Leonardo A. Villalón
Leonardo A. Villalón, coordinator of the Sahel Research Group, is Dean of the International Center and Professor of Political Science and African Studies at the University of Florida. From 2002-2011 he served as director of the university’s Center for African Studies. Villalón is a specialist on politics in the Francophone countries of the African Sahel, where he has lived, traveled and lectured extensively. Villalón’s research has explored religious involvement in the debates on democracy in Senegal, Mali and Niger. He is also interested in social change and electoral dynamics across the Sahelian region. From 2007-09 he held a Carnegie Scholars fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, for research on a project entitled: “Negotiating Democracy in Muslim Contexts: Political Liberalization and Religious Mobilization in the West African Sahel.” With Mahaman Tidjani Alou of LASDEL, Niger, he codirected a project analyzing religion and educational reform in Senegal, Mali and Niger. He is also codirector (with Daniel A. Smith) of the State Department-funded Trans-Saharan Elections Project, focused on six countries: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. He is currently PI of a three year (2012-2015) Minerva Initiative grant for research on social change and political stability in the same six Francophone Sahelian countries, and of the OECD Cities and Borders program.
Renata Serra is Senior Lecturer in the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida, as well as a core faculty member in the Master in Sustainable Development Practice program and member of the Management Entity of the USAID’s Livestock Systems Innovation Lab at UF, co-leading both the Policy and Gender Teams. An economist by training, she earned her PhD from Cambridge University (UK) in 1997. Her expertise focuses on agricultural and livestock policies, the political economy of reforms, gender issues and household decision-making, child labor, and social capital, with particular attention to countries in Franco-phone West Africa. Dr. Serra has done consultancy work for Catholic Relief Services, the International Cocoa Institute, Oxfam UK, DFID, SIDA, the World Bank, and Save the Children UK. She was convener and coordinator of the project on Development, Security and Climate Change in the Sahel, a collaboration between the MDP programs of the University of Florida, the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, and Sciences Po Paris.
Abdoulaye Kane holds a joint position between the Center for African Studies and the Department of Anthropology. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology in 2001 from the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Dr. Kane specializes in international migration and transnationalism with an emphasis on Senegalese migrants in Europe and in the United States. He has recently completed a book manuscript on the practice of transnationalism by the Haalpulaar migrants of the Senegal River Valley. He is the co-editor, with Todd Leedy, of African Migrations, Patterns and Perspective (Indiana University Press, 2013). He also co-edited, with Hansjoerg Dilder, and Stacey Langwick, Medicine, Mobility, and Power in Global Africa, Transnational Health and Healing (Indiana University Press 2012). He is currently working on a book manuscript exploring the building of Tijani transnational religious circuits connecting religious cities in Senegal, Fez, and satellite communities in France.
Fiona Mc Laughlin
Fiona Mc Laughlin is Professor of Linguistics and African Languages. She specializes in the sociolinguistics of urban language contact in the Sahel, as well as in the phonology and morphology of Seereer, Wolof and Pulaar, three Atlantic (Niger-Congo) languages spoken in Senegal. She has a secondary research interest in Islam and popular culture. Mc Laughlin has a PhD in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a former director of the West African Research Center in Dakar and has taught at the Université Abdou Moumouni in Niamey, Niger, and at the Université Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis, Senegal.
Alioune Sow is a joint appointment in French and African Studies at the University of Florida. He is the Director of the France Florida Research Institute. His research interests include democratic transition and cultural forms in francophone West Africa, focusing especially on memoirs, theater and films in Mali, as well as migration and theater practices in France. His current book project entitled Transitional memoirs, examines the interplay between letters, politics and the cultures of memory in post military Mali and in the Sahel. His articles on confessions and testimonies in democratic Mali, refugee theater in Bamako, political intuition in autobiographies of childhood, Malian cinema and military, Malian television serials and democratic experience, have been published in Critical Interventions, Social Dynamics, African Studies Review, Biography. He has also edited special issues of Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines and Etudes Littéraires Africaines. Vestiges et Vertiges appeared with Artois Presses Université in 2011. Alioune Sow holds a PhD from the Sorbonne.
Sarah McKune is an Assistant Professor in the Center for African Studies and in the Department of Environmental and Global Health in the College of Public Health and Health Professions. She holds an MPH from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida. Prior to work in academia, McKune spent nearly a decade in development, focusing on global health issues, including HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, maternal and child health, nutrition, and food security, much of this work occurring with NGOs throughout West Africa. Her doctoral research investigated the perceived risk of climate change on adaptation and livelihood vulnerability of pastoralists in eastern Niger. Her work in Niger following the 2005 food crisis provided the basis for her 2011 dissertation research on pastoral vulnerability, and contributed to her work with the USAID funded Livestock Climate Change CRSP to address issues of nutrition in Mali and Senegal. She held a postdoc at UF with the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security program of the CGIAR to improve social equity of program benefits, particularly among women, in Kaffrine, Senegal, as well as sites in Kenya and Nepal. She is currently a member of the USAID’s Livestock System Innovation Lab (LSIL) at UF, which aims to reduce stunting in children under five in six countries, including Mali and Burkina Faso, by increasing consumption of animal source foods. McKune is leading the LSIL management entity’s Cross Cutting Theme of Nutritional and Human Health.
Sebastian Elischer is an Assistant Professor of African Politics at the the University of Florida. Prior to joining UF, Dr Elischer was Assistant Professor of comparative politics at the Leuphana University Lüneburg (Germany) and a research fellow at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg. He holds a PhD in comparative politics from Jacobs University Bremen (Germany), a dual MA from the Free University of Berlin and the George Washington University in Washington DC, and a BA from the University of Wales/Aberystwyth (UK). He is the author of Political Parties in Africa: Ethnicity and Party Formation published by Cambridge University Press in 2013. His work has appeared in Democratization and Foreign Affairs. Elischer’s current research focuses on the extent to which Sahelian states (Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and Chad) have tried to supervise the influx and the practice of Salafi communities since independence. The project is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.
Benjamin Soares is a scholar of Islam and Muslim societies in Africa whose research focuses particularly on religious life from the early 20th century to the present. He has conducted research in Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan, as well as among West African Muslims in Europe and Asia. In recent work, he has looked at the connections between changing modalities of religious expression, different modes of belonging, and emergent social imaginaries in colonial and postcolonial West Africa. In addition to ongoing interests in religious encounters and religion, media, and the public sphere, he is studying contemporary Muslim public intellectuals in Africa. He is a co-editor of Africa, the journal of the International African Institute (London), and he also co-edits the International African Library book series (Cambridge).
Olivier J. Walther is a Visiting Associate Professor at the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida and an Associate Professor in Political Science at the University of Southern Denmark. He’s also affiliated with the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University. He received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Using social network analysis, his research and teaching has focused on cross-border trade, cross-border cooperation and terrorism in West Africa. Fluent in English and French, Professor Walther spent part of his youth in West Africa and has worked in Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Ghana, Benin and Mauritania. His work combines geographic information systems, social network analysis, statistical analysis and qualitative interviews. His current research project funded by the OECD Sahel and West Africa Club addresses the development of cities and borders in West Africa. Professor Walther has received support for his work from the United Nations World Food Programme, the European Commission, the OECD, the European Spatial Planning Observatory, the governments of Luxembourg and Denmark, and the Carlsberg Foundation. Dr Walther is the Africa Editor of the Journal of Borderlands Studies and is on the executive committee of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE).
Marjatta Eilittä is the Deputy Director for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. She received her Ph.D. in Agronomy with a minor in Food and Resource Economics from the University of Florida. Her research was on soil fertility and green manures in tropical smallholder systems. She consequently worked 12 years in agricultural development in West Africa, mainly from a base in Ghana, but with regional responsibilities, including in the Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Northern Nigeria, and Senegal. Her work covered soil fertility, crop production and inputs, national and regional policies, and value chain development. From 2011 to 2013 she led a USAID-funded project on regional trade in staple commodities and livestock, which sparked her interest in trade networks and corridors as well as the neglected role of regional trade, particularly between the Sahel and the coastal countries, in the regional food security.
Oumar Ba is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Morehouse College. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Florida, a B.A in Geography from the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, a B.A in International Studies from The Ohio State University, an M.A in Political Science, and another M.A in African Studies from Ohio University. His research focuses on the politics of international justice. His current project explores the local and international dynamics of the destruction of cultural heritage in Timbuktu and its prosecution as war crimes. Languages: Pulaaar, Wolof, French, English, and Arabic.
Mamadou Bodian received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida. He is a Project Coordinator for the Trans-Saharan Elections Programme (TSEP) and a member of the Sahel Research Group. His current research focuses on African foreign policy, elections, and democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa with a particular focus on Senegal, Mali and Niger. He was a Senior Researcher in the Project Office “Islam Research Programme” at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Senegal, sponsored by Leiden University and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has published several works on Islam and education in the Sahel. He has published several works on Islam and education in the Sahel. Languages: Diola, Mandingue, Wolof, French, English.
Ben Burgen is a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at the University of Florida. His ethnographic research has focused on Soninké communities in the Upper Senegal River Valley regions of both Mauritania and Senegal, as well as the global urban centers where Soninké migrants work and live. His new ethnographic research incorporates a comparative examination of contemporary Wolof migrant networks. His overall research interests include transnational migration, economic and social change, community-led development, trans-border networks, alternative citizenships, local politics, and state effects. Languages: English, French, Soninké, Wolof.
Dan Eizenga is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida. He was a research assistant for the Minerva Initiative grant on institutional reform, social change and stability in the Sahel for four years, and has served as graduate assistant to the Sahel Seminar and the Islam in Africa working group. He has taught courses for both the Center for African Studies and the Department of Political Science. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in the Francophone Sahel, specifically in Burkina Faso, Chad and Senegal, where he spent eighteen consecutive months executing hundreds of interviews and hours of archival research. His dissertation examines how different configurations of political institutions, civil-military relations and traditional institutions attempt to manage pressures from civil society for greater liberalization in the contemporary political arenas of Burkina Faso, Chad, and Senegal. He has also conducted research as a consultant on Burkina Faso and Chad with a focus on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). His research interests are on electoral authoritarian regimes in sub-Saharan Africa with broader research interests in African politics, Islam and politics, and democratization. Languages: English, French (professionally proficient), Arabic (intermediate).
Jamie Fuller is a doctoral student in the department of Anthropology at the University of Florida. She received her B.A. in Anthropology, and her M.A. in African African-American Studies from the University of Kansas. Her research draws from Moral Anthropology and Migration and Diaspora studies. It explores the structure of moral obligation and remittance practices among Senegalese diaspora communities, and their effects on urbanization in Senegal. Her work analyzes urban change in the Sahel region in the context of rapid rural-urban migration, and the connection between regional and transnational migration and identity formation. Languages: French, Wolof, English.
John Hames is a PhD candidate in the University of Florida’s Department of Anthropology. His dissertation research in Senegal, Mauritania and France has looked at a network of literacy teachers, journalists, poets, entertainers and political activists committed to promoting Pulaar, a language spoken by a significant minority of Senegalese and Mauritanians. He is interested in the way Pulaar linguistic militancy operates through a complex and often paradoxical interplay of loyalties to the nation-state, as well as alternative forms of citizenship based on linguistic, kinship and cultural ties. His broader research interests include language ideology, language activism, social movements, trans-border networks, governance and the state. Languages: English, Pulaar.
Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim
Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim is a doctoral student in the department of Political Science at the University of Florida, where he is also a research assistant for the Minerva Initiative project on Institutional reform, social change and stability in the Sahel. His research interests relate to political economy, Islam, and humanitarianism in the Sahelian countries (with a particular focus on Niger and Mauritania). He has a background in Sociology, Islamic Jurisprudence, and Management, with degrees from the Islamic University of Say and Abdou Moumouni University of Niamey. Ibrahim is also an alumnus of the Fulbright Program. He worked for four years with Islamic NGOs in Niger, including two years as the Executive Director of the Niger-office of Albasar International Foundation. He is a co-founder of the NGO Project Global Health. Languages: French, English, Arabic, and Hausa.
Massaer Mbaye joined SRG for an internship in September 2017. Massaer is a graduate student from Université de Montreal. During his Bachelor studies, he joined the honors program of Université de Montreal in economics and received Marcel Boyer prize in mathematical tools. He was selected in a competitive contest, sponsored by the Central Bank of Canada, to predict the interest rate that the Central Bank should use by the end of the 2016 session. Massaer currently researches price distortions and public policies on agricultural incentives in Senegal and Burkina Faso. Languages: Wolof, French, English.
Awa Doucoure is a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science at Gaston Berger University in Senegal. She is also teaching assistant at the Virtual University of Senegal. She is a World Bank Robert S. McNamara scholarships visiting fellow for a research stay in African Studies Center and Sahel Research Group, with Professor Villalon, from April 2017 to January 2018. Her research interests are definition and implementation of public policies. For her dissertation, she is focusing on public policy reform in Higher education initiated by the Senegalese government which aims to develop its human capital in order to provide quality human resources capable of having a direct influence on national productivity. Languages: Wolof, French, English.
Luca Mantegazza is a student at the School for Advanced Studies – IMT Lucca in Italy where he is completing a Ph.D. in Economics with a focus on Political Economy and Development Economics. After his Masters in Political Economy, Luca worked for a year in Tanzania as a Project Coordinator for an American NGO and, since then, has developed a strong interest for the economic and political issues of Sub-Saharan Africa. During the research for his PhD dissertation at the University of Florida, Luca was lucky to be warmly welcomed by professors Serra and Villalòn of the Sahel Research Group and invited to join the group activities. Currently hired as an Adjunct Lecturer in Microeconomics and Game Theory by the Department of Economics at the University of Florida, Luca is completing his dissertation on the impact of increasing shares of college educated people on the political and economic dynamics of developing countries.
Elhadji Sarr is a free lance Interpreter and translator, currently working as a contract French Interpreter with the US Government. He is also a scholar of West African Literature and his current research focuses on the issue of democratization in West Africa starting in the late 1980s viewed through the lens of literary creation. The corpus he studies includes writers from two Sahelian countries, Mali and Senegal. He has extensively researched Islamic brotherhoods in Senegal and their relationships with political leaders and the ruling party. He has also spent several years studying the complex Casamance conflict in southern Senegal. Elhadji worked for 22 years at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, first as Cultural Specialist and subsequently as Political Specialist. He maintains a keen academic interest in US foreign policy and security in the world.
Ladiba Gondeu is a Chadian social anthropologist specializing in civil society, religious dynamics, and project planning and analysis. He is also very active in the Chadian Peace and Reconciliation Initiative. From 2008-2012 he taught in the Sociology department at the University of Ndjamena. In the Spring 2013 semester he was a visiting scholar at the University of Florida, hosted by the Sahel Research Group as part of the Minerva Initiative project. He is the author of L’émergence des organisations islamiques au Tchad. Enjeux, acteurs et territoires published by L’Harmattan in 2011: He is currently completing a doctoral thesis at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, on the promotion of Republican values in the management of communal land in the Chadian portion of the Niger basin
Bakary Sambe is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Religious Studies of the Université Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis, Senegal, where he also serves as Coordinator of the “Observatory on Religious Radicalism and Conflict in Africa.” He was a visiting scholar with the Sahel Research Group in March and April 2014. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from the Institute of Political Studies of the Université Lumière Lyon 2 and a Masters degree in Arabic Languages and Civilizations. He has been a visiting scholar at The Institute of African Studies (Mohammed V University, Morocco) and a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations (ISMC) of the Aga Khan University, London. Dr. Sambe is the author of numerous publications on relations between Arab North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, and on religious dynamics in the Muslim Sahel. He has published a report entitled Overview of religious radicalism and the terrorist threat in Senegal. Dr. Sambe is a native speaker of Wolof, fluent in French, Classical Arabic, Maghrebian and Levantine Arabic dialects, and good English.
Isaie Dougnon is a Professor of Anthropology at University of Bamako, Mali. His work is focused on migration and labour among Dogon and Songhoy populations of Mali. In 2011-2012, he was a senior Fulbright fellow in the Center for African Studies, University of Florida, where he was affiliated with the Sahel Research Group. His Fulbright research project was entitled The crisis of academic freedom before and after democracy in Mali. He is currently Humboldt Fellow based at the University of Bayreuth, working on a project on “Life Cycle and Careers in Modern Work in Malian society.”
Antoinette Tidjani Alou
Antoinette Tidjani-Alou is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at the Université Abdou Moumouni in Niamey, Niger, where she is also member of a research group on “Literature, Gender and Development.” In 2011-2012, she was a senior Fulbright fellow in the Center for African Studies, University of Florida, where she was affiliated with the Sahel Research Group. She has published widely on issues of culture and gender in the Sahel, and has served as president of the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa. Her 2012 lecture to the Library of Congress entitled: “The Secret Faces of Women from the Nigerien Sahel: Agency, Influence and Contemporary Challenges” is available here.
Zekeria Ould Ahmed Salem
Zekeria Ould Ahmed Salem is Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. Prior to joining Northwestern, he was Professor of Political Science at the University of Nouakchott, Mauritania. He is also Research Associate at the Centre d’études et de recherche internationales-Sciences-Po. He earned his Ph.D. from the Université de Lyon, France in 1996. For 2005-2007, he served as General Secretary respectively at The Ministry of Higher Education, and The Ministry of Rural Development in Mauritania. In 2010-2011, he was the very first Mauritanian scholar to be granted the U.S. Fulbright Program Senior Scholar Fellowship to the University of Florida, where he was affiliated with the Sahel Research Group. Subsequently, he was granted two research fellowships respectively at the Paris Institute of Advanced Study and the Nantes Institute of Advanced Study. His research interests are in politics, religion and social transformation with a special focus on Mauritania and North Africa.
Abdourahmane Idrissa was a visiting scholar with the Sahel Research Group from September through December 2014. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Florida as well as degrees from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar and the University of Kansas. From 2009-2011 he held a Global Leadership Fellowship at Oxford (UK) and Princeton Universities. He currently teaches international cooperation at the University of Niamey and runs a research and training program at LASDEL, a social science research center in Niger. His research focuses on the political economy of democratization, political Islam and the problems of the integration processes in the West African region. Together with Samuel Decalo he has recently published a completely new edition of the Historical Dictionary of Niger.
Fatoumata (“Kiné”) Hane
Fatoumata (“Kiné”) Hane is a social anthropologist with a specialization in health and medical anthropology. She received a Ph.D. from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in 2007. She was a visiting scholar with the UF Sahel Research Group in September 2013 and returned for the second time in September 2015. She is currently the head of the department of Sociology at the University of Zinguinchor in Senegal, where she works primarily on questions of gender-based violence in conflict settings in Africa. She has carried out a number or research projects in public health policies and governance notably related to tuberculosis and HIV infection in Senegal. She is also the director of a research group on civil governance (LAREG : Laboratoire de recherche et d’études sur la gouvernance), the Senegalese section of Transparency International.
Jean Alain Goudiabye
Jean Alain Goudiaby is a sociologist and professor at the Université Assane Seck de Ziguinchor (Senegal). His research interests focus around higher education policy in Africa, academic mobility, university governance, and pedagogy. He is the author of L’université et la recherche au Sénégal à la croisée des chemins, published by Academia-L’Harmattan, 2014. He is a member of the Réseau d’Etude sur l’Enseignement Supérieur (RESUP), the Association pour la Recherche sur l’Education et les Savoirs (ARES), and projet DEMOSTAF. He currently serves as Director of Pedagogy and of University Reform, as well as a member of the Laboratory on Economic and Social Sciences at the Université Assane Seck de Ziguinchor. He was a visiting scholar at the University of Florida and the Sahel Research Group from March to April 2016.
Ann Wainscott completed her PhD in Political Science at the University of Florida in 2013, under the direction of Leonardo Villalón and is now an Assistant Professor at St. Louis University. She specializes in the politics of authoritarianism in North Africa and teaches courses in Comparative Politics and the politics of the Middle East and North Africa. Wainscott’s research focuses on authoritarian regimes’ efforts to shape ideological debates about religion through public education. Her dissertation, “How an Islamic Solution became an Islamist Problem” argues that the Moroccan monarchy’s reforms to public education have been shaped by political rather than pedagogical interests. Wainscott has worked in Senegal, Mali and Ghana. Languages: English, Arabic, French.
Mamadou Cissé was a visiting scholar with the Sahel Research Group in the Spring 2015. He holds a doctorate in linguistics from the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO) in Paris, a master’s degree in English and a bachelor’s degree in French as a Foreign Language. He also holds master’s degrees in international relations and in classical Arabic from INALCO. As a translator and interpreter, he revived the teaching of Wolof at INALCO. After a decade spent in Paris, Mamadou Cissé held posts in Japan and Niger before settling in Dakar, Senegal, where he teaches at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop. His most recent work focuses on general linguistics, lexicology, terminology and linguistic arrangements in Africa, as well as on the writing of African languages in the Arabic script (Ajami). He has written and co-authored several books, including Modern Wolof Tales (Harmattan, 2000), French-Wolof Dictionary (Asiathique, 2004), Wolof Proverbs and Dictions (Présence africaine, 2014), and the Wolof translation of The French Language Worldwide (International Organization for the Francophonie, 2014). Mamadou Cissé speaks Wolof, Pulaar, Serer, French, English, Arabic and Japanese.
ISABELLE WALTHER DUC
Isabelle Walther-Duc is Program Assistant at the Sahel Research Group. She is in charge of the communication of the Sahel Research Group including publishing of the weekly newsletter, social media and updating SRG’s website. Isabelle holds a Master in Sociology from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and a Master in European Studies from the University of Southern Denmark. In her previous jobs, Isabelle has worked as social worker, office manager and French teacher. Isabelle’s interests lie in international issues and global dynamics. Her interest for Africa started when, as a student, she regularly travelled to Africa in countries such as Morocco, Mauritania, Niger and Mali. These travels as well as the various countries where she subsequently lived allowed her to develop her multicultural and interpersonal competencies. Languages: French, English, German and Danish (elementary knowledge).
Jordan MacKenzie is Copy and Translation Editor at the SRG. He is also Adjunct Lecturer in Swahili for the Center for African Studies and Copy Editor of the Yorùbá Studies Review. Jordan holds a MA in Linguistics from the University of Florida, as well as a BA in French and Humanities from Florida State University. Jordan received FLAS fellowships to study Swahili and Yorùbá, and a Fulbright grant to conduct research in Trinidad and Tobago on tropical fruit nomenclature and remnants of Yorùbá in the country. Jordan is an avid knitter and musician with a penchant for custom-tailored wax print clothes. Languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili (fluency), Levantine Arabic (heritage/rusty), Yorùbá, Wolof (beginning).