Youssef Carter

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Youssef Carter

Assistant Professor
Kenan Rifai Fellow in Islamic Studies


Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley
M.A., North Carolina Central University
B.S., North Carolina A&T State University

Research Interests

  • Sufism & Sufi Movements
  • Islam in West Africa & United States
  • Religion in the African Diaspora
  • Black Atlantic & Decolonial Studies
  • Anthropology of Religion

Professional Biography

As an anthropologist of religion, I am interested in the manner in which religious discourses and movements become oriented in the direction of abolition. At the moment, I am fascinated with how Muslims in the United States and in West Africa interpret their religion as a means of empowerment in the face of oppression, while relying on scripture and prophetic narration to navigate hostile political realities. To that end, I am working on a book called “The Vast Oceans: Remembering God and Self on the Mustafawi Sufi Path” which is a multisite ethnography of a transatlantic spiritual network of African-American and West African Sufis that deploy West African spiritual training to navigate historical-political contexts in the U.S. South and beyond.

I am also proud to share that I am chief editor for a multi-volume work entitled “Servant of the Messenger: The Spiritual Life of Shaykh Ahmad Bamba Mbacke”— Authored entirely by his great-grandson, Shaykh Moustapha Mbacke, the series is written for those who are more inclined to the inner life of sainthood. Using declassified colonial documents as well as original writings of Shaykh Ahmad Bamba, in addition to family narrative, the work provides an unprecedented spiritual biography of a visionary who sparked the Murid movement in Senegal and around the world.

For the past few years, I have also led a small editorial team for an online magazine project, Voyages Africana Journal. Part journal, online magazine, and blog, Voyages is a visual and literary space that serves as a creative educational and cultural tool for students and lovers of the Africana World. In addition to these projects and others, I serve as an advisory board member of the ‘After Malcolm Digital Archive’, sponsored in part by the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University, which chronicles the oral histories of African-American Muslims and serves as a repository for digitized historical documents, newspapers, and memorabilia related to their involvement in the Black Freedom Struggle from 1965 onward.

On campus, I look forward to teaching courses on Sufism and Islam in the United States, particularly in regard to the African-American experience, and in West Africa. In addition to introductory courses on the religion of Islam, I will also teach Ethnicity, Race and Religion in the United States.

Selected Awards

  • College Postdoctoral Fellowship, Harvard University, 2019
  • Certificate of Teaching Excellence, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University, 2019
  • Teacher Summer Institute Fellowship, “The Civil Rights Movement: Grassroots Perspectives,” Duke University, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2018
  • Research Fellowship, International Institute for Islamic Thought, 2017
  • Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship, University of California-Berkeley, 2011


  • RELI 580, African American Islam (Fall 2020)
  • RELI 064 (FYS), Re-Introducing Islam (Spring 2021)
  • RELI 423, Ethnicity, Race and Religion in the United States (Spring 2021)

Publication Highlights

The Vast Oceans: Remembering God and Self on the Mustafawi Sufi Path. In Progress.

“West African Sufism and the Matter of Black Life,” Race, Islam, and Africa: Anthropological Perspectives, for Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute [Under Review]

“Alchemy of the Fuqara: Spiritual Care, Memory, and the Black Muslim Body,” Embodying Black Religions in Africa and its Diasporas: Memory, Movement, and Belonging Through the Body; edited by Yolanda Covington-Ward and Jeanette Jouili. Duke University Press; pp. 71-100 [In Press]

“Black Muslimness Mobilized: West African Sufism in Diaspora,” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Vol. 36, Winter Issue 2019. International Institute of Islamic Thought; pp. 1-28.

“Traveling Ode of the Faqir,” Crosscurrents, Vol. 65, No. 4 (2016): 410-421.

“Islamic Party of North America,” in Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History; edited by Edward E. Curtis IV. New York: Facts on File, Inc (2010).

Public Writing
“Critiquing Black Muslim Reason: What Good is Critical Race Theory to Muslims?” Sapelo Square (Online) / Maydan Journal, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University. 2020.

“Remembering the First Mosque in North Carolina,” for Sapelo Square (Online). 2018.

“History and Memory in the Muslim Community of Moncks Corner,” Maydan Journal, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University. 2017.