Since 1993 the West African Research Center (WARC) in Senegal’s capital city Dakar has been providing a central intellectual and logistical hub for students and scholars from West Africa, the United States, and beyond. WARC is located in the beautiful Fann-Residence neighborhood in downtown Dakar, just blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, and is the location of regular lectures, roundtables, book signings, film screenings, and exhibits.

Among WARC’s many goals are to encourage collaborative research between US-based and West African researchers and universities, to provide academic and personal resources for visiting scholars and students, to provide current data on West Africa and the African Diaspora, and to promote interdisciplinary approaches and considerations of gender in the study of West Africa and the African Diaspora. In 2014, WARC underwent a comprehensive external evaluation and came out with flying colors.

UM students will now have greater access to this tremendous resource with CGIS’s French Language and African Studies in Dakar program. Juniors and seniors with at least 5 semesters of college-level French are eligible to apply for this semester-long program that allows them to take a variety of courses at WARC and, if their French is strong enough, to enroll in classes at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, home to over 60,000 students. WARC staff will organize outings in and around Dakar to help students engage additional facets of the local community, and students will stay with a local host family in Dakar to help them improve more rapidly their spoken French and Wolof, a regional sub-Saharan language.

Senegal is a model of a modern African nation that transitioned from a long colonial past to independence and on to a stable democracy in relative peace. Most of Senegal’s 12 million Muslims are members of confraternities (brotherhoods), a fascinating and unique manifestation of Sufi Islam, making CGIS’s program also a fascinating opportunity to study world religions.

The current director of WARC is Dr. Ousmane Sène, Professor of African and African-American Literature at Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, where he served as department chair for 10 years. He received his PhD in literature from the École Normale Supérieure de St. Cloud and the Université Paris III-Sorbonne. He has taught and done research on francophone and anglophone literature at several North American and European institutions and focuses his research on the portrayal of African social, cultural, and development issues through literature.

CGIS director Dr. Michael Jordan and CGIS senior program advisor Rebecca Griffin traveled in July to Senegal to meet with Dr. Sène and his staff.