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Madina Thiam

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Contact Information

Email    mthiam@ucla.edu
Office  Bunche 2155

I work on the social and intellectual history of Mali and the West African Sahel, with an emphasis on Islam. My dissertation is a study on mobility, self-determination, and connectedness in this region, during the 19th and 20th centuries.

In addition, since 2018, I have been part of a multi-disciplinary working-group on contemporary migration policy in southern Africa, under the direction of E. Tendayi Achiume

Lastly in 2019, I joined the Projet Archives des Femmes in Bamako. We are collecting, safeguarding, and creating a public archive of personnal papers of Malian women involved in the movement for independence, and in post-colonial sociopolitical struggles. 

In 2016-2018, I served as co-editor-in-chief of Ufahamu: a Journal of African Studies.

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

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Field of Study



Mali and West Africa
The Sahel and Sahara
The Atlantic Ocean
African Women
Mobility, Migrations, and Diasporas
Freedom and Slavery
Race and Capitalism


My dissertation, entitled "Footprints of Freedom: Connectedness, Mobility, and Self-Determination in the West African Sahel, c. 1790-1968" is centered around the geographical and intellectual trajectories of a set of itinerant Muslim figures from present-day Mali. It draws on archival and oral research I conducted in Mali, Senegal, France, England, Ireland, and Jamaica.


Peer-reviewed Articles

Book Contribution

  • 2019 "Nicholas Said, étonnant voyageur," in Sophie Caratini, Charles Grémont, Céline Lesourd et Olivier Schinz (eds.), Sahara, mondes connectés (Paris: Gallimard)


Public History Essays and Interviews

Grants and Awards

Conference Presentations

    Invited Lectures

    • 2019 CSULB, "Women and Decolonization in Francophone West Africa" (November 25, Long Beach, CA, USA)
    • 2019 UWI-Mona, “Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and the Muslim Sahel in Translation” (May 24, Kingston, Jamaica) 
    • 2018 UCLA, "West African Islamic Intellectual History" (Nov. 9, Los Angeles, CA, USA)

    Academic Conferences and Workshops

    • 2020 American Historical Association Meeting: “'Absolutely and utterly free.' Kinship, Muslim Education and Emancipation between Jamaica and the Middle Niger, c. 1790-1853" (Jan. 3-6, 2020)
    • 2019 Africa, Globalization and The Muslim Worlds Conference“‘Beyond Timbuktu’: Sahelian Networks and Texts in Pre-Emancipation Jamaica” (Sept. 19-21, 2019)
    • 2019 Forum Transregionale Studien "Rethinking Refuge" Workshop: "Continuities of Statelessness in Southern Africa” (Jun. 6-7, Berlin, Germany)
    • 2019 Luskin Center for History and Policy Fellows Seminar: "Developing a New Approach to Migration and Policy-Making in Africa" (May 15. Los Angeles, CA, USA) 
    • 2018 Global Africa and Ethnographies of Interconnection Workshop: "Using 19th-century Sahelian Narratives to Write Global History" (Apr. 20-21, Cornell, NY, 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." (Jul. 7-8, 2017, Dakar, Senegal)
    • 2017 ULCA HGSA Conference: "Empire State of Mind: Best of Intentions, Unsolicited Interventions, and the 2012 Crisis in Mali" (Apr. 14, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
    • 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, USA)
    • 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)

    Public History Talks and Interviews

    • 2019 Le Monde Documentary Feature'PANAFRICAIN.E.S: Cheikh Anta Diop, l'historien révolutionnaire' with Coumba Kane, (July 2019, Paris, France)
    • 2019 NationWide FM Radio Interview: ‘Talking History’ with Prof. Verene Shepherd (May 25, Kingston, Jamaica)
    • 2017 UNESCO World Heritage Young Professionals Forum: “Memory: Lost and Recovered Heritage” (Jun. 25 - Jul. 4, Warsaw & Krakow, Poland) [Photos] [Video] [Video]
    • 2016 UCLA Futures of History Conference: "The Futures of History: What Do We See and Envision?" (Feb. 25-26, Los Angeles, CA, USA)


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