I am a historian and anthropologist of West Africa, with a geographic focus on Senegal, Guinea, and Mali. My research engages with the history of science and the environment, ethnic and state formation, sacred engagements with the earth, 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: Francophone West Africa’s orpaillage. 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 African studies, environmental history, and anthropology. You can read the introduction to my book here and more about my ongoing research here.
At NYU, I teach surveys on African history for all time periods. I also offer seminars on decolonization and humanitarianism; African ways of knowing; race and the environment, and 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 across the African continent in addition to students of other world regions whose projects engage with the history of science, technology, and the environment.
With my colleague Anooradha Ayer Siddiqi of Barnard College, I co-chair the Columbia University Seminar on Studies in Contemporary Africa. In AY 2022-2023, I am the NYU History Department Placement Officer for graduate students on the job and fellowship market. For more information about this, please contact Gabriella Sokol.