History Professor Receives Fellowship in Berlin

September 18, 2013

Associate Professor of History Cheikh Anta Babou is a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute of Advanced Study) in Berlin for the 2013-2014 academic year. The Kolleg was founded in 1981 to offer scholars and scientists the opportunity to spend a year concentrating on projects of their own choice. It makes a point of creating a balanced mixture of both distinguished senior scholars and promising younger researchers, drawn from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.

During his fellowship year, Babou will examine the experience of immigrants from the former French colonies in West Africa in Europe and North America, arguing that they have been particularly successful in making room for Islam in the Western world. In contrast to Arab immigrants who have severed their links with moderate centers of Islamic spirituality in North Africa, West Africans have maintained strong bonds with sources of religious knowledge and authority in Africa, and these sources remain powerful shapers of their Islamic identity. The continuing influence of religious ideas and leadership from the African continent has allowed Africans in Europe and North America to resist the wave of political radicalization that has recently swept other Muslim communities living in the West.
Babou’s research interests include mystical Islam in West Africa and Senegal and the new African diaspora. He is affiliated with the African Studies Center and the Center for Africana Studies at Penn. He has published extensively on the Muridiyya Muslim order of Senegal and the Senegalese diaspora. His book Fighting the Greater Jihad: Amadu Bamba and the Founding of the Muridiyya of Senegal, 1853-1913 was published in 2007, and his articles have appeared in African Affairs, Journal of African History, International Journal of African Historical Studies, Journal of Religion in Africa, and other scholarly journals in the United States and France. He has presented papers in international scholarly meetings on Islam and the transnational migration of West African Muslims, and is an editor of the Journal of African History circa 2011-2016.