Sub-Saharan Africa

Muslims in a Global Context
Friday, November 7, 2014 to Sunday, November 9, 2014


Class times:

5pm Friday November 7, 2014 to 1pm Sunday, November 9, 2014 (Room 2200 Sennott Square, University of Pittsburgh)

This one credit mini-course is part of a series organized by regions around the world based on their role on the world stage, their importance within the Muslim world, and the critical influence they play in the global community. The series and course seeks to illuminate the various perspectives of the Muslim community around the world. Drawing upon the expertise and research of participating faculty from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh and our partners at institutions around the world, the mini course series seeks to have students gain understanding of the religious, cultural, economical and political influences of Muslims in a global context.

Course Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the course, students will:

1. Gain an understanding of history, governance, economics, law, gender education and political dimensions of the peoples and regions focused for each mini course.

2. Explore one of these factors in depth, through a research paper.


Gordon, A.A. & Gordon, D.L. (Eds.). (2006). Understanding contemporary Africa. Portland, OR: Rienner Publishers, Inc.

This book will be available at the University of Pittsburgh's Bookstore and Carnegie Mellon's Bookstore. 


The Muslims in the Global Context series offers the opportunity to examine the factors and trends that are having major impacts on these diverse regions and their relationships with other world regions and countries. The mini-courses consist of presentations on topics of critical importance to the understanding of Muslims in diverse regions of the world. In addition to attendance at all lectures, students enrolled for credit are required to develop and write a research paper on one of the themes of the mini-course and answer reflection prompts during the course. One- credit/ 3 units for CMU students is provided for the completion of each mini-course.


Due to the immersive nature of the course, students are expected to attend all sessions on all three days. Further, each student will be required to read the assigned book and develop a research paper on one dimension of Muslims in a global context that has been introduced in class. The paper should be based on one of the topics covered in the course. The length of the research paper will be 5-10 pages, double spaced in 11 point font. Research papers are due by Friday, December 5th, 2014 and should be submitted through the University of Pittsburgh's Courseweb or Carnegie Mellon's Blackboard assignment tab for the course.

Audit Option:

Carnegie Mellon students may also audit the course by attending all the sessions, but not writing the paper. You should be sure to process an audit form, both if you are auditing from the beginning or later if you have decided not to do a paper and want your status changed from credit to audit. Once the course has started students will be graded based on how they signed up for the course.

University of Pittsburgh students must take the course for a letter grade. Students who wish to attend without earning credit may do so my registering as a community member.

Sponsored by: University of Pittsburgh's Global Studies Center, Political Science Department and the African Studies Program, and Carnegie Mellon University's Office of the Provost and Division of Student Affairs 


Tentative Schedule (updated 11/5/14)

Friday, November 7th 5:00 - 8:00pm

5:00 pm- 5:15 pm Brief Introductions and Welcome
5:15 pm - 6:30 pm Howard French- "Key Concepts in Understanding Africa"
6:30 pm- 6:45 pm Break
6:45 pm- 8:00 pm  Kim Searcy - "Spread of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa"

Saturday, November 8th 9:00am - 7:00pm

9:00 am - 10:15 am Kim Searcy- "Slavery in Muslim Africa"
10:15 am - 10:30 am Break
10:30am - 11:45 am Beverly Mack- "Gender and Education in Islam"
11:45 am - 12:00 pm Break
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm Holly Hickling"Refugees and Research in Zambia"

 1:15 pm - 2:30 pm Lunch

2:30 pm - 3:45 pm Beverly Mack- "Muslim Women in African Literature"
3:45-pm - 4:00 pm Break
4:00 pm - 5:15 pm Buba Misawa- "Nigeria: Security Problems, Ethno-religious Conflicts and the Crisis of Democratic Transitions"
5:15 pm - 5:30 Break 
5:30-pm - 6:45 pm Abimbola Fapohunda- "Why is Africa's Health Care So Far behind the Rest of the World?"

Sunday, November 9th, 9:00am - 1:00pm

9:00am - 10:15am Howard French- "Let's Talk Africa! Placing China's Booming Relations with Africa in a Historical Context"  
10:15am - 10:30 am Break
10:30 am - 11:45 am Dennis Jett- "US Security in the Region" 
11:45 am - 12:00 pm Conclusions and Closing Remarks

Sponsored by: University of Pittsburgh's Global Studies Center, Political Science Department and the African Studies Program, and Carnegie Mellon University's Office of the Provost and Division of Student Affairs 




Abimbola Fapohunda

In the words of Dr. Fapohunda:

As a trained epidemiologist and health educator, Dr. Fapohunda's research focuses on health eating and physical activity among immigrants. I was the Principal Investigator (PI) on an immigrant study that examines Arab Americans’ Perceptions of Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, the Co-PI on the study that investigates African Immigrants’ Perceptions and Practices around Healthy Eating and Physical Activity through photovoice; and utilizing my graduate training in public health, nutrition, and food hygiene, I conducted health and nutrition workshops for a diverse group of community-based organizations in Greater Pittsburgh.

I collaborated with the Redeem Christian Church of God in Pittsburgh, PA and the African Cultural and Resource Center in Silver Springs, MD on developing a research plan for creating a culturally-tailored Food Frequency Questionnaire among African Immigrants residents in Allegheny County, PA and Montgomery County, MD, using a Community-based Participatory Research approach. I also the Co-PI on the study that seeks to explore and understand the beliefs, perceptions and practices of young adult offspring of African immigrants regarding what healthy eating and health activity is in the context of their environment and culture. I was the PI for the African Immigrant study that examined the preventive health care practices, knowledge and attitudes of West African immigrants in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. 

I have spent the past fourteen years as an independent consultant, conducting needs assessments and program evaluation on the effectiveness of numerous community-based initiatives related to health disparities in both behavioral and physical health, including nutrition, smoking cessation, HIV/AIDS and oral health. I am also a part-time instructor in the Department of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh. For the second year this summer, I was the assistant faculty coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh Study Abroad - Tanzania Program, where I taught Public Health Issues in Tanzania.


Howard French

Howard W. French received his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. He worked as a French-English translator in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in the early 1980s, and taught English literature at the University of Ivory Coast. His career in journalism began as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and many other publications in West Africa. He was hired by The New York Times in 1986, and worked as a metropolitan reporter for three years, and from 1990 to 2008 reported for The Times as bureau chief for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, Japan and the Koreas, and China in Shanghai. During this time, his work was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; he was twice the recipient of an Overseas Press Club Award, and he has also won the Grantham Environmental Award, among other awards. He was also named Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Maryland. From 2005 to 2008 alongside his work for The Times, Mr. French was a weekly columnist on global affairs for the International Herald Tribune.

He is the author of "A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa" (2004), which was named non-fiction book of the year by several newspapers, and won the 2005 American Library Association Black Caucus Award for Non-Fiction, and was runner up for the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage and for the Hurston Wright Foundation's non-fiction prize. Other awards include an honorary doctorate from the University of Maryland.  He is also the author of “China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa, which was published by Alfred A. Knopf in May 2014.

His work has been published in The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Transition, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Crisis. He is also a documentary photographer, whose book, "Disappearing Shanghai: Images and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life," with Qiu Xiaolong, was published in 2012.

French was a 2011 fellow of the Open Society Foundations and is presently researching a book about the geopolitics of East Asia.


Holly Hickling

Holly Hickling joined the UHC team in January 2014 as the new Academic Community Engagement Advisor. She helps students connect their academic interests to meaningful community engagement opportunities, including internships, long term volunteer opportunities, and community based research. 

Holly brings both a breadth and depth of experience in community engagement and research to the Honors College. After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in Music from Chatham College (now Chatham University) in 2004, she interned with a publishing company in Paris before a three-year stint with FORGE in Zambia, where she coordinated community service programs in refugee camps, including training and leading students from Pitt and UCLA to be Project Facilitators in the camps. The students facilitated programs including literacy, health, sports, and music. After FORGE, Holly continued working in Zambia with Poverty Action Lab, administering research studies on topics including malaria, reproductive health, and girls' education. Returning to the States, she worked at Northern Illinois University for a year and a half before returning to her home in Pittsburgh, PA where she spent a year doing small consulting projects and having adventures with her preschool-aged daughter.

Throughout her academic and professional career, Holly has maintained a love of music. She has played trombone in Robert Morris University's Jam Blues Band and flute in the May Day marching band (Pittsburgh's local radical street marching band). She played guitar in an Irish band in Zambia called The Old Hags and served two summers as "Harmonious Holly" at Camp Deer Creek in Cheswick, PA


Dennis Jett

Professor Dennis Jett is a former American ambassador who joined the Penn State University School of International Affairs after a career in the U.S. Foreign Service that spanned twenty-eight years and three continents. His experience and expertise focus on international relations, foreign aid administration, and American foreign policy. Immediately prior to joining Penn State, he was dean of the International Center at the University of Florida for eight years.

Professor Jett's career abroad began in 1973, when he was a political officer in the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He later spent several years in Africa, first as the deputy chief of mission in the U.S. Embassy in Malawi, where he assisted in the response to an influx of more than 500,000 Mozambican refugees, and then as deputy chief of mission in the U.S. Embassy in Liberia, where he was the second ranking officer during the Liberian Civil War. For his service in Liberia during this tumultuous time, he received the State Department's Distinguished Honor Award for “exceptional service, superb leadership, keen perception and adroitness in the formulation and execution of U.S. foreign policy.”

Professor Jett then became special assistant to the president and senior director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, where he was responsible for Africa policy during the first six months of the Clinton Administration. He went on to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Mozambique (from 1993-1996) and Peru (from 1996-1999) where he helped bring about the successful conclusion of one of the world's largest peacekeeping operations, enabling the country to hold its first democratic elections. For his efforts, he received the American Foreign Service Award Association's Christian Herter Award. He was subsequently appointed U.S. ambassador to Peru, where he managed the second largest aid program in Latin America and helped to open Peru's markets to U.S. companies.

Professor Jett was the Diplomat in Residence at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia from 1999-2000, through which he led election observation missions to Venezuela and Guatemala and conflict resolution efforts between Uganda and Sudan. He then joined the University of Florida in 2000, where he taught classes in globalization and foreign policy as well as serving as dean of the International Center.


Beverly Mack

Beverly Mack is a Professor of African Studies in the Department of African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas. She has conducted extended field research on Muslim women poets, performers, and scholars in Kano, Nigeria, and Fes, Morocco. Her research has been funded by grants from the Carnegie Corporation, Fulbright Hays, Woodrow Wilson, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Association of University Women. Prior to joining KU, she taught at Georgetown and Yale Universities. Since 1995 at KU she has taught courses on Women and Islam, Islamic Literature, and Introduction to Arabic and Islamic Studies. Her books include: Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century (with Catherine Coles) (University of Wisconsin Press, 1990) and Muslim Women Sing: Hausa Popular Song (Indiana University Press, 2004), and several works on 19th C Sufi scholar Nana Asma’u with her colleague Jean Boyd, including three books: The Collected Works of Nana Asma’u, Daughter of Shehu Usman dan Fodiyo, 1793-1864 (Michigan State University Press, 1997), One Woman’s Jihad: Nana Asma’u, Scholar and Scribe (Indiana University Press, 2001), and Educating Muslim Women:  the West African Legacy of Nana Asma’u (London: Interface Press, 2013).


Buba Misawa

Buba Misawa, Ph.D., is a professor of political science at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, PA. He received a B.Sc. (Honors) degree from Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria (1981), and a Masters of Public and International Affairs (MPIA) from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh (1985), and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pittsburgh (1992). Dr. Misawa served as a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (1992-1994).  He was appointed assistant professor of political science at Washington and Jefferson College in 1995. He continued to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Political Science in the Department of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh until 2008.  He was also a visiting professor at the Saint Mary's University (Canada) Extension Program, Banjul, Gambia in 1999.  Prior to attending graduate school in the United States, Misawa taught at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria (1982-83). In addition to his graduate degrees, Professor Misawa holds a certificate in International Security from the University of Pittsburgh.

His research interests include Nigerian foreign policy; conflicts and West African security; and US foreign policy towards Africa. Misawa has published on Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Middle East and Africa, African Chieftaincy, and the Dafur conflict in the Sudan. He is currently working on a book: The dimensions of African Security Problems; and co-author of another book (Forthcoming, December 2014): The Making of a Chief Servant: The Biography of the Talban Minna and Governor of Niger State, Nigeria.

Professor Misawa is the recipient of many distinguished research honors such as: The International Public Service Award, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), University of Pittsburgh, 2009 (an Award given to GSPIA Alumni); the Rotary International Scholarship for University Teachers (1999); the Fulbright-Hays Summer Travel Grant for research (to Ghana, 2003 & 2007); the Washington and Jefferson College’s President’s Entrepreneurial Fund for Summer Research (2005); and the University of Maiduguri Overseas Study Fellowship (1983-1987).  He has been a consultant to the University of the Gambia in numerous ways since its founding.  Misawa was a member of the International panel that set up the University of the Gambia (UTG) in 2000.  

Professor Misawa has completed numerous study trips to The Gambia and Senegal with students from Washington & Jefferson College, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Juniata College, since 2001.  


Kim Searcy

Kim Searcy (Ph.D., Indiana University, 2004; B.S., University of Indianapolis, 1989) is Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago where he teaches courses on Islam, Islam in East Africa, African history, slavery in Muslim Africa, and Islam in the African American experience.

Prof. Searcy has written extensively on the Sudan and the historical impact of African slavery in the Sudan. His first book, The Formation of the Sudanese Mahdist State: Symbols and Ceremony, 1882-1898 (Brill, 2010) is part of Brill’s “Islam in Africa” series.  Prof. Searcy has examined Sufism, the Mahdi's attitudes on slavery, the slave trade, and emancipation, as well as the impact of charismatic authority on the Khalifa.  His current research examines the Muslim Brotherhood in northern Africa, specifically comparing the evolution of the Brotherhood in Egypt and the Sudan in the second half of the twentieth century.

Prof. Searcy previously taught at Colorado College (1999-2000, 2003), the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (2000-01, 2002), Oberlin College (2001-2002, 2003) and Lehman College of the City University of New York (2003). Currently, he teaches such courses as “Survey of Islam,” “African History Since 1600,” “Slavery in Muslim Africa,” and “Islam in the African-American Experience.”

Prof. Searcy’s research interests include African studies, Near Eastern languages and cultures, Islamic revivalism in 19th century Africa, slavery in Muslim societies, the role of Islamic mysticism in African Islamic polities, Islam and the African Diaspora.  


Registration is REQUIRED for University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University students, for teachers, business and community members and guests who are not taking the course for credit.

For students only: Once you are registered, you will be given access to the Muslims in a Global Context: Sub-Saharan Africa Blackboard/CourseWeb site that is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, where you will find information on assignments and resources.


Carnegie Mellon University Registration:

Registration is REQUIRED for Carnegie Mellon University students. For any registrations, please contact Catherine Ribarchak at

University of Pittsburgh Registration:

Registration is REQUIRED for University of Pittsburgh students. Students can register for this course up till November 5, 2014. To register please click the following form. University of Pittsburgh students may register for the Muslims in a Global Context mini course at no additional cost provided that they do not exceed the maximum number of credits for full-time enrollment. Full-time enrollment maximum credits vary with status and School. Students will be billed for credits exceeding their full or part-time allowable credits.

For any inquiries please contact Veronica Dristas at

Community Registration:

Registration is required for community members and guests who are not taking the course for credit.

Who needs to register?  Registration is for count of attendance only, and is for guests who are NOT taking the course for credit.

How do I register?
 Please click the link and fill out the simple form: Community Registration Form

Teacher Registration:

This registration form is for teachers who would like to receive ACT 48 credit. To register please click the link and fill out the simple form: Teacher Registration Form


Veronica Dristas

Assistant Director of Outreach
Global Studies Center
University Center for International Studies (UCIS)
University of Pittsburgh
4101 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
412 624-2918412 624-2918 


Cathy Ribarchak

Administrative Assistant to Dr. Amy Burkert
Office of the Vice Provost for Education
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
612A Warner Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
412-268-2330 (fax)


Contact the Global Studies Center:

Phone: (412) 648-5085(412) 648-5085 

Mailing address:
Global Studies Center
University of Pittsburgh
University Center for International Studies
4400 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260


Abimbola Fapohunda

Recommended Readings:

"Inequities in the Global Health Workforce: The Greatest Impediment to Health in Sub-Saharan Africa" by Stella C. E. Anyangwe and Chipayeni Mtonga. (2007). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 4(2), p. 93-100.  


"The Migration of Physicians from Sub-Saharan Africa to the United States of America: Measures of the African Brain Drain" by Amy Hagopian, Matthew J. Thompson, Meredith Fordyce, Karin E. Johnson, and L Gary Hart. (2004). Human Resources for Health, 2:17.


"Tanzania's Health System and Workforce Crisis" by Gideon Kwesigabo, Mughwira A. Mwangu, Deodatus C. Kakoko, Ina Warriner, Charles A. Mkony, Japhet Killewo, Sarah B. Macfarlane, Ephata E. Kaaya, and Phyllis Freeman. (2012). Journal of Public Health Policy, 33, p. 35-44. 

Howard French

Recommended Readings:

Seasons of Rain: Africa in the World, by Stephen Ellis

Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State, by Frederick Cooper

The Fortunes of Africa: A 5,000-Year History of Wealth, Greed and Endeavor, by Meredith Martin.


Holly Hickling

Recommended Readings:


Dennis Jett

Recommended Readings:

Pew Research, Religion and Public Life Survey: Region: Sub-Saharan Africa 


U.S. Counterterrorism in Sub-Saharan Africa: Understanding Costs, Cultures, and Conflicts by Donovan C. Chau, September 2008.


U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.  A White House Report, Washington. 

Beverly Mack

Recommended Readings:

“Creating a Spiritual Past: African American Heritage Connections to West African Islam" in Journal of West African History Ed. Nwando Achebe, (forthcoming, 2015)


“Full Circle: Muslim Women’s Education from the Maghreb to America and Back” in Journal

Of North African Studies (Special Volume), Ed. Patricia Lorcin, forthcoming, October 2014.


Introduction, The Exilir of Truth, Volume 2 by Musa Muhaiyaddeen (E.L. Levin) (Atlantic City,

N.J.: the Witness Within, Inc. 2013.


Nana Asma’u:  19th C West African Sufi” in Cambridge Companion to Sufism.Cambridge

University Press, (10,000 words)  Ed. Lloyd Ridgeon,  forthcoming 2014.


“Nana Asma’u:  19th C West African Poet and Educator” in The African Literature Book Project

Ed. Umar Abdulrahman. forthcoming 2014.


“Muslim Hausa Women’s Songs” in Women's Songs from West Africa.  Eds. Thomas A. Hale

 and Aissata G. Sidikou.  Bloomington, Indiana:  Indiana University Press, 2014, 224-256.


“Nana Asma’u: Educating Muslim Women in the Twenty-First Century” Kube Publications

Blog.  Oxford:  Interface/Kube Press, (website article), 2013.


With Omiunota Ukpokodu, “Islamic Cultural Socialization and Education in Nigeria.” In O.N. Ukpokodu and P. Ukpokodu (Eds.), Voices from the Margin: African Educators on Africa and American Education.  Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2012, pp. 85-107.


“Nana Asma’u’s Instruction and Poetry for Present-day American Muslimahs” in History in Africa, 38, (2011), 1-16.


“Muslim Women’s Knowledge Production in the Greater Maghreb: The Example of Nana Asma’u of Northern Nigeria” in Gender and Islam in Africa: Rights, Sexuality, and Law.  Ed. Margot Badran. Seneca Falls, NY:  Woodrow Wilson Press (co-publishing with Stanford University Press), 2011, pp. 17-40.


Imitating the Life of the Prophet: Nana Asma’u and Shehu Usman ‘dan Fodiyo” in Tales of God’s Friends:  Islamic Hagiography, Ed. John Renard.  Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2009, 179-196.

Buba Misawa

Recommended Readings:

"Nigeria: As Govt Loses Ground in North-East, a 15-Point Plan for Nigeria." by Richard Joseph, AfricaPlus.


 "Boko Haram: Terror’s Insidious New Face." bAlex Perry / July 9, 2014

Kim Searcy

Recommended Readings:

The Development of Islam in West Africa  by Mervyn Hiskett

Islam in the Sudan by J.S. Trimmingham

The History of Islam in Africa by Levtzion and Pouwells.


‘The 13th century in Muslim Eschatology:Mahdist Expectations in the Sokoto Caliphate.’ M.A. al Hajj, Research Bulletin(Ibadan), iii, 1967, pp. 100-115


"The age of Mansa Musa of Mali: Problems in succession and chronology", International Journal of African Historical Studies 5: 221–234.


“The Khalifa and the Routinization of Charismatic Authority,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 43, No. 3, September 1, 2010. Pp. 90-110.


Transformations in Slavery  by Paul Lovejoy

East Africa and the Indian Ocean Trade  by Edward Alpers

African Identity in Asia  by Shihan de S. Jayasuriya

Revolt of African Slaves in Iraq  by Alexandre Popovic

Slave Elites in the Middle East and Africa.  by Toru Miura and John Edward Philips


“The Sudanese Mahdi’s Attitudes on Slavery and Emancipation,” Sudanic Africa  vol. 1, no. 1, 2010., pp. 63-83.


“Kafur” in Brill’s Encyclopedia of Islam