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  • Monday, February 25, 2019 - 5:15pm to 7:00pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

We will be welcoming Jeremy Dell for a talk entitled: “Dying for History: The Materiality of Ta'rikh in the Niger Bend.” Jeremy writes: 

Locally authored histories, or ta’rikh, have provided crucial sources for scholars of the West African Sahel (modern-day Mali, Niger and Mauritania). The most famous is undoubtedly ʿAbd al-Ramān al-Saʿdī's Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān (The History of the Sudan). Composed in the mid-seventeenth century by a bureaucrat employed in the Moroccan administration of Timbuktu, the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān covers more than five hundred years of Sahelian history, from the rise of the Songhay Empire to its defeat at the hands of the Saʿdian Dynasty of Marrakesh in 1591. This presentation will explore the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān’s reception and translation by nineteenth century European travelers and Orientalists, arguing that despite the work’s centrality to the reconstruction of the Western Sahel’s precolonial past, we know relatively little about how such texts actually circulated within Sahelian societies. In order to illuminate this latter point, it will also analyze an early twentieth-century dispute over the possession of another historical chronicle—“The Chronicle of Farabongo”—in a village roughly 60 kilometers to the southwest of Al-Saʿdī's Timbuktu. By tracing the material history of such a work, I argue, we can begin to see the wider stakes involved in historical writing in the Western Sahel. 

Jeremy Dell is a scholar of Africa's global history and a historian of Islam in the Western Sahel. His research focuses on West Africa's Muslim intellectual traditions, with interests in the intersecting histories of Sufism, Islamic law and the global history of the book. His current book project, Saving Tradition: Archiving Islam in the Western Sahel, explores the history of collecting and preserving Arabic manuscripts amidst social and political upheaval in the West African countries of Senegal and Mali. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Modern Intellectual History at Dartmouth College.


All are welcome! Those who do not hold University of Pennsylvania ID cards should bring another form of photo identification in order to enter the library building.