin Center for History and Policy Fellows Seminar: "Developing a New Approach to Migration and Policy-Making in Africa" (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
    • 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." (Dakar, Senegal)
    • 2016 African Studies Association Conference: "A Trail of Scented Salams: Migrating and Settling along the Tarīq-al-Sūdān in the 19th and 20th centuries" (Washington DC, USA)
    • 2016 University of Bern 'Transpositions' Summer School: "Westerners along the Nile: West African Muslims in Sudan in the 19th and 20th centuries" (Kandersteg, Switzerland)


    • 2021 History Hit Documentary: 'Pinches of Salt and Gold. Uncovering Mansa Musa's Story' (London, UK)
    • 2020 Africa is a Country AIAC Talk on the protests in Bamako
    • 2019 Le Monde Documentary'PANAFRICAIN.E.S: Cheikh Anta Diop, l'historien révolutionnaire' with Coumba Kane, (Paris, France)
    • 2019 NationWide FM Radio Interview: ‘Talking History’ with Prof. Verene Shepherd (Kingston, Jamaica)


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