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Lecture | LUCIS Keynotes

The Significance of Ajami Sources in the Study of Muslim Africa

Thursday 24 June 2021
This is an online event. Please register to receive the link to the lecture.

The over-reliance on African oral traditions and European language sources have rendered largely invisible important bodies of knowledge written in African languages using different scripts. The diverse African written archives in Ajami, Arabic, and other scripts (including Ge'ez, Bamum, Tifinagh, etc.) complement oral and Europhone archives on Africa. This talk focuses on African Ajami texts. Ajami writing traditions around the world are varied and they follow the geography of Islam. They have played critical roles in the spread of Islam in communities outside of Arabia and continue to be used for both religious and non-religious writings. Ajami texts document intellectual traditions, histories, belief systems, and cultures of many African Muslims communities. Despite sharing similar origins, each Ajami tradition has its own trajectory that is shaped by specific historical, cultural, social, and political factors. In this lecture, I will show how studying these Ajami materials will enhance our understanding of various aspects of Muslim Africa, opening access to new African perspectives, epistemologies, and preoccupations. 

About Fallou Ngom

Fallou Ngom is Professor of Anthropology at Boston University. His research focuses on the adaptations of Islam in Africa and African Ajami literatures (records of African languages written in Arabic script). He has held Fulbright, American Council of Learned Societies, and Guggenheim fellowships. His work has also been supported by the British Library Endangered Archives Programme, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the US Department of Education. He is the founder of the African Ajami Library at Boston University. His book, Muslims beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of Ajami and the Muridyya (Oxford University Press, 2016), won the 2017 Herskovits Prize for the best book in African studies. 

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