The History of the Present
Dr. Rahmane Idrissa of the African Studies Center (ASC) is an expert in the field of contemporary Islam in the Sahel area, but has a much greater range of knowledge under his belt. His academic background lies in political science and political economy, yet his future includes a big focus on history, including “the history of the present”.
Born and raised in Niger, dr. Idrissa has lived, studied, and worked in seven different countries on three continents throughout his life. He did most of his studies on political science in the United States before moving to the United Kingdom for a post-doctoral fellowship. This fellowship was a big turning point in his career, as it offered him the time and opportunity to gain expertise in political economy and allowed him to become the founder of the think tank EPGA in Niger that focuses on societal and security issues.
More recently, dr. Idrissa’s work has included a greater focus on history. While he was always keen on including historical knowledge in his work as a political scientist, opportunities in the past few years have helped him do more concrete historical work. Dr. Idrissa emphasizes his essay on a medieval town in central Mali that was published in a major British literary magazine for a trajectory taking up historical work. In particular, this created the opportunity to study the historic Songhay empire in a monograph which he is currently writing. This does not mean dr. Idrissa is moving away from studying the Sahel and contemporary Islam, as he highlights all his work is related to each other and is therefore useful as an ASC expert.
To the question where dr. Idrissa might end up working and living in his life, he did not have a certain answer. “The data for my research is across the world, so I will most likely keep traveling a lot if the situation allows it.” Although traveling is key, dr. Idrissa does not plan on permanently leaving Leiden or the ASC in the foreseeable future. He is even learning Dutch, as he would like to see his work appeal to a greater global audience through different types of media, including here in the Netherlands. Ultimately, dr. Idrissa wants to reach people beyond just the academic audience, as he believes “the perspective history can give you is simply indispensable.”
Interviewed by LeidenGlobal intern Lisa van der Geest (September 2021)
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