Robyn d’Avignon is Assistant Professor of African History at New York University. She received her Ph.D. in the Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan in 2016. As the McMillan-Stewart Fellow for the 2018-2019 academic year, she will be at work on Shadow Geology: The Search for Subterranean Knowledge in West Africa. This manuscript examines the pre-colonial and colonial roots of conflicts over mineral discovery, subterranean property rights, and autochthony in the context of the rapid growth of corporate and so-called “artisanal” gold mining in Francophone West Africa since the late 1990s. Based on research conducted in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and France, she argues that African mineral expertise and indigenous mining institutions are central to the reproduction of mining capitalism in Africa.
Robyn is in the early stages of several new projects that build on her interest in race and the environment in West Africa and in the United States. One is a public history project on African-owned farmland in lower Manhattan in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The second is a collaborative special journal edition on Soviet technical assistance in Africa during the 1960s-70s. The third, envisioned as a book-length project, explores the twentieth and twenty-first century political trajectory of a Senegambian borderland that became a refuge for captives, ethnic minorities, and people seeking religious autonomy during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.