Northwestern Events Calendar


Ajami Archives of Muslim Africa: Their Significance in African Studies (Fallou Ngom)

When: Wednesday, May 5, 2021
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Rebecca Shereikis  

Group: Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA)

Co-Sponsor: Program of African Studies

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Multicultural & Diversity, Global & Civic Engagement


Ajami Archives of Muslim Africa: Their Significance in African Studies

Join ISITA for a talk by Fallou Ngom (anthropology, Boston University).

Moderated by Zekeria Ahmed Salem, ISITA director and associate professor of political science, Northwestern University.


The overemphasis on African oral traditions in academia that began in the colonial era and has endured since gives the false impression that the only oral traditions exist in sub-Saharan Africa, thus making largely invisible centuries-old forms of literacies and the wealth of knowledge contained in the numerous archives written in non-European languages across Africa. Although written records are generally not regarded as part of sub-Saharan Africa’s heritage in academia and the media, rich bodies of documents written in Arabic, Ajami (African languages written with enriched forms of the Arabic script), and other locally invented writing systems have existed in the region for centuries. These documents are rich in contents and forms and provide new insights on various aspects of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial Africa that will enhance the work of students and scholars. In this talk I discuss the misrepresentations of literacy in Muslim Africa, the development of Ajami writing traditions, and the wealth of information contained in Ajami archives of Africa.

About the speaker

Fallou Ngom is professor of anthropology at Boston University. His research focuses on African Ajami literatures (records of African languages written in Arabic script). He seeks to understand the knowledge buried in African Ajami literatures and the historical, social, cultural, and religious heritage that has found expression in this manner. He has held Fulbright, ACLS, and Guggenheim fellowships. Dr. Ngom's work has appeared in African Studies Review, History Compass, Islamic Africa, Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Language Variation and Change, and International Journal of the Sociology of Language. His book, Muslims beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of Ajami and the Muridyya (Oxford University Press, 2016), won the 2017 Melville J. Herskovits Prize for the best book in African studies. 

Registration is required. Click on the button below to register through Zoom.

Register Add to Calendar

Add Event To My Group:

Please sign-in