Northwestern Events Calendar


Writing Power in 19th Century Islamic Africa: Norms and Adaptations in Borno Chancery and Diplomacy (Rémi Dewière)

When: Wednesday, February 21, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM CT

Where: 620 Library Place, 620 Library Place , Evanston, IL 60208 map it

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

Contact: Rebecca Shereikis   (847) 491-2598

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

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


Join ISITA for a talk by Rémi Dewière (Northumbria University).

Lunch will be served at the talk.

[This talk will be followed by a roundtable discussion (starting at 1:30 pm), featuring Rémi Dewière and other scholars and titled Souces, Heritage, and Experimental History in Premodern Africa: New Tools, Old Debates. Read more about the roundtable here.]

Abstract: This talk examines a corpus of 40 letters written in the name of the rulers of the kingdom of Borno (present-day northern Nigeria) between 1823 and 1918. The visual characteristics of these letters reveal that Borno administration established precise norms of writing  in order to express the ruler’s authority. Behind the norms, secretaries were instrumental in shaping diplomatic protocols, and were keepers of knowledge that had roots going back to the 16th century.

Rémi Dewière is a historian interested in Islamic West Africa in the Early Modern period. He is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the project "Migration, Adaptation, and Innovation" based at Northumbria University, where he focuses on migrants and skill-transfer in the Islamic World, from Timbuktu to Java, from the 16th century to the 1850s. Rémi received his PhD in African History (2015) from Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University (IMAf).  His book, Du lac Tchad à La Mecque. Le sultanat du Borno et son monde (XVIe-XVIIe siècle) (Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2017), provides a new perspective on the functioning of this Islamic Sahelian state in the Early Modern period and its relationship with the world around it through the trans-Saharan routes.


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