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IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture – Whither Iranian Influence in Africa? The Transnational Making of Senegalese Shi‘i Identities

January 22 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture by Dr Mara Leichtman (Michigan State University)


What does it mean to be Shi‘a in a Sunni Muslim-majority West African context? Some Senegalese were attracted to Shi‘i Islam as a result of the 1979 Iranian revolution. President Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) later prioritized Senegal as Iran’s largest trading partner in West Africa and as a model for Iranian-African relations. Yet Iran is not the only Middle Eastern Shi‘i influence in Africa. Nor has its economic approach led to widespread religious ideologies, as feared by some in the West. This talk will highlight the socio-economic networks that extend from the Middle East to West Africa. Before Iran’s engagement, the predominantly Shi‘i Lebanese diaspora has been present in Senegal since the 1880s. And most recently, Kuwaiti Shi‘i businessmen, looking for populations-in-need to assist with international charitable donations, began to invest in West Africa. Schools, mosques, agricultural development projects, and the first regional Shi‘i radio station have enhanced the local status and following of Senegal’s Shi‘i NGOs. Nevertheless, despite the receipt of some foreign funding, Senegalese stress that they are African Shi‘a and distance themselves from the sectarian politics of the Middle East.  

This lecture is free and open to all. Registration is not required to attend in person.


January 22
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Event Category:


Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College
Windmill Hill
Durham, DH1 3LJ United Kingdom
+44 (0)191 334 5769
View Venue Website


Institute of Advanced Study

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