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Hausa and Kanuri languages as archive for the history of Sahara and Sahel in 18th and 19th century

Objective

The eighteenth and nineteenth century history of the central Sahara and Sahel has primarily been written using European
or jihadist Arabic sources. This has led to an overwhelming emphasis on religion, politics, and geography as core themes
that shaped social and cultural dynamics in this region. By focusing on sources in African languages—until now largely
forgotten by historians—the project LANGARCHIV aims to enrich and expand this narrative. Hausa and Kanuri material
collected by Germanophone, British, and French scholars for linguistic study between 1772 and 1913 in West and North
Africa, England, and Brazil cries out for collaboration between historians, linguists, and anthropologists. This rich body of
primary sources remains under-studied, having been rejected as colonial even though the majority were collected before
colonial occupation. A general reconsideration of this material will enable a major shift in our understanding, toward a
‘history from below’ that will make it possible to explore the history of Sahelian societies through the stories that Sahelians
told about themselves. Serving as linguae francae, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Hausa and Kanuri were
spoken from Tripoli to Kano and Bahia, and today Hausa remains the most widely spoken language in West Africa, with 50
million speakers scattered over more than 6 countries
LANGARCHIV will be the first project to explore materials in African languages as sources for African history. Combining
an epistemological analysis of European scientific interest in African languages with the will to write a social history that
overcomes the jihadist bias, the project aims to bring about a paradigmatic shift in the history of the central Sahara and
Sahel. It will achieve this goal by revealing a rich body of primary sources and by developing an innovative analytical
framework for using documents generated by early students of African languages and cultures as historical sources.

Call for proposal

ERC-2017-STG
See other projects for this call

Host institution

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS
Address
Rue Michel Ange 3
75794 Paris
France
Activity type
Other
EU contribution
€ 1 037 312,50

Beneficiaries (4)

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS
France
EU contribution
€ 1 037 312,50
Address
Rue Michel Ange 3
75794 Paris
Activity type
Other
UNIVERSITAET LEIPZIG
Germany
EU contribution
€ 305 000,50
Address
Ritterstrasse 26
04109 Leipzig
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

Participation ended

United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 0
Address
Edgbaston
B15 2TT Birmingham
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 154 855
Address
Gower Street
WC1E 6BT London
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments