Joey Bradshaw

My research is centered in a little understood, but significant region of Africa, the Western Sahel. As a historian of the nineteenth century, I explore identity formation, political alliance, and warfare from the precolonial period to the moment of colonial conquest. My dissertation, “The Bandiagara Emirate: Warfare, Colonization and Identity in the Middle Niger, 1863-1913,” focuses on Muslim settlers from northern Senegal, known as Futanke, who colonized a region of central Mali known as Bandiagara in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Futanke created a Muslim state at Bandiagara through their cooperation with the non-Muslim Dogon people who had previously established themselves along the rocky plateaus east of the Niger River. A coalition of Futanke, Dogon and others toppled the Caliphate of Hamdullahi and eventually ruled all its former territory.

My dissertation describes the hierarchical system of racial and religious difference that the Futanke inherited when they conquered the Hamdullahi Caliphate and settled among the non-Muslim Dogon who lived at its eastern frontier. The Dogon of Mali’s Bandiagara Plateau were hunters and farmers who continued to practice their traditional religion and as a consequence became Hamdullahi’s subalterns. I discuss how the Futanke in part transgressed the hierarchies established by Hamdullahi through their alliance and cohabitation with the Dogon. The political relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims is the Western Sahel is often viewed through the lens of the former dominating the latter. My dissertation describes a more complex history of cooperation and coercion in which the hierarchical relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims in the region change to suit political contexts.

I am interested in politics and identity in Muslim West Africa and the political history of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries more broadly. In the class I currently teach I have developed lectures around the French encounter with Islam in Africa, nationalism, ethnicity, race and gender. Before I started my PhD program I was an Arabic language analyst in the U.S. Navy. My interest in the Sahel reflects my commitment to using Arabic sources written by Africans. In class I challenge my students to view Africa’s history from the African perspective through translated primary sources, oral traditions and African novels.

Teaching Experience


HST 201 Identity and African History in the 19th and 20th century, Fall 2018.

Teaching Assistant

ISS 201 The U.S. and the World, Michigan State University, Spring 2018.

LEADR Digital Humanities Lab, Graduate Assistant Instructor, Spring 2016.

ISS 220 Time Space and Change, Michigan State University, ISS 220, Fall 2015.

IAH 205 Africa and the World, Michigan State University, Spring 2015.

ISS 330A African History, Cultures, and Politics, Michigan State University, Fall 2014.

IAH 205 Africa and the World, Michigan State University, Spring 2014.

Teaching Areas

Islam in Africa

Identity in African History

The Trans-Saharan World from Antiquity to the Early Modern Period

The Atlantic Slave Trade

Trade and Commodities in World History

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