Promotion news: Professor Kamal Salhi, Chair in Francophone and North African Studies

Congratulations to Dr Kamal Salhi who has been promoted to the position of Chair in Francophone and North African Studies. Kamal says: “University is an impressionable time, and a professor can make or break your experience. Peter Thomson was the one professor who took me under his wing and had faith in my ability. I owe my academic career to Professor Peter Thomson and Les du S Read who supervised my PhD thesis at Exeter, then successfully examined by Professor Martin Banham. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to immerse myself in their world of scholarship and dramatic irony!”


Professor Kamal Salhi

Chair in Francophone and North African Studies

Former deputy-director of LUCAS


Kamal holds an interdisciplinary Chair in Francophone, Postcolonial and North African Studies in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies. This chair developed over the years to include cultures and cultural history, cultural anthropology, religion and the performing arts, politics and aesthetics of cultural and intellectual production, language and cultural policies, educational and teaching materials, representations of women and gender. The impact of colonial legacies, the contemporary changing political cultures, and the presence of France in former colonies and protectorates inform these strands, geographically covering North Africa, the Middle East/the Arab World and South Asia. The primary rationale of this chair is that more than three quarter of the world population, have their lives shaped by the experience of colonialism, powerfully encoded in the contemporary visual, written and performed expressions, thus the need to renew traditional disciplines by generating new conceptual frameworks and knowledge, and providing direction.

Having won a bid from the Leeds University Development and Investment Research Fund, Kamal founded and directed the first Centre for Francophone Studies in the UK and probably elsewhere, based in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies. He also founded and edited the first International Journal of Francophone Studies of its kind, and created the first MA in Francophone Studies. With these innovative activities and a substantive teaching portfolio of specialist modules, sustained by a published critical mass, he established the field of Francophone Postcolonial Studies at Leeds, which has expanded the traditional French department into the subject area of French and Francophone Studies of the school.

Having also won another award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Economic and Social Research Council, Kamal completed a project with Distinction, on ‘performance, politics, and piety: music as debate in North Africa, Asia and their Diasporas’. This project has set up the first international network of its kind, developing a unique field of ‘Islam and the performing arts’, sustained by the international journal Performing Islam which he founded and continues to edit. The journal investigates the problematics of religion in society in the context of contemporary Islam through the dynamics of different kinds of performances and art form. The result of this project also include his book, Music, Culture and Identity in the Muslim World: Performance, Politics and Piety, (Routledge, 2014); and articles, “Zwischen Entgrenzung und Einheit”, (Steidl, 2019); “The Power of Music in Islam and the Muslim World (Steidl, 2020).

Kamal is now taking Francophone postcolonial and North African studies beyond the confines of one Subject into the subject area of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, to facilitate a strong synergising base of interdisciplinary cultures in the school that would fit within and feed into the existing faculty research projects, centres and institutes. He is encouraging the formation of an interdisciplinary ‘new cultures’ group who will seek funding, in order to make research in new cultures a project for practical use by the public and public enterprise.

Following a successful French-based secular education, speaking and writing Berber and Arabic, Kamal worked as a high-school teacher. He then studied law and politics at the University of Aix-en-Provence in France and taught at Ecole Nouvelle Internationale Libre in Marseille. He received training in cinema and theatre, and staged his own plays, made documentaries and co-directed a full-length film in French and Berber about the Franco-Algerian conflict. He travelled around North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and North America for research purposes. He followed with a PhD in an interdisciplinary field mobilising literature, drama, language and cultural history including his annotated translation of a play, at the University of Exeter. At Leeds, he took the certificate and diploma in learning and teaching in higher education. In 2013 he received a Distinction for his project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Economic and Social Research Council for leadership, management and outstanding quality of research outcome and impact.  In 2017 and 2019, he received the Partnership Award for postgraduate research supervision, preceded by several award nominations for inspirational and innovative teaching in the previous years. On several occasions, he held professorial appointments in North America and North Africa. He has been serving as a judge on the Literature/Culture panel of The Global Undergraduate Award,  the ‘world’s leading undergraduate awards programme, connecting and empowering the brightest students to inspire greatness.’ Kamal served as assessor on the prestigious NOMA AWARD (2003-2010) for African critical and creative work, a Pan-African annual prize for outstanding books published in Africa. He also served as juror in several film and theatre festivals.

Kamal has published eleven books and edited volumes, eight minigraphs, and numerous articles in refereed journals and parts of books and volumes. He has prefaced several books and given several public lectures and conference addresses. He is the editorial advisor for the book series After the Empire: The Francophone World and Postcolonial France published by Rowan and Littlefield. He collaborated on a documentary, “music and post-revolt changing culture in North Africa” with CrossPond Productions LLC, a New Orleans and London based film Production Company specializing in music-based documentaries. He has been advisor on several film projects and TV programmes, and appointed as panellist and reviewer for UK and international research councils. He served as external research assessor for international research bodies and academies.

Along the way, Kamal has been translating the plays of one of the most Algerian popular dramatists, Slimane Benaissa, who has adopted political irony as a style for his dramatic work.