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Assan Sarr

Assan Sarr
Associate Professor
Bentley Annex 407

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  • Ph.D. in History from Michigan State University, 2010
  • African Studies from Ohio University


  • Africa; Modern Period
  • West Africa; The Gambia and Senegal River Basins
  • Social, Political, and Environmental History; Land Tenure; Peace and Conflict

Dr. Sarr is the author and co-author of several book chapters and articles, which appeared in the African Economic History, African Studies Review, Journal of West African History and Mande Studies. Sarr's first book, Islam, Power and Dependency in the Gambia River Basin: The Politics of Land Control, 1790-1940 explores the impact of Islamization, the development of peanut production, and the imposition of colonial rule on people living along the middle and lower Gambia River. It shows how these waves of changes sweeping the region after 1850 altered local political and social arrangements, with important implications for the ability of elites to control land.

Currently, Dr. Sarr is working on two projects on descendants of Liberated Africans in Bathurst (The Gambia) and on a Sufi clerical family. The full-length scholarly biography of Sir Samuel John Forster (c.1873-1940) examines the ways in which an Aku (Creole) family influenced British policy in what would become its colony of the Gambia as well as the extensive networks that the family established both within and outside of West Africa. The other project on the clerical family seeks to trace the history of Cherno Baba Jallow (born c. 1890) and his community, and what their story reveals about Islam and Islamization in the Greater Senegambia region.

Over the past couple of years, Dr. Sarr has served as a Visiting Scholar at the University of The Gambia where, among other responsibilities, he taught courses in African History and supervised research of graduate students. He has served as a consultant to a few agencies based in and outside of the United States.

Dr. Sarr is affiliated with the Center for International Studies at Ohio University especially the African Studies Program and the International Development Studies Program. He also is affiliated with the Contemporary History Institute.



  • Islam, Power and Dependency in the Gambia River Basin: The Politics of Land Control, 1790-1940 (Rochester, NY: The University of Rochester Press, 2016)

Peer-Reviewed Articles

  • “Gender, Spirituality and Economic Change in Rural Gambia: Agricultural Production in the Lower Gambia Region, Eighteenth through the Twentieth Centuries,” African Economic History 45, 2 (2017), pp. 1-26.
  • “Land, Power and Dependency along the Gambia River, Late Eighteenth to Early Nineteenth Centuries,” African Studies Review 57, Issue 03 (December 2014), pp. 101-121.
  • “A Story of Bathurst’s (Gambia) Black-Coated Workers, c1929-1941,” Childhood in Africa: An Interdisciplinary Journal 3, Issue 1 (Fall 2013), pp. 1-15.
  • “Fighting Over the Swamps: Conflict and Community across the Gambia River Basin, Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” Mande Studies 11 (2009), pp.135-153.

Co-Authored Articles and Essays

  • Niklas Hultin, Baba Jallow, Benjamin Lawrance, and Assan Sarr, “Briefing: Autocracy, Migration, and The Gambia’s ‘Unprecedented’ 2016 Election,” African Affairs, (Lond) 116, Issue 463, 1 (April 2017), pp. 321-340.
  • Marion Mendy & Assan Sarr, “The Ambiguity of Gender: Ifi Amadiume and The Writing of Gender History in Igboland,” Journal of West African History 3, issue 2 (2017), pp. 109-116.

Chapters in Edited Volumes

  • Women, Land and Power in the Lower Gambia River Region” in African Women and the Atlantic World: Power, Labour, and Mobility, edited by Adam Jones and Mariana Candido (James Currey, forthcoming in 2019)
  • Assan Sarr, “Sir Samuel John Forster, 1873-1940” in Profiles of Gambian Political Leaders in the Decolonisation Era edited by Jeggan C. Senghor (Leicester, UK: Global Hands Publishing, 2017), pp. 18-46
  • “The Intellectual World System of the Senegal River Basin: Saint-Louis (Ndar), the Gambia River Basin, and the Work of Sheikh Saad Bouh” in Le Cheikh Des Deux Rives: Actes du Colloque International Centenaire Cheikhna Cheikh Saad Bouh [1917-2017] (Dakar, Presses Universitaires De Dakar, 2017), pp. 63-77


In addition to supervising graduate students in African History and African Studies, Dr. Sarr also teaches a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses at Ohio University. His courses include:

  • HIST 1320: Introduction to World History to 1750
  • HIST 1330: Introduction to World History since 1750
  • HIST 3410: History of Africa to 1850
  • HIST 3411: History of Africa Since 1850
  • HIST 3301: African History Through Film
  • HIST 3390: Women in African History
  • HIST 3412X: Islam in Africa
  • HIST 6906: Graduate Colloquium in African History: The Atlantic Slave Trade