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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, the Sahel, and West Africa
  • Islam
  • African Women
  • Race and Capitalism
  • Freedom and Slavery
  • Travel and Migration


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 UWI-Mona Staff/Graduate Seminar, “Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq and the Muslim Sahel in Translation” (May 24, Kingston, Jamaica) 
    • 2018 UCLA HIST 166A, "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