Studium Generale: African Languages and Literature: endangered archives and cultural practices

This lecture takes place in the framework of the Studium Generale programme Het continent Afrika in 2023.

Contrary to the idea of restricted literacy, Africa is a continent where varied forms of literature are expressed in oral forms, a variety of scripts and many languages. In the presentation Annachiara Raia and Azeb Amha aim to provide insights on the  broad spectrum of creativity in language use and literary practices. These themes will be discussed based on ethnographic and archival research conducted in East Africa, paying particular attention to ‘endangered archives’ and ‘endangered languages’ that have carved out complementary niches in the afrophone world. While approaches in cultural as well as postcolonial studies often relegate language and its literary form to the background and emphasise its socio-political relevance, Raia and Amha will highlight the important effect of language on cognition and the central role of literature in preserving essential cultural knowledge. By doing so, they will show how African languages and literatures reflect more than a vessel to transport predefined ideas.

This event will take place physically in Leiden - there will be no livestream. The lectures will be held in English.

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Annachiara Raia has been University Lecturer in the LUCAS department of the Faculty of Humanities and at the African Studies Centre Leiden since March 2019. The main focus of her research is Swahili literature and, in particular, the Swahili adaptation of one of the most widely travelled stories of mankind, the Islamic Story of Joseph, Qiṣat Yūsuf).





Azeb Amha is a linguist with interest in the morphology and syntax of Afroasiatic languages, linguistic typology and in the interdisciplinary fields of anthropological linguistics and sociolinguistics. Currently she is working on the documentation of the Oyda language and studies Wolaitta and Zargulla, all spoken in Ethiopia.





Date, time and location

18 April 2023
19.30 - 21.00
Lipsius / Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD Leiden
Room 019