I am a historian of pre-colonial and early-colonial West Africa, with a specific interest in the area of the modern Republic of Mali and the town of Timbuktu. My special focus is on Muslim societies of the region and their Arabic manuscript heritage. I conduct research in several collections of Arabic manuscripts from West Africa, stored in public or private libraries in Africa (Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Ghana, and Ivory Coast), in Europe (Denmark and France) and North America (USA). I have worked and published on topics linked to Arabic calligraphies and script styles, Islamic eschatology, genealogies and the West African chronicle tradition.
My current project is an original study of the Timbuktu chronicle known as the Tārīkh al-fattāsh. The chronicle’s complex genesis and authorship is still shrouded in mystery. Notwithstanding the efforts of several scholars, the major obstacle has been the limited access to the actual manuscripts of the chronicle. My research thus comprises an effort to collect all the available manuscript copies of the Tārīkh al-fattāsh, on the basis of which I am producing an innovative analysis of the text. My study is revealing that the Tārīkh al-fattāsh is a novel chronicle written in the 19th century, and not the effort of three generations of scholars who worked on it starting from the early 16th century and eventually interpolated in the 19th century, as previously advanced by most scholars. This 19th century Tārīkh al-fattāsh was composed by a substantial rework of a 17th century anonymous work. The manuscripts available allows for a new, comparative edition of the two texts. My work is re-instating the two works to their historical periods and, by throwing light to the political and ideological motivations that lie under their production, as well as the usage of the chronicle themselves, is contributing to improve our knowledge of the intellectual history of West Africa, from the post-medieval period to the immediate pre-colonial time.
- West African History; Muslim Societies in Africa; Arabic Manuscripts
- PhD, University of Naples "L'Orientale", African Studies, 2008.
Distinctions / Awards
- 2013 A.W. Mellon Young Scholars Award, University of Cape Town
- 2015 Research Support Award, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- 2017 University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign “List of excellent teachers”
- 2016 University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign “List of excellent teachers”
- 2016 West African Research Association Residency (to host Dr. Mohamed Diagayete, IHERI-AB, Timbuktu).
- 2011-2012 Petra Kappert Fellowship, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg
- 2012-2014 Post-doctoral Fellowship, University of Cape Town.
- 2015 Research Board Award, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.
- 2016 Humanities Released Time Program, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
- 2014 University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign “List of excellent teachers”
- Hist 110 - History of Africa
- Hist 200 - Introduction to Historical Interpretation
- Hist 213 - African Muslim Cultures
- Hist 395/8 - Honors Research & Writing Seminar / Advanced Composition
- Hist 510 - Problems in African History
- Hist 101 - History Now!