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New book by North African scholar Ali Ahmida examines impact of trans-Saharan trade

posted Sep 28, 2009, 3:05 PM by rbuhr@une.edu   [ updated Sep 28, 2009, 3:08 PM ]
    The Sahara desert was seldom a barrier separating the northern, middle and western parts of the African continent. To the contrary, the desert was and still constitutes a bridge of communication which connects northern Africa, West Africa and the countries in the southern Sahara.

This connection was evident in the most important cultural, economic and social relations.

Ali AhmidaBridges Across the Sahara: Social, Economic and Cultural Impact of the Trans-Sahara Trade during the 19th and 20th Centuries, is the title of a new book by Ali Abdullatif Ahmida, Ph.D., professor and chair of the University of New England's Politcal Science Department.

The objective of this edited book is to rethink the history of colonial and nationalist categories and analyses of modern Africa through an integration and examination of the African Saharan trade as bridges that link the North, Central, and West regions of Africa.

First, it offers a critique of the colonial, postcolonial and nationalist historiographies, and also of current western scholarship on northern and Saharan Africa especially Middle East studies and African studies associations.

Second, it provides an alternative narrative of the forgotten histories of the Sahara trade as linkages between the North and the South of the Sahara.

Two Routes
Two connecting routes or bridges existed across the Sahara, Ahmida notes.

First, the Hajj Routes from the north west of Africa to the holy places in Arabia.

Second, are the trade routes between central and west Africa and the shores of North Africa. These trans-Sahara trade routes extend from the East Darb al- Arba'in in Egypt and Sudan to the far west borders of Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco. Hence the ties between the countries in North Africa and Wadai, Bornu, Kanim, Zender, Aer and others existed since pre-historic eras. The origins began before and were enhanced by the Islamic conquests and continued to present day.

“The Sahara is like a moving bridge … a social, cultural and literary bridge," Ahmida explains."This book, which truly is an international collaboration, offers new scholarship that explores these themes.  It is a book about people, a work for creative thinking that reveals commonalities and interconnections."image

He adds that "this book has allowed me, as a UNE faculty member, to reach out and interact in a profound way to colleagues in the United States and other continents."

Ali Abdullatif Ahmida
Professor Ahmida was born in Libya and educated at Cairo University in Egypt and the University of Washington in Seattle. His specialty is political theory, comparative politics, and historical sociology of power, agency and anti-colonial resistance in North Africa, especially modern Libya.

He has published major articles in Critique, Arab Future and International Journal of Islamic and Arabic Studies. He is also the author of The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonialization and Resistance, a book published by State of New York University Press, 1994. This book has been translated into Arabic and was published in a second edition by the Center of Arab Unity Studies, 1998, Beirut, Lebanon. His 2005 book, Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Libya, was published by Routledge press.  It was also translated and issued in Italian and most recently in 2009 in Arabic by the Center of Arab Unity Studies, Beirut.

Dr. Ahmida is  the editor of Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in the Maghrib: History, Culture and Politics, published by Palgrave Press in 2000. He has also recently published in arabic Post-Orientalism: Critical Reviews in North African Social and Cultural History (Center of Arab Unity Studies, Beirut, Lebanon 2009)

He has lectured in a variety of U.S., Canadian, European and African Universities and colleges, and has contributed several book reviews, articles and chapters to books on the African state, identity and alienation, class and state formation in modern Libya.

Professor Ahmida has received many academic grants and awards, such as the Social Science Research Council National Grant Award, the Shahade Award, and the Kenneally Cup Award in 2003 for distinguished academic service at University of New England.

(Press release posted Sept. 28, 2009)