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Zekeria Ahmed Salem

Associate Professor


Research Interest(s): Islam and Muslim Politics in Africa, Islamic Thought; Islam, race and ethnicity ; social movements; bureaucratization; equality and citizenship ; the State in Africa

Program Area(s): Comparative Politics

Regional Specialization(s): Africa

Joint Appointment

Program of African Studies


Zekeria Ould Ahmed Salem is Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and Director of The Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa in the Program of African Studies.  He specializes in Islam and Muslim Politics in Africa in comparative perspective. His research engages contemporary academic debates regarding religion and politics, especially the interplay in contemporary African societies of a variety of issues such as: the state, religious authority, race, social hierarchies, identity politics, Islamic knowledge and political power. Ahmed Salem secondary research interests include everyday negotiations over citizenship, bureaucratization and the Institutionalization of the state in Africa.  

His is the author of: Prêcher dans le Desert: Islam, Politique et Changement Social en Mauritanie (published by Karthala, Paris, in 2013, with an English translation forthcoming as Preaching in the Desert: Islam, Politics and Social Change in Mauritania) and the editor of: Trajectoires d’un Etat-Frontière. Espaces, Evolutions Politiqiues et Transformations Sociales en Mauritanie (Dakar, Council for The Development of Social Research In Africa, Book Series: 2004). 
His research appeared in numerous book chapters. His journal articles are published in : The Journal of North African Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Nomadic Peoples, Cahiers d’études africaines, Islam et Sociétés au Sud du Sahara, Politique Africaine, Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord, L’Ouest Saharien….


  • Prêcher dans le désert. Islam Politique et Changement Social ( Kartha, Paris, 2013). English translation forthcoming under the title: Preaching in The Desert: Political Islam and Social change in Mauritania.
  • Trajectoires d’un Etat-frontière. Espaces, évolutions politiques et transformation s sociales en Mauritanie, edited volume (Codesria, 2004).
  • Historical Dictionary of Mauritania (with Antonio Pazzanita), Lanham MD, Rowman & Littlefield Forthcoming in 2018.


-  “Controlled Democratization, Institutional Reforms and Political (In)-stability in Mauritania” in Leonardo A. Villalon (ed.), The Politics of Institutional Reform in Sahelian West Africa (Lanham MD, Rowman & Littlefield, Forthcoming in January 2018).

  - “The politics of The Haratins Social Movement in Mauritania (1978-2014)” in Osama Abi-Mershed (ed), Social Currents in North Africa (London & New York, Hurst Publishers, January 2018).

  -“Les mutations paradoxales de l’Islamisme en Mauritanie,” Cahiers d'études africaines n°206-207 (June 2012): 635-664.

- “The paradoxes of Islamic Radicalization in Mauritania”, in George Joffe (ed.) Islamic Activism in The Maghreb. Politics and Process (London: Routledge, 2011):179.

 -“Bare-foot activists. Transformations of The Haratines Movement in Mauritania”, in Stephen Ellis and W.M.J. van Kessel (eds.), Movers and Shakers: Social Movements in Africa (Leiden: Brill, African dynamics, vol. 8), 2009: 156-177.

 - “Islam in Mauritania Between Political Expansion and Globalization: Elites, Institutions, Knowledge, and Networks”, in Benjamin Soares and René Otayek, (eds.), Islam and Muslim Politics in  Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007): 27-46.

- “Mauritania: A Saharan Frontier State”, The Journal of North African Studies, 10, Issue 3/4 (September, 2005  ): 491–506.

-“Prêcher dans le désert: l’Univers du Cheikh Sidi Yahya et l’évolution de l’Islamisme mauritanien,” Islam et Sociétés au Sud du Sahara n.14-15 (2001-2002): 5-40.



-2013-2015: Associate Senior Research Fellow (honorary appointment) ; Senior Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, Nantes, France (AY: 2012- July 2013) ; Senior Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, Paris, (Jan-June 2012) ; Fulbright Senior Visiting Scholar (University of Florida, AY: 2010-2011), Senior Fellow African Studies Center, Leiden, Netherlands(2008) ; Visiting Associate Professor (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (2003) ;  Visiting Research Fellow, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, France, 2001-2002),


Agence Nationale de la Recherche (France, 2016-2018), Jutta Vogel Foundation (Koln, Germany, 2012); Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (Dakar, 2001-2004), Sahel Research group and Minerva Initiative (University of Florida, 2013), African Studies Center (Leiden, Netherlands, 2004-2007), Centre d’études d’Afrique Noire /Sciences-Po Bordeaux (France, 2009-2010), CERI-Sciences Po. (Paris, 1999-2001), Migration Policy Center/European University Institute (2009-2011), Institute for Research on Development (IRD, 2005).

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