Bridging Cultures: The Profound Work of Dr. Mbaye Bashir Lo in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

By Rhiannon See // March 11, 2024

Mbaye Bashir Lo is an associate professor of the practice in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) and International Comparative Studies (ICS), and he is an affiliate of the Duke University Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC) and Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) within the John Hope Franklin Center. Originally from Senegal and educated in Sudan, Senegal, and the US, he currently teaches classes in languages, culture, and ICS. His seminar classes include Arabic Sources on American Slavery, Africa and Arabia, From Al-Qaeda to Boko Haram as well as Arabic language and culture classes. Lo’s research focuses on the intersection of religion, slavery, and language, particularly within the African experience both in its homeland and across diasporas in the Middle East and the US.

Lo first came to Duke University as a visitor in 2006 and formally joined the AMES faculty in 2009. During his time at Duke, he has been involved in various initiatives such as founding DukeEngage programs in Yemen and Egypt, as well as summer academic programs in the Arab world including Duke in the Arab world, Morocco, and Egypt. In addition, Lo recently established DukeEngage Senegal. The program is a partnership with Johnson C. Smith University and sends students from Duke and JCSU to Senegal to teach English, engage in digital learning, and document the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade.

Some of Lo’s biggest influences come from his journey to better comprehend the history of ideas. “I have received training in classical Arabic, African Studies, and American history, so I have been influenced by many strands of thought which has given me a broad perspective influenced by different ideas and periods,” said Lo. He has gained insights from reading works such as John Hope Franklin's The Militant South which has contributed to his understanding of militant Islam and has been instrumental in reshaping the arguments presented in his book Political Islam, Justice, and Governance.

After 10+ years at Duke, engaging with students in the classroom and during study abroad programs has been the source of Lo’s favorite memories. “Facilitating transformative experiences for students through immersive learning opportunities across the region has a lasting impression. Witnessing their intellectual growth, creativity, and critical thinking skills flourish in diverse settings has been rewarding,” said Lo. During this time, he has been a recipient of some of the highest service and teaching awards including the DukeEngage Program Director Award, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, and most recently, the University of Basrah’s Medal for Excellence during his residency in Iraq.


Mbaye standing next to 4 professors, 3 female and 1 male
Mbaye Bashir Lo at the University of Basrah in
Iraq discussing his research.


Mbaye Bashir Lo is a professor, author, editor, and innovator who has continued to contribute and build on the opportunities that Duke provides to its students and community. If you would like to read more of Lo’s work, he is currently working on a book project that explores the intellectual history of Blackness in the Arabic-speaking world and is pursuing follow-up work on his recently published book, I Cannot Write My Life: Islam, Arabic, and Slavery in Omar ibn Said's America