chapter  8
Hidden in plain sight
Rethinking Saharan studies as a discipline
WithSarah Gilkerson
Pages 11

With contemporary erosion of traditional area studies due to new conceptions of race, colonial history, and indigenous narrative, historians must conceptualize independent spaces to combat Eurocentric historiography. North and West Africa are two such regions particularly afflicted by the false division between these two areas. Traditionally, the Sahara Desert was treated as an empty and perilous space. However, historians have started to recognize the true complexity of the Sahara Desert by slowly uncovering the history of the trans-Saharan trade routes, the spread of Islam as a unifying identity, and the Berber populations’ inhabitance of their Saharan home to illuminate the true connectivity of the Sahara. This chapter envisions the Sahara as the environmental connector of cultural, biological, and religious identities between the internal Sahel and the Western Maghreb. To accomplish these goals, this chapter acknowledges the importance of trans-Saharan economic history while adding complexity to the historiography of the Sahara by presenting an environmental approach.