Prof. Dr. Sarah Zimmerman

Senior Fellow (Heinz-Heinen-Fellowship)

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
October 2023–June 2024

Western Washington University, US
Title of current research project: "Women Making Memory and History: Slaves, Citizens, and Custodians of World Heritage on Gorée Island"
Sarah Zimmerman
© Sarah Zimmerman

Academic Profile

Sarah Zimmerman’s research examines gendered asymmetries of power and structural dependency affiliated with slavery, colonialism, and their legacies in West Africa, French Empire, and the Atlantic World. As a Heinz Heinen fellow, she will work on her second book, Women Making Memory and History: Slaves, Citizens, and Custodians of World Heritage on Gorée Island. This book tracks the dynamic confluence of gender ideologies, slavery and abolition, French imperialism(s), and heritage production at the intersection of Senegambian and Atlantic worlds. Women Making Memory and History reconstructs Goréen women's history, addresses the multilayered processes and institutions that have produced that history, as well as analyzes the operation of gender in authoritative claims about Gorée’s past and its production—via public history and heritage. Historians have written extensively on Gorée’s eighteenth-century signares—multiracial African female slave owners and entrepreneurs. Goréens from other socioeconomic classes, enslaved women, and the island’s later historical eras have received much less scholarly attention. Via an intersectional approach, Women Making Memory and History will historicize Goréen women from the island’s earliest occupation to the contemporary era, tracking changes in the local production of gendered authority, dependency, and knowledge in step with global transformations of power. 

since 2023
Professor, Department of History at Western Washington University

Associate Professor, Department of History at Western Washington University

Assistant Professor, Department of History at Western Washington University

Lecturer, Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley

Lecturer, Department of History at San Francisco State

PhD in History, University of California, Berkeley 

M.A. in History, University of California, Berkeley 

B.A. in International Studies & French, Ohio University, Athens 


  • 2020. Militarizing Marriage: West African Soldiers’ Conjugal Traditions in Modern French Empire. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.


Peer-Edited Articles/Book Chapters 

  • 2023. "The Gendered Consequences of Abolition and Citizenship on Nineteenth-Century Gorée Island." In Journal of Women’s History 35(3): 19–38. Open access
  • 2022. "Colonial Misappropriations of Trans-Saharan Legacies: Abid al-Bukhari and Tirailleurs Sénégalais in Imperial and Colonial Morocco." In The Black Populations of France: Histories from Metropole to Colony, edited by Sylvain Pattieu, Emmanuelle Sibeaud, and Tyler Stovall. Nebraska University Press.
  • 2020. "Women and Militarism." In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. Open access
  • 2017. "Apatridie et décolonisation. Les tirailleurs sénégalais guinéens et la Guinée de Sékou Touré." In Les Temps Modernes (special edition "Guerres africaines de la France: 1830–2017. L’empire des armées," edited by Étienne Smith) 693: 111–145.
  • 2014. "Citizenship, Military Service, and Maintaining Exceptionalism: Originaires in World War One." In Empires in World War I: Shifting Frontiers and Imperial Dynamics in a Global Conflict, edited by Andrew Jarboe and Richard Fogarty. I.B. Tauris. 
  • 2011. "Mesdames Tirailleurs and Indirect Clients: West African Women and the French Colonial Army, 1908–1918." In International Journal of African Historical Studies 44: 299–322. Open access
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