David Newman Glovsky

My research focuses on migration as a catalyst for and response to social, religious, economic, and environmental 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, “Belonging Beyond Boundaries: The Construction of a Transnational Community in a West African Borderland, 1880-1980,” examines the movement of Fulbe people (and goods) starting in the late 19th century, analyzing how Fulbe communities have formed transnational communities outside of and alongside colonial and post-colonial states and borders. Despite colonial and post-colonial efforts to re-center these networks along national lines, borderland networks remained the primary focus within the region, as border regions became increasingly connected by migration and growing economic and religious connections.  These communities demonstrate an alternative form of territoriality to that put forward by colonial and post-colonial states.

I posit that border communities offer a unique lens for the wider study of colonial rule and post-colonial sovereignty throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and indicate to us the weaknesses and fissures of governance and territorial sovereignty of 20th and 21st century African states. 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 move produce, livestock, and guns across borders, to marry across borders, and to search for better farm and pastureland. Through their movements, they created a territorial identity misaligned with the sovereign states of the region. I believe that borderlands like these offer a window into studying the spatial differential of colonial and post-colonial power, and studying historical change over areas where states have exercised minimal control.

More broadly, I am interested in the history of 19th and 20th Century West Africa, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Islam in Africa, African studies, borderland studies, the history of the Islamic World, comparative colonial history, digital humanities, the French, British, and Portuguese empires, Islam and colonial rule, world history, mobility and migration studies, historical geography, Fulbe history, culture and ethnicity, the kingdoms of Fuladu and Kaabu, 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 Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowship. I have presented research at conferences including the African Studies Association, the European Conference for African Studies, the American Association of Geographers, and the Association for Borderland Studies. I was recently honored with the Lusophone African Studies Organization paper prize for the 2018 African Studies Association annual meeting.

For the 2018-19 academic year, I am a Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellow.

Instructor/TA Experience:

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


Office Hours: N/A

Year in Program: 6

Advisor: Walter Hawthorne

Committee: Nwando Achebe, David Robinson, Charles Keith, Liam Brockey

Areas of Study: African History (West Africa), World History, History of the Islamic World, Comparative Colonial History, Borderland Studies

Languages: Pulaar, French, Portuguese, Wolof

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

Curriculum Vitae

Contact: glovskyd@msu.edu