I am an historian and anthropologist of West Africa. My interests include the history of science, nature and technology, ethnic and state formation, and sacred engagements with the earth. My first book, A Ritual Geology, explores the pre-colonial and colonial roots of contemporary conflicts over mineral discovery and property rights in West Africa’s gold mining boom. The book spans developments on goldfields in Senegal, Mali, and Guinea. But my research agenda emerges from a long-term engagement with agrarian communities of Pular and Maninka speakers in southeastern Senegal. My work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. In 2018-2019, I was a fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University.
At New York University, I teach surveys on African history for all time periods. I also offer seminars on decolonization and humanitarianism; African ways of knowing; and the history of New York as an African city. At the graduate level, I teach courses on African history; environmental history; and nature and technology in the modern world. I advise graduate projects on diverse topics concerning East and West Africa in addition to students of other world regions whose projects engage with the environment, technology, and/or French empire.
I am on sabbatical in Fall 2020.