Institute of African Studies - Columbia University




Brian Larkin is a Professor of anthropology at Barnard College, Columbia University. His research focuses on the ethnography and history of media in Nigeria. Most broadly he examines the introduction of media technologies into Nigeria—cinema, radio, digital media—and the religious, political, and cultural changes they bring about. He explores how media technologies comprise broader networked infrastructures that shape a whole range of actions from forms of political rule, to new urban spaces, to religious and cultural life. He has also published widely on issues of technology and breakdown, piracy and intellectual property, the global circulation of cultural forms, infrastructure and urban space, sound studies, and Nigerian film (Nollywood). He is currently completing the manuscript for Secular Machines: Media and the Materiality of Islamic Revival, which analyzes the role media play in the rise of new Islamic movements in Nigeria and explores theoretical questions about technology and religion. 

With Stefan Andriopoulos, Larkin is Co-Director of the Comparative Media Initiative at Columbia University and co-founder of the University Seminar on Media Theory and History.  He is a board member of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, and a member of the Committee on Global Thought. Larkin is the author of Signal and Noise: Media Infrastructure and Urban Culture in Nigeria (Duke University Press, 2008) and, with Lila Abu-Lughod and Faye Ginsburg, co-editor of Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain (University of California Press, 2000).


Associate Director

Jinny Prais earned her doctorate in History and Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan. She has taught courses in African and world history and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, West Virginia University, and Columbia University. Her areas of teaching and research include citizenship and social movements; African cities and urban cultures; African diaspora and imperial networks; and colonial and gender identity formation in twentieth-century West Africa. Her publications include: “‘Casting the Badge of Inferiority Beneath Black Peoples’ Feet’: Archiving and Reading the African Past, Present and Future in World History” (with Mamadou Diouf), in Global Intellectual History, Andrew Sartori and Samuel Moyn, Eds. (Columbia University Press, 2013); "Representing an African City and Urban Elite: The Nightclubs, Dance Halls, and Red Light District of Interwar Accra," in The Arts of Citizenship in Africa Cities, Rosiland Fredericks and Mamadou Diouf, Eds. (Palgrave, Forthcoming). She is currently revising an article manuscript, "The Ambiguous Geography of Imperial Citizenship: Opportunities and Constraints of African Membership in the British Empire in the 1930s," and working on her book manuscript entitled Between Empire and the World: West Africans and the Politics of Race and Culture in Interwar London and Accra. This term she is teaching "Citizenship & Social Movements in Africa," at the School of International and Public Affairs.


African Language Coordinator

Mariame Sy is the Coordinator of the African Language Programand a Lecturer in Wolof and Pulaar. She came to Columbia University in Fall 2005 from the Department of Linguistics at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where she is finishing a Ph.D. in Linguistics. Her research interests include the morpho-phonology and syntax of West-Atlantic languages such as Wolof and Pulaar, and first and second language acquisition.



Yuusuf S. Caruso is the African Studies Librarian at Columbia (since 1993). He earned his doctorate in History (specialization in East Africa) from Columbia University. He is in charge of everything from and about Africa in the Librariesand offers reference consultations and class instruction. For further information on the collection or to arrange an appointment, please contact Dr. Caruso at


Administrative Assistant

Sara Weschler recently earned her MA from Columbia's Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, where her thesis research focused on the colonial-era roots of two contemporary land conflicts in Uganda's Acholi region. She holds a BA in Linguistics from Brown University, where she focused on child language acquisition in Bantu languages. In the period between earning her degrees, Sara spent two years working for a local conflict-recovery NGO in Gulu, Uganda and and another two teaching writing to freshman at NYU-Abu Dhabi. Sara is the co-translator of He's Far Too Much, the English-language edition of Tanzanian playwright Said Ahmed Mohamed's absurdist Swahili tragicomedy Amezidi, and has published articles on Ugandan politics. She is currently at work on Song of the Long Road Home, a nonfiction narrative account of one man's eight years as a child soldier and later mid-level commander in the Lord's Resistance Army (being written at the subject's own request).



Hermila Yifter is a second year graduate student pursuing a MPA in Development Practice at SIPA of Columbia University. Prior to attending SIPA, Hermila received her B.S. in Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 2015, and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in San Diego, CA, working in refugee resettlement. She is a Pickering Graduate Fellow and was a Critical Language Scholar. She currently is the PA at the Institute of African Studies and was a former board member of the SIPA Pan African Network. She is serving as a planning committee member for the 15th Annual African Economic Forum.



Shamira Lukomwa is pursuing a Masters in Public Administration, with a concentration in international development and management at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Prior to SIPA, Shamira conducted research on the prevalence of sugar-daddy relationships amongst female university students in Nairobi; developed, managed and led international educational service-learning programs in East and West Africa; and headed the communication and marketing department of an ARTivism hub in Nairobi, where she directed an inaugural street arts festival with over 2,000 attendees.

Shamira holds dual Bachelor degrees in Global Studies and Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



Esther Owens is a first year master's student at Columbia University's School of Public and International Affairs. She is studying international security policy and has spent the past six years working in the the Middle East. Her research interests primarily lie in foreign policy in the Arabian Gulf and Turkey; she is specifically interested in the emergence and proliferation of interstate terrorism and post-conflict gender-based violence.