Paraska Tolan Szkilnik

Dr. Tolan Szkilnik is a historian of North Africa and much of her work focuses on the place of North Africa in the history of Pan-Africanism. She has taught classes in African History and Middle East history at UPenn and at Suffolk. She comes to Suffolk from a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center.

One of her primary goals as a scholar is to break down regional barriers between North African and Sub-Saharan African studies. To this end, she has published articles on Sub-Saharan and American artists’ participation in the 1969 Pan-African Festival of Algiers for Monde(s), World Art and for the Arab Studies Journal. She contributed a chapter that interrogates Moroccan and Luso-African solidarities in the 1960s for the edited volume Visions of African Unity, published in 2021. She was invited to contribute to a roundtable in the February 2020 “International Journal of Middle East Studies on decolonization in the Middle East and North Africa.” As part of the “Maghreb in the Past and Present Series,” she has recorded two podcasts, both of which highlight the experiences of Black men and women in the Maghreb. In addition to publishing scholarship, she is dedicated to the construction of free and accessible archives. Many of her interviews with men and women who participated in the 1969 Pan-African Festival of Algiers are featured in the PANAFEST digital archive, a public history project directed by the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in Paris.

She is currently revising her first book manuscript, The Maghreb Generation: A New Generation of Pan-Africanists in North Africa (1956-1980), which expands scholars’ understanding of Pan-Africanism geographically, linguistically, and temporally. Based on documents collected in twenty-five archives and thirty-two interviews conducted in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, France, and the United States, this book explores the personal and political lives of young militant-artists from across the Black Diaspora and Sub-Saharan Africa who traveled to the Maghreb in the 1960s and 1970s. In the Maghreb, they met Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian poets and filmmakers and created a transnational community of militant-artists—a network she calls the Maghreb Generation. Collectively the Maghreb Generation fought against neo-colonialism and the authoritarianism of Middle Eastern and African states and created a postcolonial culture independent from these postcolonial nations. Rather than focus on top-down political projects, her book uncovers the lost history of collaboration at the grassroots level between artists from across the globe, using sources in French, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, and English.

Her interest in Trans-Saharan studies has led her to another research project, which centers on French colonial explorers Marion Sénones and Odette du Puigaudeau’s travels to Mauritania and Morocco from the 1930s to the 1970s. The project will include both scholarly articles and a graphic novel drawn from the numerous pictures and drawings the two women produced during their travels.