Category: Center News

Welcome back from Tim Longman

September 4th, 2020 in Center News

Dear Friends of the BU African Studies Center,

Welcome to the fall semester. Whether you are physically on campus or joining us virtually, we hope that you will take full advantage of the many opportunities to connect with the community at the African Studies Center.

Please join us this Wednesday, September 9, at 5 p.m. for our annual fall reception, which this year will be a Zoom Happy Hour. We will take the opportunity to welcome everyone back to campus, introduce new faculty and students, and celebrate accomplishments. We want especially to take some time to thank Fallou Ngom for his excellent leadership over the past three years. I encourage everyone to join us online to toast the new academic year.

The heart of our ASC academic community is the weekly Rodney Seminar series. Each Monday, an interdisciplinary selection of African studies scholars from BU and beyond present papers based on their research. Our community comes together to learn and discuss. Since the Rodneys will be held virtually this fall, we hope that many members of our community will be able to join.

Keep a lookout for news about other events:

  • The Fall meeting for faculty and visiting researchers September 24 at 3 p.m.;
  • Professor at the University of Ghana and president of the African Studies Association of Africa, Akosua Adomako Ampofo, will give a public lecture on September 30 as part of alumni weekend;
  • We are co-sponsoring a November conference organized by Toyin Falola on the work of our colleague Nimi Wariboko;
  • We will continue to sponsor or co-sponsor a variety of lectures and workshops and conferences, which will all be held online at least through the fall.

I would like to offer a thank you to our faculty members who have been working hard this summer to adapt their teaching to the extraordinary circumstances presented by the Coronavirus crisis. Our classes African studies classes have already started, some being held over zoom, others on campus, but all require at least some on-line content. We are pleased to have a record number of students in our introductory course, ID 116, and to be adding Mandinka as a new language offering.

A special thank you needs to go out to our African Studies Center staff who have been working extraordinarily hard to get ready for the fall. Natasha Patel and Eric Schmidt have worked especially hard, putting in many hours of overtime,developing protocols for the ASC, getting the ASC physically ready to welcome back people, and getting ready for fall classes. Please extend Natasha and Eric your thanks.

I look forward to seeing you online next Wednesday.

Tim Longman

Acting Director of the African Studies Center

Update on Fall 2020 African Language Classes

July 17th, 2020 in Center News

Dear students,

Welcome (back) to BU! We are excited to see you in our language courses this fall. In case it helps with your housing and course scheduling plans, we have an update on the LfA plan for these courses. Please check back here in the coming weeks for further updates.

Hearing the sounds of a language and seeing precisely how speakers’ mouths move is crucial for language study; masks and distancing can garble pronunciation and impede group work, the lifeblood of our language courses. All African language courses will therefore meet on Zoom for the bulk of their regular daily sessions this fall semester. Other African studies courses will be taught with an in-person component in most cases, depending on the instructor and the department; please contact the course's instructor or home department directly for information for non-language courses.

For registration purposes, BU considers these language courses hybrid (not online). The regular MWF or TR sessions will meet on Zoom, not in the classroom. You may participate in them from your home or dorm room or from any quiet place (but where you are allowed to speak). If your course has a fourth hour, it will be taught remotely, in most cases asynchronously. (“Asynchronous remote” instruction means that day’s class will consist of an hour’s worth of work that you can complete anytime before the next class meeting.)

However, we do hope to see most of you several times in person as well. Some in-person course elements will be scheduled at different points in the semester, and these will be an integral part of the course for those opting for in-person instruction. Those participating remotely will have online alternatives. We will update this message with details in the next few weeks.

We know there are many variables in thinking about this fall. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions about the class format, placement, or any other aspect of your language study. You can direct your questions to Dr. Zoli Mali (zolimali@bu.edu), Director of the African Language Program, or Dr. Eric Schmidt (ericjs@bu.edu), Assistant Director of the African Studies Center.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

ASC Statement on Anti-Black Violence

June 1st, 2020 in Center News

Circulated June 1, 2020 via the Weekly Brief

The ASC stands with all who are grieving the violence against black people across the country, including Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and others.

To our black community members, we extend deep sympathies for your pain and exhaustion. To our non-black community members, we encourage you to listen, learn, and act. There is an array of resources about anti-black racism today and across history, in Africa and across the African diaspora, and about actions you can take to address it at both a personal and structural level. We’ll highlight just a couple here:

  • The Minneapolis Uprising in Context,” Elizabeth Hinton, Boston Review, May 29
  • Anti-racism resources, a compilation of reading, viewing, and listening recommendations intended for white people looking to deepen their anti-racism work
  • Our Outreach Program produces programming and resources for anyone, especially K-12 educators, to learn more and combat racist ideas about Africa and people of African descent
  • Today, June 1 at 3-5pm, the Howard Thurman Center hosts a Coffee and Conversation discussion for BU students

For students, we encourage you to explore upcoming course offerings in African studies that can deepen your knowledge on the experiences of Africans and people of African descent, such as:

  • AA 234 “African Americans in Global Perspective: Slavery and the Creation of Race” – Prof. Scott
  • AA 371 “African American History” – Prof. Austin
  • AA 591 “Black Thought: Literary and Cultural Criticism in the African Diaspora” – Prof. Chude-Sokei
  • PO 334 “Political Violence” – Prof. Rosenzweig
  • SO 408/808 “Ethnic, Race, and Minority Relations” – Prof. Stone

We know this is an especially heavy time, so we want to also share something positive to look forward to: the African American Studies Program’s weekly Quarantine Survival Guide provides excellent recommendations on music, recipes, literature, and more.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.

James Anthony Pritchett Legacy Donation to Tuskegee University

February 21st, 2020 in Center News

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I have just returned from a visit to Tuskegee University in Alabama to help dedicate the James Anthony Pritchett Legacy donation to that institution. I was profoundly affected by this visit and the reception of the gift by Prof. Thiam, Chair of Political Science and History and 7 Tuskegee faculty and collection staff who were there to share ideas about how to sustain a deep relationship.  I attended with Dr. Awa Sarr and Eric Ponder of Michigan State who we are joining in cooperation to honor James.  As we arrived, the Tuskegee partners had already processed the book and artifact donation in a special collection holding that includes the legacy of George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, and the Tuskegee Airmen, and other Tuskegee luminary scholars and activists.  The difference is that the Pritchett Legacy collection will circulate among all Tuskegee students.  The artifacts from the Pritchett collection were already on display in a lovely glass case at the entrance to the collection bookshelves in the Tuskegee Ford main library.

The family has established a site for donations for the collection’s growth and preservation, which can be found here.

I have donated to that fund along with others from MSU and BU.  Please join us in that effort to sustain James Pritchett’s memory in for future generations.

Jim McCann

Chair, Department of History

Associate Director for Development, African Studies Center

NEH ʿAjamī Research Project Now Live

October 3rd, 2019 in Center News

Our NEH ʿAjamī  Research Project is now live, and celebrating its website launch!  The project ʿAjamī Literature and the Expansion of Literacy and Islam: The Case of West Africa that was awarded a NEH Collaborative Research Grant, aims to provide a new window into the history, cultures, and intellectual traditions of West Africa. It will digitize a unique selection of manuscripts in ʿAjamī (African language texts written with a modified Arabic script) in four major West African languages – Hausa, Mandinka, Fula, and Wolof, transcribe the texts and translate them into English and French, prepare commentaries, and create related multimedia resources to be made widely available within and beyond the United States.

The ʿAjamī literatures that have developed in sub-Saharan Africa and hold a wealth of knowledge on the history, politics, cosmologies, and cultures of the region, are generally unknown to scholars and the public due to lack of access. This collaborative research project involving a multi-disciplinary team of scholars from institutions in the U.S. and West Africa seeks, through increasing access to primary sources in ʿAjamī, to spark research and scholarly work on this important topic. Representing the first comparative approach to African languages written in ʿAjamī, this pioneering initiative seeks to integrate ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and multi-media formats to illuminate the histories and the educational, social, political and religious significance of ʿAjamī in West Africa. The project builds on prior path-setting work of the Center’s scholars and linguists with gathering, digitizing, and analyzing ʿAjamī manuscripts in the region.

Read perspectives on the social life of ʿAjamī by the project members in the Africa@LSE blog of London School of Economics

ASC Signs MOU with University for Development Studies, Ghana

September 13th, 2019 in Center News

In July, the BU African Studies Center and the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana, signed a memorandum of understanding outlining a vision for a cooperative and multi-layered linkage serving faculty, students, and staff at both institutions. This agreement serves one of the ASC’s key mandates as a Title VI National Resource Center to create linkages with African institutions to facilitate research and language study for our students and faculty.

Our immediate collaborations meet some of the key proposed activities outlined in our Title VI proposal, as well as new initiatives. These include support for the digital preservation of endangered archives in northern Ghana, comprising texts, audio, and other informs of indigenous knowledge, such as music and dance. We also will begin a joint pilot project pursuing digitization of Dagbani Ajami texts. The ASC hopes that affiliated faculty members will take advantage of this and other linkages we develop across the continent in order to enhance and expand the quality of teaching and research on Africa at BU and beyond.

ASC Director Fallou Ngom and Assistant Director Eric J. Schmidt are grateful for the warm welcome from UDS Vice-Chancellor Gabriel Teye, Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic at the UDS Directorate of International Relations and Advancement, Felix Longi and Jebuni Tigwe Salifu at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Consultancy Services, Alhajji Dr. Hussein Zakaria, and our other colleagues at UDS. We look forward to additional opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration at both UDS and the BU ASC!

From left: Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic, Eric J. Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor Gabriel Teye, Fallou Ngom, Felix Longi, and Jebuni Tigwe Salifu at UDS in July

African Language Assessment Guide by Jennifer J. Yanco Now Available

September 6th, 2019 in Center News

The BU African Studies Center recently published Comprehensive Outcomes-Based Assessment: A Guide for African Language Instructors. Written by Dr. Jennifer J. Yanco, retired Director of the West African Research Association and longtime member of the BU ASC community, the 95-page workbook provides assessment tools for African language instruction from Beginning through Superior levels, providing concrete performance goals across a range of parameters. The BU ASC is pleased to share the workbook freely for other language programs to use, and can be accessed at the link above.

Our aim in preparing this guide is to create a degree of standardization across African language courses, bringing them into alignment with the broader language teaching community and national standards while remaining attentive to the particularities of African languages and cultures as well as to the needs of our students. Beginning last spring, Dr. Yanco, BU African Language Program Director Dr. Zoliswa Mali, and BU ASC alum Jennifer Erem have organized workshops with our African language faculty to collaborate on integrating principles from the book into their courses. These activities—from writing and publishing to workshopping—have been generously supported through funding from the Title VI National Resource Center program.

New Research Project on ʿAjamī Literature, Literacy and Islam in West Africa

June 23rd, 2019 in Center News

The Boston University African Studies Center has started work on an important scholarly project that provides a new window into the history, cultures, and intellectual traditions of West Africa. The project ʿAjamī Literature and the Expansion of Literacy and Islam: The Case of West Africa that was awarded a NEH Collaborative Research Grant, will digitize a unique selection of manuscripts in ʿAjamī (African language texts written with a modified Arabic script) in four major West African languages - Hausa, Mandinka, Fula, and Wolof, transliterate and translate them into English and French, prepare commentaries, and create related multimedia resources to be made widely available within and beyond the United States.

The ʿAjamī literatures that have developed in sub-Saharan Africa and hold a wealth of knowledge on the history, politics, and cultures of the region, are generally unknown to scholars and the public due to lack of access. This Collaborative Research project between the scholars from institutions in the U.S. and West Africa seeks, through increasing access to primary sources in ʿAjamī, to spark research and scholarly work on this important heritage of Africa. The downplaying and devaluing of the significance of African Ajami has long characterized Arabic as well as European scholars and administrators of the colonial era. Systematic attention to African Ajami only started as an effort of African scholars of the post-colonial times.

The project brings together a multi-disciplinary team of experts working on different languages and contexts to achieve two interlinked goals: 1) to show the importance of African ʿAjamī traditions by building collections and analyzing representative manuscripts, and 2) to conduct interpretive humanities research that will open up a sustained examination of the ʿAjamī phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa. Representing the first comparative approach to African languages written in ʿAjamī, this pioneering project seeks to integrate ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and multi-media formats to illuminate the histories and the educational, cultural, political and religious significance of ʿAjamī in West Africa.

An image of a Wolofal (Wolof Ajami) manuscript from Fallou Ngom’s collection at the British Library Endangered Archives Programme, part of the EAP 334 project.

The interdisciplinary and international project team consists of Fallou Ngom (Principal Investigator), Daivi Rodima-Taylor (Project Manager), digital humanities specialists of the Geddes Language Lab at Boston University – Mark Lewis (Director of the Geddes Lab), Shawn Provencal (Director of Programming), Alison Parker (Web Designer), Frank Antonelli (Video Resources Specialist), and Rebecca Shereikis (Publication Consultant) at ISITA Northwestern University. Language team consultants include Jennifer Yanco, Mustafa Hashim Kurfi, and Garba Zakari for the Hausa digital team; Fallou Ngom, Bala Saho, and Ablaye Diakite for Mandinka team; David Robinson, David Glovsky, and Mouhamadou Lamine Diallo for Fula team; and Fallou Ngom, Ablaye Diakite, and Mouhamadou Lamine Diallo for Wolof team. Our work will be done in collaboration with ISITA at Northwestern University,  IFAN (Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire), Michigan State University, WARA (West African Research Association), WARC (West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal) and colleagues from Bayero University and Kaduna Polytechnic in Nigeria.  The BU African Studies Center (Eric Schmidt and Natasha Patel) will contribute logistical support.

On June 18th, the project’s core team convened for a planning meeting at the BU African Studies Center, joined via skype by participants from other institutions in the United States and Africa. Attendees included  Fallou Ngom, Daivi Rodima-Taylor, Jennifer Yanco, Mark Lewis, Shawn Provencal, Alison Parker, Frank Antonelli, Rebecca Shereikis (Northwestern University), Mustafa Kurfi (Hausa digital team), David Glovsky (Michigan State University), and Eric Schmidt and Natasha Patel of BU ASC.

Prof. Fallou Ngom conducting fieldwork inside the home of manuscript owner, El-hadji Lamine Bayo. Ngom, F., Castro, E., & Diakité, A. (2018). African Ajami Library: EAP 1042. Digital Preservation of Mandinka Ajami Materials of Casamance, Senegal.

The NEH Collaborative Research Project builds on the pioneering work on ʿAjamī literatures and cultures at the Pardee School of Global Studies of Boston University. A prior project on Wolofal was funded by the British Library's Endangered Archive Programme. In 2011-12, working with his Senegal based team, prof. Ngom collected and digitized 5,400 pages from 29 manuscripts and 15 collections, deposited at the West African Research Center, the British Library, and Boston University. The current project will also build upon several other earlier projects hosted by Boston University, Northwestern University, and Michigan State University and MATRIX, focusing on ʿAjamī and Islam in West Africa.

New African Studies Working Paper on Diaspora Studies Initiative by Daivi Rodima-Taylor

May 24th, 2019 in Center News

The BU African Studies Working Paper 271, “The Boston University Diaspora Studies Initiative” (42 pp.) by Daivi Rodima-Taylor presents an overview of the contributions of the BU ASC Diaspora Studies Initiative to the academic as well as policy-oriented study of African diaspora matters, and suggests a vision for the future.

To order copies of the Working Paper, please contact BU ASC Publications: ascpub@bu.edu

University of Florida in Morocco and Senegal – Comparative Muslim Societies

February 11th, 2019 in Center News

Learn about the history of Islam in Morocco and Senegal and the way it informs contemporary religious and cultural practices.

Join the Center for African Studies and the Center for Global Islamic Studies to learn more about everyday life in Muslim societies by taking part in this study abroad experience. This program is offered during Summer A and is worth 6 credit hours, Islam in Africa and African Popular Culture. For more information download a flyer here.