Ousmane Traoré

The new academic year always brings with it an opportunity to welcome the newest members of the Pomona College community.  Our new students—both first years and transfers—are often the first who come to mind.  But Pomona College welcomes a new class of professors each year as well.

This year the History Department is excited to welcome a new professor to our ranks.  Professor Makhroufi Ousmane Traoré is a new “tenure track” professor of History and Africana Studies.  He holds a joint appointment in both the History Department and the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies.  We spoke with him recently to learn more about him and his work.

History Department (HD): Welcome to Pomona College!  Can you tell our students a little bit about yourself?

Ousmane Traoré (OT):  It’s difficult for me to start introducing myself via a specific geographic origin. I see myself as a world citizen. I was born and raised in Senegal in West Africa, but my father¹s heritage is Malian and my mother¹s is Mauritanian. And yet they met in Senegal fifty years ago!

In my household, three languages were spoken, depending on which extended family was visiting. After growing up and going to college in Senegal, I spent half of my life in France before moving to the USA in 2011. Thus, to my diverse African heritages, I would add my French culture, and now, my Californian one. If Jacques Brel (Belgian singer and songwriter, 1929 ­1978) is correct, though, that “one’s accent is one’s country,” then which accent is mine?

HD: Can you tell us about your research interests?

OT: My research focuses primarily on the history of imperialism and colonialism in Africa. This involves looking at the history of slavery as an institution, and also at the trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic worlds of slavery. Using a global perspective and going beyond the “colonial library,” my research explores new concepts such as the diplomatic relations and negotiations that were at the heart of the early and modern cross-cultural encounters between West Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. I am likewise interested in the construction of African empires that was ongoing between the 4th and 16th centuries (such as Ghana, Mali, and Songhay), as well as the intellectual history that thrived within these early modern West African empires.

HD: What kind of classes will you be teaching at Pomona?

OT: This Fall, I am offering an ID1 course entitled “Walking Toward Freedom.” The class deals with the influence of the generation of W.E.B Dubois and Marcus Garvey on Pan-Africanism, the Négritude movement in Paris, and the African nationalist movements that overcame colonialism in Africa. I am also offering a survey on “The History of Africa to 1800.” Then, in the Spring I will be teaching two further courses: one, a survey of “Africa in World Politics, 1960-2011”; and the other, a seminar on “Woman and Slavery in the Trans-Saharan and Trans-Atlantic Worlds.”

HD: What are you looking forward to the most as a new professor at Pomona College?

OT: What I am most looking forward to is contributing to the culture of excellence at Pomona and enhancing the History and Africana Studies Departments. Filling Professor Sidney Lemelle’s shoes will not be easy, but at least I have an example to follow in his legacy.