Black Muslim Freedom Dreams: Islamic Education, Migration, and Mobility among African American Youth in Medina Baye, Senegal
Samiha Rahman

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

This dissertation research draws upon ethnographic methods to answer a question of broad relevance for discussions of educational justice and equity: How do marginalized groups utilize transnational educational networks to actualize personal, familial, and community-wide transformation? It focuses on a community of African American Muslims whose daughters and sons migrate from urban centers in the U.S. to pursue Islamic education in Medina Baye, Senegal. Drawing upon fieldwork in Senegal and the U.S., the study investigates how young people experience their migration and education, and how these processes of geographic transition, life education, and religious knowledge shape their emerging identities, future aspirations, and engagement in the world. By following youth throughout their time in Medina Baye, I study their representations of the impact of migration and education on their everyday religious and racial subject formation, as well as their imagined future trajectories. This study provides a critical analysis of the politics of Muslim youth identity in the contemporary moment, thus offering a timely contribution to the growing educational research on Muslim youth. This study will offer insights about how this population and similar populations of students engage in the everyday experiences of learning in classrooms, and how K-12 classrooms and curriculum may become attuned to the intersectional experiences of Black Muslim students, in turn, creating learning environments that challenge anti-Blackness and Islamophobia. It also offers insights regarding the efficacy of Islamic education in fostering civic engagement and social mobility among urban youth of color.
About Samiha Rahman
Samiha Rahman is a Ph.D. candidate in Education, Culture, and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, with a joint candidacy in Africana Studies. Her research utilizes a transnational and intersectional approach to consider how race, religion, and migration affect equity and access for underserved and culturally diverse students across various geographical contexts. Throughout her research, Rahman examines how youth of color in the U.S. and on the African continent understand their identities, grapple with inequalities in their lives, and imagine engaging in activism to transform their societies. Rahman's dissertation is an ethnographic study of the educational experiences and aspirations of African American Muslim youth pursuing Islamic education in Senegal and was funded by an award from Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Rahman served as a middle school writing teacher in New York City and directed an afterschool program for youth in Philadelphia. Rahman received a B.A. in History and Ethnicity & Race Studies from Columbia University.

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