Department of History

Amir Syed

  • Visiting Assistant Professor


African History
Islamic Intellectual History
Atlantic History
Anthropology of Religion


The Middle East after 1945
Islam & Conflict in Global Contexts
Africa Until 1800
West & West Central Africa in the Age of the Slave Trade
Islam in Africa 

Education & Training

  • Ph.D, University of Michigan, 2017

Representative Publications

Jihad of the Pen, Journey of the Soul. Co-author with Rudolph Ware and Zachary Wright. (American University of Cairo Press, forthcoming).

“Poetics of Praise: Love and Authority in al-Hajj ‘Umar Tal’s Safīnat al-saʿāda li-ahl ḍuʿuf wa-l-najāda, Volume 7 no. 2 (2016), 210-238.

Foreword to “In Praise of the Intercessor: Mawāhib al- Nāfiʿ fī Madāʾiḥ al- Shāfiʿ
by Amadu Bamba Mbacké (1853–1927).” Co-author with Rudolph Ware and Zachary Wright. Islamic Africa, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Fall 2013), 225-227.  


Research Interests

My research broadly focuses on the transnational and intellectual histories of Muslim communities in Africa, the transmission of Islamic knowledge, questions about religions authority, and the relationship between orality and textuality.

I am currently working on a book manuscript centered on the social and intellectual world of one significant 19th century West African Muslim scholar, al-Hajj ‘Umar Fūtī Tāl. This work investigates the wider links between West Africa and other parts of the Muslim world in relationship to the circulation of people, ideas, and scholarly works. It also investigates issues related to authority, political legitimacy, and the emergence of new religious and intellectual ideas in the 19th century. By telling a story through the life and library of this single individual, it demonstrates the significance of repositioning the study of Islam in Africa with an eye to the wider intellectual trends of the Muslim world.