NEH ʿAjamī Research Project Now Live

in Center News
October 3rd, 2019

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