Paraska Tolan-Szkilnik

Assistant Professor


Paraska Tolan-Szkilnik is a historian of 20th century Africa and the Middle East. She specializes in questions of race, gender, and sex in the post-colonial Maghreb. She has published in Jadaliyya, the Arab Studies Journal, World Art, Monde(s), The Markaz Review, and the International Journal of Middle East Studies, amongst others. Tolan-Szkilnik is committed to writing and promoting transnational and transregional histories of Africa and the Middle East.

Her first book, Maghreb Noir: The Militant-Artists of North Africa and the Struggle for a Pan-African, Post-colonial Future (Stanford, 2023) tells the story of a group of militant-artists, some Maghrebi, others Angolan, Haitian, or American, who led Pan-African cultural and political projects out of the recently decolonized cities of Rabat, Algiers, and Tunis. Upon their independence, Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian governments turned to, what we would now call, the Global South and offered military and financial aid to Black liberation struggles. Tangier and Algiers attracted Black American and Caribbean artists eager to escape American white supremacy; Tunis hosted African filmmakers for the Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage; and young freedom fighters from across the African continent established military training camps in Morocco. North Africa became a haven for militant-artists, and the region reshaped postcolonial cultural discourse through the 1960s and 1970s. Maghreb Noir dives into the personal and political lives of these militant-artists, who collectively challenged the neo-colonialist structures and the authoritarianism of African states.

Entrenched divisions in academia between North Africa and the rest of the continent have obscured the lives and histories of the men and women whose story she tells in Maghreb Noir. By centering figures such as Angolan writer Mario de Andrade, Guadeloupean filmmaker Sarah Maldoror, and Algerian poet Jean Sénac, Maghreb Noir challenges the notion that Pan-Africanism was a project led solely by Black Anglophone men. Drawing on Arabic, Portuguese, French, and English sources, and interviews with the militant-artists themselves, the book expands our understanding of Pan-Africanism geographically, linguistically, and temporally. This network of militant-artists departed from the racial solidarity extolled by many of their nationalist forefathers, instead following in the footsteps of their intellectual mentor, Frantz Fanon. They argued for the creation of a new ideology of continued revolution—one that was transnational, trans-racial, and in defiance of the emerging nation-states. Maghreb Noir establishes the importance of North Africa in nurturing these global connections—and uncovers a lost history of grassroots collaboration among militant-artists from across the globe.

Tolan-Szkilnik is working on a second project on the role of sex and sexual violence in revolutionary movements across the Third World in the second half of the 20th century. In 20th-century revolutionary movements sex had the ability to act both as a liberatory practice and as a subjugating one. The book will explore how revolutionary moments allowed some people to express sex in new and innovative ways while others deployed sex as a violent tool to police the boundaries of the post-revolutionary society.

Research Focus

  • 20th century transnational history
  • Revolutionary movements
  • Race and Sex in North Africa
  • African Cultural History
  • Middle Eastern Cultural History



Maghreb Noir: The Militant-Artists of North Africa and the Struggle for a Pan-African, Postcolonial Future (Stanford University Press, 2023).

Articles and Book Chapters

“’Collecting Bosoms:’ Sex, Race, and Masculinity at the Pan-African Festival of Algiers, 1969,” Arab Studies Journal, XXIX, no. 2, (Fall 2021), 96-117.

““Between their hands a fabulous geography is born”: The Maghreb generation and the fight to decolonize and unite Africa’s minds,” in Visions of African Unity, Frank Gerits and Matteo Grilli (eds.), (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), 237-259, invited to contribute by editors.

“The Quest for a Pan-African Groove: Saxophones and Stories from the Pan-African Festival of Algiers (1969),” World Art, 9 (1), July 2018, 1-14.

“Flickering Fault Lines: The 1969 Pan-African Festival of Algiers and the Struggle for a Unified Africa” in Monde(s), 2016/1 (N° 9)

Op-eds and Shorter Pieces

“Puigaudeau and Sénones: A Graphic Novel on Mauritania Circa 1933” in a special edition on Comix of The Markaz Review, August 2021, contribution solicited by editors,

“On Decolonial Studies,” or in French translation “Des Études Décoloniales,” Jadaliyya, April 19th, 2021,

Run naked towards the sun/Raise your barricades/Make your revolution: Poetic Revolution and Postcolonial Discourse,” Yoav di-Capua and Cyrus Schayegh (eds.), invited contribution to a roundtable in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Volume 52, Issue 1 (Spring 2020), 161-6.

Academic Podcasts:

“The Mad-for-Maghreb Generation: the Maghreb in the Pan-African Cultural Project,” Maghreb in the Past and Present Series, Episode 55, recorded November 2018.

“The History of Pan-Africanism in the Postcolonial Period: The Pan-African Festival of Algiers of 1969,” Maghreb in the Past and Present Series, Episode 53, recorded June 2018.

Oral History Online Publications:

Contributor to PANAFEST Archives, Paris, France,, 2018-2020.

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