Seeking Freedom in the Sahel: Mobilities, Connectivity, and Islam, 1804-1960


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Between 1804-1960, the Sahel underwent four world-making political projects: the gradual end of transatlantic slavery, Islamic revolutions, European colonization, and African decolonial struggles. Blending micro-history and global history, my research probes intersections between mobility, freedom, and political change in the region as it underwent these deep mutations. As systems of race-making and political economies stemming from the Atlantic and Saharan worlds simultaneously impacted them, Sahelian Muslims freely or forcefully migrated. Their circulations spanned the lands tucked between the Senegal and Niger rivers, but also the expanse between the Caribbean and Red Seas. Centering the mobilities and itineraries of itinerant Muslims—scholars, traders, pilgrims, clerics, and enslaved women and men—this project traces the various ways Sahelians sought emancipation from slavery and colonialism, and elaborated practices of freedom, be it in Mopti, Mecca, or Jamaica. The project draws on research conducted in Mali, Senegal, France, England, Ireland, and Jamaica.