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ISITA Community

Below, find bio and contact information for our staff and faculty members. In addition to staff and faculty, ISITA has a community of visiting scholars. Learn about becoming a visiting scholar or view our past visiting scholars.

For general questions, you can reach us at 847-491-2598 or isita@northwestern.edu.

Zekeria Ahmed Salem

Zekeria Ahmed Salem

Director of ISITA, Associate Professor of Political Science

zekeria.salem@northwestern.edu

Zekeria Ahmed Salem (PhD, Lyon) is the director of ISITA and associate professor of political science at Northwestern. His research engages critical debates about religion and politics, especially interconnections between state and religious authority, identity politics, Islamic knowledge and political power in contemporary African societies. Prior to joining Northwesternhe taught political science and African studies for nearly two decades at the University of Nouakchott, Mauritania.

Ahmed Salem’s 2013 monograph, Prêcher dans le Désert: Islam, Politique et Changement Social en Mauritanie (Paris, Karthala, with English translation forthcoming) examines major transformations that shaped a new public sphere and changed cultural life in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Based on more than twenty years of fieldwork, archival research, life history collection, and close readings of Islamic doctrinal texts and fatwas, Ahmed Salem’s research reveals how Mauritanian Muslims across social strata shape their political and religious lives through engagement with available bodies of religious knowledge. Read the review of Prêcher dans le Désert in the New York Review of Books (November 23, 2017 issue). 

In other publications, Salem has examined Islamic preachers in urban settings, elections in Senegal and Mauritania, lawyers and politics, and Mauritania as a “frontier state.” He has contributed numerous chapters to edited collections and published articles in the Journal of North African Studies, Politique Africaine, Cahiers d’études africaines, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Nomadic Peoples, Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord, and L’Ouest Saharien.

Salem’s ongoing work includes the Historical Dictionary of Mauritania with coauthor Antonio Pazzanita (under contract with Scarecrow Press), and research projects on new forms of Sufism, public debates over blasphemy, and Muslim public intellectuals in African societies.

Rebecca Shereikis

Rebecca Shereikis

Associate Director

r-shereikis@northwestern.edu

Rebecca Shereikis (PhD, Northwestern) is ISITA’s associate director. She is a historian of West Africa with interests in colonial legal institutions, African Muslim responses to colonialism and Islamic law in African contexts. She has conducted research in Mali and Senegal on how inhabitants of western Mali navigated the legal terrain established by the French colonial state in the early twentieth century. She has published in the Journal of African History and the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures.

For ISITA, she works with the director on programming, grant writing, visitors, communications and the Institute's web presence. 

Wendell Hassan Marsh

Wendell Hassan Marsh

Visiting Post-doctoral Fellow via the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

wendell.marsh@northwestern.edu
View Bio

Wendell Hassan Marsh conducts research and teaches on the encounter of Islam and the African world as mediated in Arabic and vernacular texts. Overall, his work seeks to decentralize the study of Islam from the classical Arab heartlands by locating debates over religious authority in French West Africa within an equivocal tradition of argument and dissent specific to the region. He has been awarded Fulbright, Ford, and Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships for his work. Marsh is an assistant professor of African American and African Studies at Rutgers University-Newark.

Date of residency at Northwestern: September 2018 through June 2020. 

Abdulbasit Kassim

Abdulbasit Kassim

Visiting Scholar

ak61@rice.edu

Abdulbasit Kassim is a Ph.D. candidate in Religion at Rice University. His research focuses on the intellectual history of Islam in Africa,  Islamic political thought, African and African diaspora religions, Islam and race in America, gender and sexuality in Muslim societies, and religion in international relations. He earned  an MA in politics and international relations at  Keele University (2013), and a BSc in international studies at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (2011). His first book, The Boko Haram Reader: From Nigerian Preachers to the Islamic State (Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2018) coedited with Michael Nwankpa, offers an unprecedented collection of primary source texts, audiovisuals and nashīds (martial hymns)—translated into English from Hausa, Arabic and Kanuri—tracing the history and evolution of the Boko Haram movement. Kassim has published articles in the Journal of Politics, Religion, and Ideology and Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. During this residency, Kassim will continue to use the Herskovits Library’s collection of Arabic/Ajami manuscripts and other sources to conduct research for his dissertation, “Old Reformers, New Dissidents: The Intellectual History of Islamic Reform, Dissidence and Rebellion in Hausaland and Borno (late 18th c. to early 21st c.).”

Dates of residency at Northwestern: November 15, 2019 through October 31, 2020.

Paul Naylor

Paul Naylor

Visiting Scholar

pauljacobnaylor@gmail.com

Paul Naylor is West African Manuscripts Cataloger at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Collegeville, Minnesota, where he catalogs digitized manuscripts from Bamako and Timbuktu, Mali. He received his BA in Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies and his PhD (2018) from the University of Birmingham in African Studies. While completing his PhD, Naylor took part in a collaborative doctoral partnership between the University of Birmingham and the British Library, combining his own research with cataloging and curatorial work on the British Library’s West African manuscripts and the 2016 exhibit “West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song.” Naylor has taught courses on Islamic history and Islam in Africa at Tulane University and Loyola University, Chicago.  As an ISITA visiting scholar, Naylor will transform his dissertation into a book, provisionally titled “From Rebels to Rulers: Writing Legitimacy in the Sokoto State 1803-1837.”

Rebecca Shereikis

Rebecca Shereikis

Associate Director

r-shereikis@northwestern.edu

Rebecca Shereikis (PhD, Northwestern) is ISITA’s associate director. She is a historian of West Africa with interests in colonial legal institutions, African Muslim responses to colonialism and Islamic law in African contexts. She has conducted research in Mali and Senegal on how inhabitants of western Mali navigated the legal terrain established by the French colonial state in the early twentieth century. She has published in the Journal of African History and the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures.

For ISITA, she works with the director on programming, grant writing, visitors, communications and the Institute's web presence.