Paraska Tolan Szkilnik, PhD

Assistant Professor, History, Language & Global Culture

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Biography

Dr. Tolan Szkilnik is a historian of North Africa and much of her work focuses on the place of North Africa in the history of Pan-Africanism. She has taught classes in African History and Middle East history at UPenn and at Suffolk. She comes to Suffolk from a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center.

One of her primary goals as a scholar is to break down regional barriers between North African and Sub-Saharan African studies. To this end, she has published articles on Sub-Saharan and American artists’ participation in the 1969 Pan-African Festival of Algiers for Monde(s), World Art and for the Arab Studies Journal. She contributed a chapter that interrogates Moroccan and Luso-African solidarities in the 1960s for the edited volumeVisions of African Unity, published in 2021. She was invited to contribute to a roundtable in the February 2020 International Journal of Middle East Studies on decolonization in the Middle East and North Africa. As part of the Maghreb in the Past and Present Series, she has recorded two podcasts, both of which highlight the experiences of Black men and women in the Maghreb. In addition to publishing scholarship, she isdedicated to the construction of free and accessible archives. Many of her interviews with men and women who participated in the 1969 Pan-African Festival of Algiers are featured in the PANAFEST digital archive, a public history project directed by the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in Paris.

She is currently revising her first book manuscript, The Maghreb Generation: A New Generation of Pan-Africanists in North Africa (1956-1980), which expands scholars’ understanding of Pan-Africanism geographically, linguistically, and temporally. Based on documents collected in twenty-five archives and thirty-two interviews conducted in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, France, and the United States, this book explores the personal and political lives of young militant-artists from across the Black Diaspora and Sub-Saharan Africa who traveled to the Maghreb in the 1960s and 1970s. In the Maghreb, they met Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian poets and filmmakers and created a transnational community of militant-artists—a network she calls the Maghreb Generation. Collectively the Maghreb Generation fought against neo-colonialism and the authoritarianism of Middle Eastern and African states and created a postcolonial culture independent from these postcolonial nations. Rather than focus on top-down political projects, her book uncovers the lost history of collaboration at the grassroots level between artists from across the globe, using sources in French, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, and English.

Her interest in Trans-Saharan studies has led her to another research project, which centers on French colonial explorers Marion Sénones and Odette du Puigaudeau’s travels to Mauritania and Morocco from the 1930s to the 1970s. The project will include both scholarly articles and a graphic novel drawn from the numerous pictures and drawings the two women produced during their travels. 

Education

  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)
  • MA, École des Hautes Études des Sciences Sociales (EHESS)
  • BA, Brandeis University

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Publications

“’Collecting Bosoms:’ Sex, Race, and Masculinity at the Pan-African Festival of Algiers, 1969” in Where is the Maghreb Theorizing a Liminal Space, Brahim El Guabli (ed.), special issue of Arab Studies Journal, issue forthcoming 2021, invited to contribute by editors.

““Between their hands a fabulous geography is born”: The Maghreb generation and the fight to decolonize and unite Africa’s minds,” in Visions of African Unity, Frank Gerits and Matteo Grilli (eds.), (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), invited to contribute by editors.

“Run naked towards the sun/Raise your barricades/Make your revolution: Poetic Revolution and Postcolonial Discourse,” Yoav di-Capua and Cyrus Schayegh (eds.), invited contribution to a roundtable in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Volume 52, Issue 1 (2020), 161-6.

“The Quest for a Pan-African Groove: Saxophones and Stories from the Pan-African Festival of Algiers (1969),” World Art, 9 (1), 2018, 1-14.

“Flickering Fault Lines: The 1969 Pan-African Festival of Algiers and the Struggle for a Unified Africa” in Monde(s), 2016/1 (N° 9)

Op-eds and Shorter Pieces

“On Decolonial Studies,” or in French translation “Des Études Décoloniales,” Jadaliyya, 2021.

“Puigaudeau and Sénones: A Graphic Novel on Mauritania Circa 1933” in a special edition on Comix of The Markaz Review, 2021, contribution solicited by editors.

Academic Podcasts

“The History of Pan-Africanism in the Postcolonial Period: The Pan-African Festival of Algiers of 1969,” Maghreb in the Past and Present Series, Episode 53, recorded 2018. 

 “The Mad-for-Maghreb Generation: the Maghreb in the Pan-African Cultural Project,” Maghreb in the Past and Present Series, Episode 55, recorded 2018.

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