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Madina Thiam

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Contact Information

Email    mthiam@ucla.edu
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I work on Mali and the Sahel, with broad interests in African migrations and the connected social and intellectual histories of Islam across the Atlantic and Saharan worlds.

In addition, I'm a member of the Projet Archives des Femmes, a Bamako-based digitization project. We are collecting, safeguarding, and 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. Lastly, I host a podcast on the New Books Network, and 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!

Currently teaching: From Mecca to Jamaica: Global Histories of Muslim West Africa

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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                     


My dissertation, entitled "From Mecca to Jamaica: Mobility, Connectivity, and Freedom in the Sahel, 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 (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. 


  • Review of Sultan, Caliph, and the Renewer of the Faith. Aḥmad Lobbo, the Tārīkh al-fattāsh and the Making of an Islamic State in West Africa, by Mauro Nobili. Islamic Africa XI (forthcoming).
  • Review of Mali Blues, by Gregor Lutz. Research Africa Reviews 2, no. 2 (2018): 46-48.
  • Review of Etre Etudiant au Mali, by Boubacar Sangaré. Ufahamu: a Journal of African Studies 40, no. 2 (2018): 179-182.

Media and Public Engagement

Grants and Awards


Conference Presentations

    Invited Lectures

    • 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

    • 2020 African Studies Association Meeting: "After the Caliphate: Mopti, US-RDA, and Mahammadu Caam's Fuutanke Archipelago (1940s-1960s)" (Washington, DC, USA; accepted and postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19)
    • 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 Forum Transregionale Studien "Rethinking Refuge" Workshop: "Continuities of Statelessness in Southern Africa” (Berlin, Germany)
    • 2019 Luskin Center for History and Policy Fellows Seminar: "Developing a New Approach to Migration and Policy-Making in Africa" (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
    • 2018 Global Africa and Ethnographies of Interconnection Workshop: "Using 19th-century Sahelian Narratives to Write Global History" (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." (Dakar, Senegal)
    • 2017 ULCA HGSA Conference: "Empire State of Mind: Best of Intentions, Unsolicited Interventions, and the 2012 Crisis in Mali" (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" (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)

    Media and Public Engagement

    • 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)
    • 2017 UNESCO World Heritage Young Professionals Forum: “Memory: Lost and Recovered Heritage” (Warsaw & Krakow, Poland) [Photos] [Video] [Video]
    • 2016 UCLA Futures of History Conference: "The Futures of History: What Do We See and Envision?" (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