Welcome to ISITA—the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa, located at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA. ISITA sponsors and facilitates collaborative interdisciplinary scholarship on the Islamic tradition of learning in Africa and promotes a broader awareness of the role of Islam in African societies, past and present. By sponsoring field research, conferences, visiting scholars, and publications, ISITA encourages intellectual exchange, especially with Africa-based scholars, and produces new knowledge on Islamic thought in Africa.
If you would like to receive updates on ISITA news and events, we encourage you to subscribe to the ISITA e-mail list.
Op-Eds by ISITA affiliates on the crisis in Mali ( 7/27/12)
Misunderstood Mali: World reaction to coup's aftermath is slowed by blind support for democracy, by Robert Launay, professor of anthropology, Northwestern University
Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2012
Mali's Tomb Raiders, by Benjamin Soares, senior researcher, African Studies Centre, Leiden
The New York Times, July 8, 2012
Editorial, by Shamil Jeppie, director, Tombouctou Manuscripts Projects, University of Cape Town
Tombouctou Manuscripts Project Newsletter, July 2012
ISITA to sponsor roundtable on "Reconceputalizing African Islam" at ASA Annual Meeting in November 2012 ( 7/27/12)
ISITA, which was recently named an affiliate organization of the African Studies Association, will sponsor a roundtable titled "Reconceputalizing African Islam and the Global Community of Believers" at the ASA' Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, November 29 - December 2, 2012. Co-chaired by ISITA Director Muhammad Sani Umar and Scott Reese (Northern Arizona University), roundtable participants include Abdulkader Tayob (University of Cape Town), Cheikh Babou (University of Pennsylvania), Anne Bang (Chr. Michelsen Institute, Norway), and Ousman Kobo (Ohio State University). For more information on the meeting, visit the African Studies Association's website.
Islamic Africa is a new peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal published online by Northwestern University Press in collaboration with ISITA. Incorporating the journal Sudanic Africa and retaining its focus on historical sources, bibliographies, and methodology, Islamic Africa covers the field of Islam in Africa broadly understood to include the social sciences and humanities. The new journal seeks to promote scholarly interaction among Africa-based scholars and those located institutionally outside the continent. The first issue appeared in Spring 2010.
For more information and to read the first issue (available open-access), please visit the journal's website at www.islamicafricajournal.org.
Sign the petition to save Timbuktu’s manuscripts (4/18/12)
To express concern about the fate of Timbuktu's manuscripts in the midst of the political and humanitarian crisis facing northern Mali, fifty-one distinguished African scholars and library directors (from 14 countries) have signed an urgent Call to preserve the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu and Mali. The West African Research Association (WARA) has made the appeal available as on on-line petition, in English, French, and Arabic. To sign the petition, visit the WARA site.
ISITA’s founding Director John Hunwick played a pivotal role in drawing international attention to the richness of the Timbuktu manuscript heritage —through his long-time collaboration with Timbuktu library owners and scholars, and his cataloging and translations of Timbuktu manuscripts. Hunwick founded ISITA at Northwestern in 2000 with the mission of raising awareness of sub-Saharan Africa’s deep traditions of Islamic literary activity and scholarship. ISITA urges interested parties to express solidarity with our colleagues in Africa by signing and circulating the petition.
For up-to-date information about the Timbuktu libraries, visit the site of the Tombouctu Manuscripts Project, based at the University of Cape Town. Project Director Shamil Jeppie has been in regular contact with Timbuktu library owners since the conflict erupted, and updates are being posted on the site’s blog. Jeppie’s impressions of the situation in Timbuktu as of April 11 are summarized in a Reuters article reprinted on the blog.
Gender and Islam in Africa edited volume now available (5/2011)
Gender and Islam in Africa: Rights, Sexuality, and Law, an edited volume comprising research by presenters at an ISITA conference of the same name with work by other scholars in the field, was published in May 2011 from copublishers Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press.
The book's editor, Margot Badran, is a historian of women and gender issues in Muslim societies; she organized ISITA's conference on gender and Islam (sponsored by the Ford Foundation) while serving as ISITA preceptor in 2003-04.
Gender and Islam in Africa examines how women in Africa are interpreting traditional Islamic concepts in order to empower themselves and their societies. African women, it argues, have promoted the ideals and practices of equality, human rights, and democracy within the framework of Islamic thought, challenging conventional conceptualizations of the religion as gender-constricted and patriarchal.
For more information, visit the Stanford University Press website.
West African Ajami Manuscripts from Herskovits Collection featured in Saudi Aramco Article (10/2011)
Images of manuscript and printed items from the West African Arabic Manuscript Collection of the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies are featured in a September/October 2011 article titled "From Africa, in Ajami" in the magazine Saudi Aramco World. The article calls attention to the rich tradtion of writing African languages in the Arabic script (called ajami). The Herskovits Collection contains many fine examples of materials in ajami, in Hausa, Fulfulde, and Wolof. To learn more about the collection and search the catalog, please visit: http://digital.library.northwestern.edu/arbmss/.
Fall 2012 events coming soon...
All the events listed below are free and open to the public and held in the Program of African Studies Conference Room, 620 Library Place.