I am a historian and anthropologist of Senegal and Guinea. My research engages with the history of science and the environment, ethnic and state formation, and the politics of historical production.
My open access book, A Ritual Geology: Gold and Subterranean Knowledge in Savanna West Africa, was published in 2022 with Duke University Press. Set against the ongoing corporate enclosure of West Africa’s goldfields, A Ritual Geology tells the untold history of one of the world’s oldest indigenous gold mining industries, known as orpaillage in French-speaking West Africa. By establishing African miners as producers of subterranean knowledge, I uncover a dynamic “ritual geology” of techniques and cosmological engagements with the earth developed by agrarian residents of gold-bearing rocks in savanna West Africa. Spanning the medieval past to the postcolonial present, A Ritual Geology introduces transnational geological formations as a new regional framework for the study of African history, environmental anthropology, and the global history of science. The book received the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society, the Julian Stewart Award of the Anthropology and Environmental Society of the American Anthropological Association, and the President's Book Award of the Social Science History Association—all for the year 2023.
I am currently at work on several collaborative projects on salvage archeology and mining in West Africa, the history of anthropology in southeastern Senegal, and sacred trees of the Atlantic world.
At NYU, I teach surveys on African history before colonialism as well as seminars on African ways of knowing; race and the environment; decolonization and radicalisms; and African environmental history. At the graduate level, I teach courses on African history, environmental history, and nature and technology. I advise graduate projects on diverse topics across the African continent in addition to students interested in science, technology, and nature elsewhere on the globe.