Public Lecture: Islamic literature in the Horn of Africa: reflections on an ongoing project

3 April 2016


Islamic literature in the Horn of Africa: reflections on an ongoing project
Alessandro Gori 
(Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen)
5 April 2016


Alessandro Gori is Associate Professor in Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Copenhagen. His specialization is the literary traditions of the Muslims of the Horn of Africa. In this field he has published extensively. Among his latest publications: “A Handlist of the Manuscripts in the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Volume Two: The Arabic Materials of the Ethiopian Islamic Tradition”.


For historical and cultural reasons the Islamic literary production of the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia) has been a relatively neglected field of research. Thanks to a project supported by the European Research Council (IslHornAfr: Islam in the Horn of Africa, A Comparative Literary Approach - Advanced Grant no. 322849; 2013-2018) unknown material has been discovered and digitized and a literary database has been implemented to provide scholars with a tool to study the Islamic culture of the Horn of Africa as it is reflected in its literary traditions. In the presentation, the speaker will try to highlight some of the first results that the ongoing research has achieved. In particular, the new material which has been localized and digitized in Somaliland and Djibouti will be presented and briefly assessed in the wider framework of the network of relationships among the Muslim communities of the region.

For more details, view the event notification

Public Lecture: Chinese manuscript cultures in the context of Chinese intellectual history

27 March 2016

 manuscript matters: (re)collections


Chinese manuscript cultures in the context of Chinese intellectual history
Michael Friedrich
31 March 2016

The lecture will first offer some general remarks on the field of intellectual history with focus on Asian and African cultures, then briefly discuss the concept of manuscript cultures, and finally show the usefulness of a combination of both by giving examples from different periods.

This event forms part of the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project workshop – manuscript matters: (re)collections taking place between 29-31 March 2016. This workshop will be looking at studies that not only analyse the content of a manuscript or manuscripts, but also importantly, their material make-up, their connection to other manuscripts, their movement in and out of collections, in and out of specific towns. The workshop will also be looking at studies of their life, or biography, from composition to circulation and the lives of collections in close detail.

For more details, view the event notification

manuscript matters: (re)collections - A Workshop

17 March 2016

 manuscript matters: (re)collections

A Workshop
uctou Manuscripts Project
University of Cape Town
29-31 March 2016

When Roger Chartier wrote, “reading is always reading something,” he wanted to stress the tangible dimension of reading practices.  In parallel, we could say that “writing is always writing on something.” Ideas and thoughts took written form and turned into manuscripts.  But the vehicle for their transmission, the manuscript book, is not accidental and merely a vessel or carrier.  It is a material object, a vehicle for the transmission of embodied knowledge.  Where did the paper come from? What types of inks and pens were used? How were the manuscript leaves kept together and what went into the production of their enclosures?  

We are seeking to reflect on the manuscript as a material object. We do not want to ignore content, ideas or text, but we want to explore the manuscript as a tangible object around which a set of cultural practices developed.  The manuscript book, besides its materiality, also bears traces of writing practices.  Did writers start with drafts and dispose of those drafted papers? Did they have fully formed ideas and just write them out flawlessly on a page? How many pages could they write in one session of writing? How were copies made and/or unmade?

For more information on the forthcoming workshop, review the CFP in English and French .

Zukunftsphilologie Winter Academy: World Scripts

27 August 2015


World Scripts: Concepts and Practices of Writing from a Comparative Perspective

4 - 14 September 2015, University of Cape Town

The Winter Academy is conceptualized and steered by members of the Zukunftsphilologie Collegium. It builds on two previous Zukunftsphilologie Winter Schools: Textual Practices Beyond Europe, 1500-1900 (Cairo, 2010), and Philologies Across the Asias: The Translation, Transmission and Transformation of Knowledge in the Early Modern World (Delhi, 2012).

This Winter Academy will explore, from a comparative and global perspective, the vocabularies and typologies of writing in various philological traditions and the role of script as a technology in the production, diffusion, archiving and exchange of knowledge. Hosted at the University of Cape Town, the Winter Academy will focus on the experience of writing and the technologies of script on the African continent, and will especially explore comparative cases and entangled histories that connect Africa to the Arabophone world, the Mediterranean region and through the Indian Ocean to South and Southeast Asia.

For more information, view the public programme here.

Tombouctou Special Talk:  “Indonesia 101”

31 July 2015

 Title: Indonesia 101

Speaker: Saarah Jappie

From Jan van Bougies to Bandung and beach holidays in Bali, the Indonesian archipelago emerges in the South African imagination in multiple ways. While central to the social and cultural history of early Cape Town, Indonesia remains a distant and little understood space. In this presentation Saarah Jappie offers an introduction to the history, languages and culture of modern Indonesia, drawing on its links to the Cape Town context.

Date:3 August 2015

 For more information, review the seminar announcement here.