Leonardo A. Villalón is Dean of the International Center and Professor of Political Science and African Studies at the University of Florida. From 2002-2011 he served as Director of UF’s Center for African Studies, a Title VI comprehensive National Resource Center. Villalón has a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin (1992), as well as degrees from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris (1985), the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University (1983), and Louisiana State University (1979). His research specialization is in contemporary African politics, and he has focused in particular on issues of Islam and politics and on democratization in the Sahelian countries of Senegal, Mali, and Niger. He is the author of Islamic Society and State Power in Senegal (Cambridge University Press, 1995), and co-editor of The African State at a Critical Juncture: Between Disintegration and Reconfiguration (Lynne Rienner publishers, 1998), The Fate of Africa’s Democratic Experiments: Elites and Institutions. (Indiana University Press, 2005), and the journal issue Economie morale et mutations de l’islam en Afrique subsaharienne (Afrique Contemporaine 231, AFD Paris 2009), as well as of many articles and book chapters on politics and religion in West Africa.
Villalón taught for two years as a Fulbright senior scholar at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. He has also taught at the Université Gaston Berger in St. Louis, Senegal, and has lectured and directed seminars and workshops at universities and other institutions in numerous West African countries. These have included seminars on civic education and democracy for teachers in rural Mali, workshops on democracy and the role of legislatures for the national parliaments of Chad and of Burkina Faso, and a seminar on consensus building for all parties to the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. From 2001-05 Villalón served as president of the West African Research Association (WARA), the only sub-Saharan African member institution of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), based at the Smithsonian Institution. He currently serves as Treasuer on the CAORC Executive Committee.
Villalón’s current research focuses comparatively on religion and the debates on democracy in Senegal, Mali and Niger, as well as religion and educational reform in those countries. He is also interested in social change and electoral dynamics across the Francophone Sahel. In 2007 he was named a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, for research on a project entitled: “Negotiating Democracy in Muslim Contexts: Political Liberalization and Religious Mobilization in the West African Sahel.” Collaboratively (with Mahaman Tidjani Alou of LASDEL, Niger) he directed a two year project analyzing religion and educational reform in the Sahel for the Africa Power and Politics (APPP) research consortium. (http://www.institutions-africa.org/page/religious-education). He also codirected (with Daniel A. Smith) the State Department funded “Trans-Saharan Elections Project,” (TSEP) involving exchanges on electoral issues with six countries: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. He is editor of the TSEP website, providing information on electoral issues in the Sahel. (http://sahelresearch.africa.ufl.edu/tsep/). He coordinates the University of Florida’s Sahel Research Group (http://sahelresearch.africa.ufl.edu/ ), and is currently PI of a three year (2012-2015) Minerva Initiative grant for research on politial reform, social change and prospects for stability in the same six Francophone Sahelian countries. Villalón is also co-editor of the Journal of Modern African Studies.