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African History Authority to Present Carleton College’s Winter Lefler Lecture

January 25, 2012
By Jacob Cohn '13

Michael Gomez, a professor at New York University and one of the United States’ leading experts on the history of Africa and its diaspora, will deliver the Winter 2012 Herbert P. Lefler Lecture in History at Carleton College. Entitled “Early West African History through a Different Optic,” his talk will explore the history of the region and its relationship with Islam. The lecture will be Monday, Jan. 30 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Leighton Hall Room 305. This event is free and open to the public.

Gomez is currently in the process of writing a book about the history of medieval West Africa, with a particular emphasis on the Songhai Empire. He is also planning a future work exploring the debates and arguments taking place within the study of the African diaspora. Additionally, Gomez is maintaining links to the Arabic manuscript project currently being undertaken in Mali, which he considers one of the most important developments in the history of his field of study.

Gomez, who received his doctorate from the University of Chicago, is a professor of History, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU. He is a founder of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora and served as its president from 2000 to 2007; additionally, Gomez served as president of UNESCO’s International Scientific Committee for the Slave Route Project from 2009 to 2011. He has chaired the history departments at NYU and Spelman College.

Gomez is the author of several articles about African history, Islam in Africa and the slave trade. His first book, Pragmatism in the Age of Jihad: The Precolonial State of Bundu (Cambridge University Press, 1992), explored the history of a former polity in present-day Senegal. More recent books by Gomez include Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (University of North Carolina Press, 1998), Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Black Crescent: African Muslims in the Americas (Cambridge University Press, 2005). Gomez also edited Diasporic Africa: A Reader (New York University Press, 2006), which is aimed primarily at undergraduates.

Carleton College’s Lefler Lecture Series, endowed by Herbert P. and Mary Jane Lefler, are designed to bring prominent historians to campus who have recently raised important conceptual questions relevant to the entire discipline of history. They are an integral part of the department’s junior colloquium. Recent Lefler lecturers have included Giancarlo Casale, a professor of Ottoman history at the University of Minnesota, and Derek Krueger, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. These lectures have taken place each term since the fall of 1979.

For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton College Office of College Relations at (507) 222-4308. Leighton Hall is located at the end of North College Street in Northfield.