Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA)

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Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa
Northwestern University
620 Library Place, Evanston IL 60208

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The Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA) is the first research center in the United States devoted entirely to the study of Islam and Africa. ISITA sponsors and facilitates collaborative interdisciplinary scholarship on the Islamic tradition of learning in Africa and promotes broader awareness of the role of Islam in African societies, past and present.  ISITA was founded in 2000 by John O. Hunwick of Northwestern University and R. Séan O’Fahey of the University of Bergen, under sponsorship from the Ford Foundation.  Since then, ISITA has secured additional funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  ISITA is housed at the Program of African Studies (PAS) and associated with the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL, USA).

ISITA sponsors a variety of activities including publications, residential fellowships for African scholars (when funding is available), field research in Africa, and conferences, in Africa as well as Evanston, on both historical and contemporary themes.  Through these activities, ISITA has successfully linked research on contemporary cultural life in Islamic Africa to the centuries-old scholarly, literary and creative energy found in Africa’s Muslim communities.  In doing this, ISITA has challenged long-held stereotypes of an isolated and peripheral “African Islam.”  Today’s dynamic, expanding Muslim communities in Africa can be appreciated as contemporary expressions of a longstanding tradition that both derived inspiration from and contributed heavily to the Arab Islamic world.  ISITA now connects a vibrant international network of scholars with shared interests in Islam and Africa.

Interim Director, 2016-17 Academic Year
Robert Launay, Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Director of Programming
Charles Stewart, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Associate Director
Rebecca Shereikis

Affiliated Faculty at Northwestern

For more information, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.