David Newman Glovsky


My research focuses on migration as a catalyst for and response to social, religious, and economic change in Fulbe (Pulaar-speaking) communities in Senegal, The GambiaGuinea-Bissau, and Guinea. It explores the changing nature of life in these regions during the late 19th and 20th century, from the pre-colonial to the post-colonial period. My dissertation, “Mobility on the Margins: Local Autonomy in a West African Borderland, 1880-2004,” examines the spatial and temporal differentiation of colonial and post-colonial rule in rural Fulbe regions. I posit that border communities offer a unique lens for the wider study of colonial rule and post-colonial sovereignty throughout sub-Saharan Africa. I explore how Africans exploited colonial borders to create dynamic spaces of religious, social, and economic mobility and innovation. In my specific case, Fulbe of Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea used their location to create new Islamic communities, to avoid taxation, military conscription, and forced labor, to smuggle produce, livestock, and guns across borders, and to search for better farm and pastureland. I believe that this offers a window into studying the spatial differential of colonial power, and studying historical change over areas where colonial power was weaker.

More broadly, I am interested in the history of 19th and 20th Century West Africa, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Islam in Africa, the history of the Islamic world, Fulbe history, culture and ethnicity, African history, borderland studies, the history of the Islamic world, comparative colonial history, Islam and colonialism, world history, historical geography, and historical linguistics.

Before starting my PhD, I spent two years living in southern Senegal as a Peace Corps volunteer in the town of Dabo. My experience living and working in Pulaar communities throughout the area inspired me to return to academic life and explore the historical context of the area in which I had lived.

My graduate studies and research have been assisted by the MSU College of Social Science, the Foreign Language and Areas Studies (FLAS) Program, and the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship. I have presented research at conferences including the African Studies Association, the European Conference for African Studies, and the Association for Borderland Studies.


Instructor/TA Experience:

HST 201: Islam and the Colonial World (Instructor)
IAH 202: Europe and the World: Encounters and Empires in an Age of Discovery
HST 150: World History Since 1500
IAH 205: Africa and the World
HST 140: World History to 1500
HST 324: History of Sport in America
ISS 328: Culture of Soccer


Office Hours: Tuesday, 12-1 PM, and Thursday, 9-10 AM (218 Old Horticulture)

Year in Program: 5

Advisor: Dr. Walter Hawthorne

Committee: Dr. Nwando Achebe, Dr. Liam Brockey, Dr. Charles Keith

Areas of Study: African History (West Africa), World History, Comparative History of European Empires, History of the Islamic World

Languages: Pulaar, French, Portuguese, Wolof

Educational Background: B.A., Dartmouth College, History and Geography, 2008.

Curriculum Vitae

Contact: glovskyd@msu.edu