Ph.D, Binghamton University
MA., University of Provence Aix-Marseilles I
B.A, Cheikh Anta Diop University
My scholarship focuses on the ways in which Africa-centered epistemologies engage with colonial, postcolonial, and decolonial intellectual traditions; question the language divide in Africana studies; interrogate anti-Black racism in literature, philosophy, and cultural studies; and shape conceptions of being and identity in Africa and the African diaspora. I am particularly interested in the Negritude movement and its reception, which provides a nexus from which to examine Africana ontologies and epistemologies and Black social realities, political philosophies, and intellectual histories within comparative, transdisciplinary, translinguistic, and Black internationalist perspectives. It is in this light that my monographs and several of my publications put in conversation scholars of African descent (Léopold Sédar Senghor, Paul Gilroy, Edouard Glissant, Frantz Fanon, W.E.B Dubois, Molefi Asante, and Alain Mabanckou) across different times and spaces, linguistic traditions (Anglophone, Francophone, and African languages), and disciplines (literature, philosophy, cultural studies). This comparative approach allows me to explore the pluriversal idea of Africa, to consider the possibilities of an Africa- centered engagement with the most important issues that our world faces today, and to question the limits and consequences of the traditional universalization of the provincial Western subject. I am also interested, as demonstrated in my earlier work and some of my current and future research, in the aesthetics of African literature (Ousmane Socé, Alain Mabanckou, and Léopold Sédar Senghor, etc.), African religions (African metaphysics), and endogenous African philosophies read in light of the decolonial project.
In my first monograph, Return to the Kingdom of Childhood: Re-envisioning the Legacy and Philosophical Relevance of Negritude, I revisit Leopold Sedar Senghor’s pioneering work in Africana Studies. I argue, in this monograph, that a careful reading of the Negritude scholar’s philosophical and poetic texts, grounded on the Sereer and Dogon conceptions of time as duration, shows that his work expresses an Africa-centered conception of the human and, simultaneously, a critique of the darker side of modernity. The Africa-centered perspective that I adopt in my book is continued in the special issue that I have edited for The Journal on African Philosophy. The contributors in the issue entitled: “Negritude: Prospects and Perspectives,” examine the ways in which a reading of Negritude as a Black Internationalist philosophy that stands on its own can, at the same time, bridge the gap between linguistic zones in Africana literatures and philosophy, clarify the centrality of the critique of anti-blackness in African and Caribbean literatures, and allow for an engagement with black epistemologies beyond the anti-colonial dialectic. In my second monograph, Epistemologies from the Global South: Negritude, Creolization, and the Postcolonial Turn (under contract), I build on my first monograph to argue that the pervasiveness of the modern paradigm and its corollary, the colonial matrix of power, have led the history of the scholarship on Negritude to think of Senghor’s work either as an anti-thesis to the antiblackness constitutive of European modernity or as another manifestation of the West as the subject of history. I consequently read Negritude through the prism of Sereer traditionalists, poets, and religious scholars without the filter of the West as the subject of history. The decolonial perspective that I adopt does not only reiterate the Africa-centered reading of Negritude that I call for in my first book, it also sets the foundation for a new relation to the discipline of Africana studies. I postulate that since Negritude is one of the founding movements in Africana studies, reading it in a decolonial and Africa-centered way will necessarily have a repercussion on the ways we think of post-Negritude Africana scholarship beyond the colonial linguistic divides. I explore, in this light, the ways a decolonial understanding of Negritude can clarify, nuance, or even expand more or less pivotal interventions in the discipline of Africana studies that have developed in contradistinction to Negritude, namely, Edouard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation and Paul Gilroy’s theory of the Black Atlantic.
In the next several years, I will, in collaboration with Alioune Badara Fall (Providence College), Doyle Calhoun (Trinity College), and Lamine Niang (Pennsylvania State University) continue my engagement in bridging the language divide in Africana Studies with the translation and edition of selected works of Leopold Sedar Senghor entitled The Senghor Reader. I also plan to write a mythobiography of Leopold Sedar Senghor and expand my interest in urban cultures with a focus on Senegal.
As in my research, my teaching explores African epistemologies and epistemologies of the African Diaspora from a decolonial perspective. I have developed and taught across the curriculum courses examining topics as varied as Introduction to African Literature, Theorizing Race, The Idea of Africa, Literature and Society in Africa, African and Caribbean Literature, From the Harlem Renaissance to Negritude, and Reading and Writing in Postcolonial Africa, etc. My specialization in Africana studies and decolonial theory as well as my familiarity with colonial, postcolonial, gender, and race theories, also allow me to teach various cross-disciplinary courses. My teaching experience supports my strong commitment to the liberal arts tradition and my determination to create an inclusive teaching atmosphere that accepts diversity and encourages critical thinking. I envision my role as both an instructor who brings a certain expertise on the course material, a facilitator of discussion for students who already have a certain level of preparation, and a mentor who supports students through their journeys at a liberal arts college. I always leave my classes satisfied when I have the feeling that the class material has become, for the students, an accessible venue to explore their relations to the world. In the spirit of the liberal arts tradition’s idea of education for broader knowledge and intellectual competencies, I use my network in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America to create spaces where students from different backgrounds can meet, learn, and grow.
Epistemologies from the Global South: Negritude, Modernity, and the Idea of Africa, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press, 2023
Return to the Kingdom of Childhood: Re-envisioning the Legacy and Philosophical Relevance of Negritude, The Ohio State University Press, 2014
Cheikh Thiam, ed. Negritude Reloaded, Journal on African Philosophy, Summer 2015
Cheikh Thiam, Mame Penda Ba, Divine Fuh, Toussaint Kafarhire, eds. Pan-African Futures, Global Africa, forthcoming December 2023
“White Supremacy, Global Education, and Decolonial Futures,” co-authored with Hanna Sorila, Decolonial Theories in Practice. Andrea Rizzoti, ed., Frontiers, forthcoming 2022
“V.Y. Mudimbe: The Philosopher-Poet,” co-authored with Kwabena Okopu Agyem. The Pan-African Pantheon. Adekeye Adebajo, ed. Jacana Media Ltd/Institute of Panafrican Thought and Conversation (2020): 422-434
“Negritude Africentered: Revisiting Senghor and Glissant’s Countercultures of Modernity in the 21st Century.” Presence Africaine, no 198 (2018/2)
“Race Still Matters: The pragmatic limits of Mabanckou’s plea for a non-racial French nation-state in Le sanglot de l’homme noir,” Dalhousie French Studies, 2016
“Negritude Reloaded,” Editorial. Negritude Reloaded, Spec. issue of Journal on African Philosophy, no 11 (2015): 1-5
“From Métissage to Relation: A Comparative Analysis of Senghor’s and Glissant’s Philosophies,” New Perspectives on the Philosophy of Negritude, Spec. issue of Journal on African Philosophy, no 11 (2015): 6-20
“Negritude, Eurocentrism, And African Agency: An Africentered Renaissance of Leopold Sedar Senghor’s Philosophy,” French Review, no 88.1 (2014): 149-164
“Beyond Bergson’s Lebenphilosophie: Senghor, Negritude, and African Vitalism,” West-Africa Review, no 19 (2011): 6-20
“La négritude est une épistémologie,” Orphée noir ou Jean-Paul Sartre et la Négritude, Babacar Mbaye DIOP, ed., Paris : De la Lune, December (2009): 111-122
“Mirage de Paris: De la critique des théories essentialistes à l’éloge du pluralisme,” Ethiopiques, no 82, (2009): 1-15
“Métissages: De la culture nègre aux cultures de l’universel,” La Revue Africaine, no 3, (September 2008): 49-56
“Now Is the Time to Think Blackness beyond Fixity,” La Revue du GRAAT, no 38 (2008): 323-338
“Mouridism: A Local Re-invention of the Modern Senegalese Socio-Economic Order,” West-Africa Review, vol. 8, no. 1 (2005)