Sarah Gamalinda poses for a photo on Main Hall Green.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Sarah Gamalinda (Photo by Aaron Lindeman '27)

About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.


Sarah Gamalinda, who joined the Lawrence University faculty in 2022 as an assistant professor of French and francophone studies, will get an opportunity to be the faculty lead for Lawrence's 10-week Senegal study abroad program in spring 2025. 

In addition to being a fan of teaching First-Year Studies at Lawrence, Gamalinda enjoys teaching a wide range of French language and culture courses, among them, Advanced French Composition and Creative Writing, Introduction to Francophone Literature, and Introduction to Francophone Film. She also teaches upper-level and topics classes: Immigrant Voices, The Joys and Pains of Race in France, and Francophone African Cinema.

Gamalinda also is a faculty affiliate in the Ethnic Studies Department as a “specialist in contemporary francophone literature and film with a focus on comparative conceptualizations of race, particularly Blackness, taking shape relationally across the postcolonial Atlantic.” Her work has often focused on the racial aesthetics of sound in francophone African and French cinema.

Your journey begins with foundational language courses, leading to courses that explore a deeper understanding of the francophone world.

Gamalinda earned a Ph.D. in African cultural studies and a master’s degree in French studies, both at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a bachelor’s degree in French language and literature at Amherst College. She was a 2021-22 Andrew Mellon Public Humanities Fellow and was awarded a 2019 Chancellors Pre-dissertator Fellowship at UW-Madison.

We caught up with her to talk about interests in and out of the classroom.

In the classroom

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

I learn something new every time I do whatever homework I’ve assigned for the class. I am always realizing something I’ve missed. When I was in college, I often felt like there was so much more I was supposed to be getting out of what I was doing, and sometimes I could only scratch the surface of things—especially if it was reading a book (really fast and late at night). I feel that I should tell students more often that this might just be how it goes, how it feels for right now. But if and when one of those things—a story, an idea, an image—cycles back around into your life, it can knock you back on your heels with how much more meaning you can find packed into it, especially thanks to how much you’ve grown since the last encounter. It’s an awesome experience, and it’s something to look forward to after the classes are all over.

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?

I am so excited to go with students to Senegal next Spring Term. I cannot wait to take Wolof classes—I love language learning.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional, or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

On a more personal and intellectual level, I was surprised to realize that studying French became studying race and colonialism, and that in the end a lot of the questions that guide my research are ones I am asking myself about how to live and be in this world. I did not consciously pick French 101 in college because I wanted to know more about myself, but it turns out that the humanities, liberal arts, and cultural studies are awesome for drawing you into those kinds of questions, no matter what language or cultural context they’re in.

Out of the classroom

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing?  

I’d be running a yarn shop and café, knitting, spinning, crafting, and… probably still teaching (knitting).

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?

The PQ stacks in the library—where all the French and francophone studies books live. Being overwhelmed by the number of books I haven’t read is really energizing.

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

A Tale for the Time Being (2013) by Ruth Ozeki: I laughed and cried and drifted in thought while reading this book. It’s “metafictional” and has the occasional footnote, which is totally up my alley, and was also the first book—I think—I read about a Japanese-American woman. It’s also written by a Japanese-Canadian woman.

Ctrl (2017 album) by SZA: Whatever reverb and mixing they did is perfection, and SZA is a vocal dream. The sound of the album creates a kind of physical space that feels so good. What better time to be twenty-something than when Ctrl was released.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) by Peter Jackson: It’s the movie I have seen the most times and for which I can quote the most lines (as in, all of them). It’s comfort food for sick days and holidays; I’ve watched it so many times with so many different people and it holds a lot of nostalgia and fond memories for me. The Two Towers is my favorite because we’re already in it and there’s no need to build conflict or resolve it; just crash through the thick of it for three whole hours.

See more faculty profiles in the On Main Hall Green With ... series here.