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The seminar provides a lively forum for historians and social scientists engaged in the advanced study of Sub- Saharan Africa. Faculty and visiting scholars from Columbia University and neighboring institutions actively participate in the monthly evening sessions. Seminar discussions often focus on theoretical and comparative approaches to the study of colonial and contemporary states, processes in political mobilization and leadership, the impact of the international community, and the roles of gender and cultural identities.

Professor Robyn d’Avignon 

Professor Anooradha Siddiqi

Jessie Cohen

Meeting Schedule

10/05/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Sahara Haze: Climate, Wind and the Ocean of Sand
May Joseph, Pratt Institute


The Sahara Desert is critical to the balance of ecosystems from the Atlantic Gulf Stream to the Brazilian Rainforests. It is also a swiftly transforming materiality of the biosphere connecting the Mediterranean and North Africa to the North American troposphere. Drawing on the history of the Harmattan Wind, and autobiography, this talk explores
why we should care about sand. Joseph explores the ethics and aesthetics of sand, and
its relational import on hurricanes, oceans and biodiversity.

10/19/2021 105th Street & Riverside Drive
6:00 PM
Back to School Gathering at Ellington in the Park

11/04/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Agitating Profit: Commerce, Sovereignty, and Suspicion in Nigeria’s Global South Shift
Vivian Lu, Fordham University


This talk examines how south-south circular migrations are transforming Nigerian markets. In the last two decades, Nigeria’s economic landscape has shifted quietly but notably; its two most prominent trade partners of both commodity imports and oil exports are now China and India, respectively, and the majority of migration faces Global South destinations. Furthermore, this year, the world’s largest free-trade zone, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), also commenced operation. Immediately, contestations around “commodity origin” have amplified national debates on Asian importation and African manufacturing. Based on ethnographic research amongst transnational Nigerian businessmen between Asia and Africa, this talk focuses on the politicization of Nigerian transnational commercial space and its relation to ongoing postcolonial political anxieties surrounding Igbo ethno-regional identity and national economic sovereignty.

02/10/2022 Online Meeting
6:00 PM

Laura Fair, Columbia University

03/03/2022 Location TBD
6:00 PM

Nana Osei Quarshie, Yale University

04/05/2022 Location TBD
6:30 PM

Christopher Tounsel, Pennsylvania State University