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Robert M. Baum



    September 6, 2011 — June 30, 2012

    Professional affiliation

    Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia

    Wilson Center Projects

    “From Many Paths: A History of African Religions”

    Full Biography

    Robert Baum was born in Washington and grew up in Silver Spring.  He attended Wesleyan University for his bachelor’s degree, where he first took a course on Apartheid and decided to concentrate in African history. Upon graduation, he received a Watson Fellowship, which enabled him to spend an entire year in a Diola village in southern Senegal, where he learned the language and began field research, before beginning graduate school at Yale University.  He returned to Senegal for nearly two more years, and did archival work in London and Paris in preparation of his Ph.D.  His first book, Shrines of the Slave Trade:  Diola Religion and Society in Pre-Colonial Senegambia won an American Academy of Religion award for the best first book in the history of religions (2000).  He has written numerous articles on the history of Diola religion, field research, religious constructions of gender, indigenous religions and is currently completing a book on the history of Diola women’s prophetic movements.

    He is currently chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has previously taught at Iowa State University, Kenyon College, The Ohio State University, Bryn Mawr College, and Barnard College.  He has also played an extensive role in the Ford Foundation funded program “Difficult Dialogues” which trained faculty at the University of Missouri and in other Big Twelve universities in how to deal with controversial issues that have a religious dimension in the university classroom.  He has conducted similar workshops for K-12 teachers


    B.A. High Honors in History, Wesleyan University; Ph.D. African History, Yale University

    Major Publications

    • Shrines of the Slave Trade:  Diola Religion and Society in Precolonial Senegambia, New York:  Oxford University Press, 1999.
    • “Prophetiess:  Alinesitoue as a Contested Icon in Contemporary Senegal, in Toyin Falola and Fallou Ngom, editors.  Facts, Fictions and African Creative Imaginations, New York:  Routledge, 2010.
    • “Slaves Without Rulers:  Domestic Slavery among the Diola of Senegal,” in Jay Spaulding and Stephanie Beswick, editors, African Systems of Slavery, Asmara, Eritrea and Trenton, N.J. :  Red Sea Press, 2010.
    • “Secrecy, Shrines, and Memory:  Diola Oral Traditions and the Slave Trade in Senegal,” in Andrew Apter and Robin Derby, editors, Activating  the Past:  Historical Memory in the Black Atlantic, Cambridge:  Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010.
    • “From a Boy not Seeking a Wife to a Man Discussing Prophetic Women:  A Male Fieldworker among Diola Women in Senegal, 1974-2005, Men and Masculinities, 2008.
    • “Crimes of the Dream World:  French Trials of Diola Witches in Colonial Senegal,”  International Journal of African Historical Studies, 2004, V. 37, #2.
    • “The Ethics of Religious Studies Research in the Context of the Religious Intolerance of the State:  An Africanist Perspective,”  Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 2001, V. 13.
    • “Alinesitoue :  A Diola Woman Prophet in West Africa,” in Nancy A. Falk and Rita M. Gross, editors, Unspoken Worlds: Women’s Religious Lives, Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth, 2001, Third Edition.
    • Marilyn R.  Waldman, Prophecy and Power:  Muhammad and the Qur’an in the Light of Comparison, edited by Bruce B. Lawrence with Lindsay Jones and Robert M. Baum, London:  Equinox Publishers, forthcoming, 2011.
    • Marilyn R. Waldman with Robert M. Baum, “Innovation as Renovation:  The ‘Prophet’ as a Agent of Change,” in Michael Williams, et al.  Innovation in Religious Traditions:  Essays in the Interpretation of Religious Change, Berlin:  Moton de Gruyter, 1992.