I study the history of greater Western Sahara, an area that stretches from southern Morocco to the upper reaches of the Senegal river. The project I plan to develop with Matrix through my CHI fellowship will take a broad look at the African Islamic World as it appears in Anglophone media. I will present the relationship between the Anglophone world and Islamic Africa. I will also explore the different ways Anglophone art, and literature have exoticized Islamic Africa. The intellectual framework for my project comes from a long standing fascination I have had with the idea of Islamic Africa’s early involvement in the Atlantic world.
This interest began when I was an undergraduate at the College of Charleston when my advisor and mentor Assan Sarr showed me runaway slave advertisements that featured Muslim names. I hope to showcase some of the work Sylviane Diouf and Ralph Austen have already contributed on this topic. However, the part of the project that I am most excited about is an analysis of 19th century travel literature that told stories of shipwrecked sailors enslaved in the lands of Islam. This literature appeals to me in for two reasons. First I think a cautious and studious reader could glean bits of usable ethnographic information from these accounts. Secondly I am interested in them because they are in a way a kind of slave narrative. They offer not only accounts of individuals, but insight into the discourse of race, abolitionism, and human rights at the time they were written.
What will this project look like? I would like to use MSU’s Overcoming Apartheid site as a model. My project will have the Overcoming Apartheid site’s mix of visual components and essays. I will also write and design for undergraduate students interested in Africa and the Islam. Like many things in academia these deliverables are subject to change, but I think talking about my digital project gives some insight into my academic interests.