Martha Saavedra

Job title: 
Associate Director
Center for African Studies

Martha Saavedra has been with the Center for African Studies since 1993. She received a PhD and MA in a Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and a BA in International Studies from Rhodes College. She has taught at St. Mary’s College of CaliforniaOhio University, the Escuela de Estudios Universitarios Real Madrid, and at UC Berkeley, including in Global Studies, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Graduate School of Journalism. Her research has ranged from agrarian politics and ethnic conflict in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, to representations of Africa in Chinese popular culture, and to gender, development, and sport in various Africa countries. Projects have included a collaboration on sport and development in Cape Verde, Nepal and Timor-Leste, and a workshop on African athletic migration to the European Union. She has been on the editorial boards of Soccer and SocietySport in SocietySociology of Sport Journaland Impumelelo: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Sports in Africa. She is also on the board of Sport Africa and Soccer Without Borders. A veteran of Title IX battles, she has played soccer for most of her life and coached boys teams for over 15 years. In 2021, Martha received the African Studies Association Outstanding Service Award.

Research interests: 

Gender, Sport, Agrarian politics, development

Selected Research and Publications:

"Epilogue: Sport, Gender and Development", in Sport, Gender and Development: Intersections, Innovations and Future Trajectories. Edited by Lyndsay MC Hayhurst, Holly Thorpe, and Megan Chawansky. (Emerald Studies in Sport and Gender), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 211-221. 2021.

"Gendered Nationalism: Women's Football at the 2015 Indian Ocean Games" in 'Gender and Sport/Sport und Geschlecht' special issue of genderstudiesEdited by Monika Hoffman and Marianne Meier. Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies/Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Geschlechterforschung IZFG. Universität Bern. October 2020.

"SDP and Postcolonial Theory." Chapter in Routledge Handbook of Sport for Development and Peace. edited by Collison, Holly, Simon C. Darnell, Richard Giulianotti, and P. David Howe. Routledge. 2018.

Co-authored with Peter Alegi, Amy Bass, Adrian Burgos Jr., and Brenda Elsey, “Teaching Forum on Sport and Politics.” Radical History Review, Special Issue 125 on Historicizing the Politics and Pleasure of Sport, May 2016

Sport.” Oxford African Studies Bibliography, edited by Thomas Spears. 2015.

“Fin de siècle? Commanding the Court in Senegalese Women’s Basketball.” In Women’s Sport as Politics in Muslim Contexts (PDF), Homa Hoodfar, editor. A publication of Women Living Under Muslim Law. 2015.

"Derartu Tulu," "Maria Mutola," and "Kenenisa Bekele" in Dictionary of African Biography. Edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Emmanuel Akyeampong. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Co-editor with Susann Baller, “Les terrains politiques du football,” Special Issue of Politique Africaine, no. 118, June 2010. (Also available on

With Susann Baller, « La politique du football en Afrique : mobilisations et trajectoires », in Politique Africaine, no. 118, June 2010. (Also available on

Co-editor with Julia Strauss, China and Africa: Emerging Patterns in Globalization and Development, Cambridge University Press, 2010, including two chapters:  “Introduction: China, Africa and Internationalization.” and “Representations of Africa in a Hong Kong Soap Opera: The Limits of Enlightened Humanitarianism in ‘The Last Breakthrough.’” This is a special issue, 199, September 2009, of The China Quarterly.

With Marianne Meier. “Esther Phiri and the Moutawakel effect in Zambia: an analysis of the use of female role models in sport-for-development.” Sport in Society Vol. 12, no. 9: 1158-1176, November 2009.

"Dilemmas and Opportunities in Gender and Sport-in-development." Chapter 6 in Sport and International Developmented. Roger Levermore and Aaron Beacom, Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

“Women, Islam, Gender, Sports and the Female Body: Sub-Saharan Africa” (long version) A Mulher em África: Vozes de uma Margem sempre PresenteEditors: Inocência Mata & Laura Padilha, Lisboa: Edições Colibri / CEA-FLUL (Centro de Estudos Africanos da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa.), 2007.

Excavating the Field” on The Global GameMaking space on a ‘crooked field’ [archived site] by John Turnbull. Included in blog entry September 20, 2007. [Accompanying podcast interview.]

Women, Gender, Sports and the Female Body: Sub-Saharan Africa,” in The Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, Volume 3: Family, Body, Sexuality and Health. Editor: Suad Joseph. Brill Academic Publishers, 2006.

Women, Sport, and Development,” on Learn More pages, Sport and Development International Platform, Swiss Academy for Development, May 2005.

“Gender and Sports,” in A Companion to Gender Studies, eds. Philomena Essed, Audrey Kobayashi, and David Theo Goldberg. Blackwell Press, 2005.

Football Feminine: The Development of the African Game,” in Soccer, Women, Sexual Liberation: Kicking off a New Era, Editors: F. Hong and J.A Mangan, Frank Cass: London/Portland OR, 2004. First published as a special edition of Soccer and SocietyVol. 4, Nos 2/3. Autumn/Fall 2003.

“Ethnicity, Resources and the Central State: Politics in the Nuba Mountains, 1950 to the 1990s,” in, Kordofan Invaded: Peripheral Incorporation and Sectoral Transformation in Islamic Africa, 1785-1995, edited by Michael Kevane and Endre Stiansen; E.J. Brill: Leiden, 1998.

 Google Scholar Page

Country Expertise:

Language Expertise:

Arabic, French, Spanish