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Madina Thiam

Contact Information

Email    mthiam@ucla.edu
Office  Bunche 2155


Why is a neighborhoud in Bamako named after Egypt, while a neighborhood in Cairo is named after a province of the Mali empire? What connects Mecca to Jamaica? My dissertation tackles these questions by examining freedom, mobility and connectedness in the West African Sahel in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

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

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. 


My main research interest is West African intellectual and social history. My dissertation, entitled "Footprints of Freedom: Connectedness, Mobility, and Self-Determination in the West African Sahel, c. 1790-1968" is centered around the itineraries and imaginaries of a set of travelers–captives, pilgrims, merchants, scholars and activists–from present-day Mali.


Peer-reviewed Encyclopedia Article

Book Section


Media & Public Engagement

Grants and Awards

Conference Presentations

    Invited Lectures

    • 2019 UWI-Mona Staff/Graduate Seminar, Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and the Sahel in Translation” (May 24, Kingston, Jamaica) 
    • 2018 UCLA HIST 166A, "West African Islamic Intellectual History" (Nov. 9, Los Angeles, CA, USA)

    Public Outreach

    • 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)

    Academic Conferences & Workshops

    • 2020 American Historical Association Meeting: “Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and the Sahel in Translation” (Jan. 3-6, 2020)
    • 2019 Africa, Globalization and The Muslim Worlds ConferenceAbū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and the Sahel in Translation” (Sept. 19-21, 2019)
    • 2019 Forum Transregionale Studien "Rethinking Refuge" Workshop: "Developing a New Approach to Migration and Policy-Making in 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)


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