Saharan Crossroads


Saharan Crossroads is an initiative of the West African Research Association (WARA) and the American Institute of Maghribi Studies (AIMS), in collaboration with the Saharan Studies Association (SSA). It aims to strengthen the cultural, artistic and historical links among the peoples living within and across the Sahara Desert. The Saharan Crossroads Initiative began as a workshop held at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004 where a trans-continental perspective of Africa and the need to encourage Saharan studies were formulated. It seeks to promote an understanding of the shared history and culture among the regions of Africa linked by the Sahara Desert through centuries of continued exchanges and interactions. To this end, Saharan Crossroads organizes international conferences and offers research fellowships.

The first international conference, “Saharan Crossroads: Views from the North” was held in Tangier, Morocco in June 2009. It brought together thirty scholars and artists who reflected on the cultural and historical ties of the people of North and West Africa by way of trans-Saharan caravans and the development of common Saharan identities.

The second international conference, « Saharan Crossroads: Views from the South » was held in Niamey, Niger in July 2011. The conference counted over forty participants who presented papers tackling questions about shared intellectual, cultural and architectural traditions, as well as highlighting Niger’s historical role as a crossroads linking communities on both sides of the Sahara.

The third international conference « Saharan Crossroads: Views from the Desert-Edge », which was planned for June  2012, has been postponed to June 2014.  The theme of this conference is the circulation of ideas through manuscripts, print culture and new media. It is about the intellectual, religious and political currents sustained through exchanges among Africans connected by way of the Saharan caravan trade and other traffic.

The annual Saharan Crossroads Fellowship competition takes place in the fall.  The deadline for this year’s applications is October 15, 2013. Applications are available online at

Last year’s (2013) awardees:

Isabella Alexander (Anthropology, Emory University)
For research in Morocco
‘Burning’ at the Maghrebi Border: Blackness and Belonging Among Morocco’s New Immigrant Class

Safa ben Saad (Comparative Law, Universite de Toulouse)
For research in Morocco and Senegal
Les origines africaines du droit au Maghreb

Afis Ayinde  Oladosu (Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Ibadan)
For research in Egypt
Sahara Crossings: Race, Nation and Imagination in African Literature