African Humanities Program Dissertation Fellowships

Through fellowship competitions, regional workshops, and peer networking, the African Humanities Program provides support to the humanities in five African countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. The centerpiece of the program is the distribution of fellowships to African scholars in these countries for work on dissertations, research projects, and scholarly manuscripts. Dissertation awards are listed below; also see postdoctoral awards. The program is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 


Godson Ahortor
Godson Ahortor  |  Abstract
This study examines how soteriological beliefs (i.e. the notion of salvation) and the hereafter logically and conceptually influence ethical values in indigenous African societies from the perspective of their conceptualisation of evil. Different theological concepts and approaches have been used to describe, analyse and evaluate the encounters between indigenous religion, culture and values on the one hand, and those of the outside world on the other. I contend that in spite of the encounters between indigenous African societies and the outside world, the core indigenous beliefs and worldviews are resilient and not dislocated by those of the outside world. This can be analysed and explained within the context of the postcolonial theory of hybridity of religion and culture. An investigation into Mafi religio-cultural beliefs and practices reveals that in Mafi thought and experience, a humane society and soteriological goals are not constructed without reference to the reality of evil.

Doctoral Candidate, Study of Religions, University of Ghana  -  Soteriological Beliefs and Ethical Values of the Tongu Mafi People

Harriet Najjemba
Harriet Najjemba  |  Abstract
The study traces the history of food production practices in Buganda and their transformation since the nineteenth century. It shows the role of indigenous agricultural practices in food production and how these were developed over generations from people’s interaction with their environment. As colonial administration took root at the turn of the twentieth century, colonial officials introduced Western agricultural practices mainly to promote cash cropping. Drawing on archival records and oral interviews, the study shows that colonial authorities did not emphasize incorporation of Western agricultural practices in food crop production. Indeed, over the course of the twentieth century, farmers in Buganda continued to use traditional agricultural practices in seed, water, soil, weed, pest and post-harvest management. It also reveals that a century since European introduction of Western agricultural practices in Uganda, their integration into food production has been slow.

Doctoral Candidate, Open & Distance Learning, Makerere University  -  Utility of Indigenous Agricultural knowledge in Food Production: Buganda From late Eighteenth Century to 1997

George Katoto Ambindwile
George Katoto Ambindwile  |  Abstract
This study examines the relationships between market-driven rice farming and environmental changes in the Usangu Plains from 1945 to 2000. Before the 1940s, the area under investigation practised traditional peasantry agriculture mainly maize farming for subsistence that had its own unique environmental orientat ion and working. Equally significant, that system is said to have preserved environment as tradional ways of agriculture (fallow sytem, application of Ngobongo) happened to be enviromentally friendly. However, from about 1945 the agricultural system changed to rice commercial farming (with cash economy dominating) as a result of change of the British colonial agricultural policy after the Second World War. Along with this transformation, there were new forms of political authority, agronomic practices, and new patterns of mobility all of which affected the use of the Sangu environment. Thus, this project argues the development of market driven rice farming produced significant environmental changes in the Usangu Plains that manifested themselves in different phases between 1945 and 2000. The project draws on a critical reading of oral sources, archival records, and other forms of document to articulate the development rice production and its environmental impact in the study area.

Assistant Lecturer, History & Archaeology, University of Dar es Salaam  -  Market-Driven Rice Farming and Environmental Changes in the Usangu Plains-Tanzania, 1945 to 2000

Greg Orji Obiamalu
Greg Orji Obiamalu  |  Abstract
One of the major assumptions of the Universal Grammar (UG) is that languages differ structurally by some predefined parameter settings for the functional categories. In line with this assumption, this study examines the functional categories: Tense, Aspect, Negation and Determiner in Igbo, with a view to determining how they fit into the UG theory of functional categories. Previous studies in Igbo grammar are not agreed on the existence and nature of these functional categories in Igbo. This study adopts the Minimalist Program version of UG as a theoretical framework and seeks to answer the following questions. How are the categories of tense, aspect, negation and determiner morphologically marked in Igbo? In situations where they lack overt morphological marking, do we have any evidence to prove their null existence in Igbo? Are these categories in Igbo, heads of separate functional projections: TP, ASPP, NEGP and DP, as claimed in the theory? This investigation reveals some interesting features of Igbo and perhaps the features of many related African languages which strenghten or call for the modification of certain aspects of the UG theory.

Lecturer I, Linguistics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University  -  Aspects of the Morphosyntax of Igbo Functional Categories: A Minimalist Approach

Kayode Ayobami Atilade
Kayode Ayobami Atilade  |  Abstract
The question of home has been a central theme in contemporary African literature especially in the Maghrebian Francophone writings. The paradox of the African world as a recurring feature in postcolonial writings is conceptualized in the trope of home. Tahar Ben Jelloun is one writer whose novels encapsulate the concept of home. His novels have received tremendous critical attention but with little attention from the linguistic perspective. Since language in itself has capacity to communicate to the society, this work, using Critical Discourse Analysis as theoretical framework, examines the way he deploys linguistic tools to communicate his thematic preoccupation. It studies the way language is used to unveil ideologies and expose social anomies that problematize the notion of home in Jelloun’s novels. It observes that the characters’ conceptions of their home obviously reflect in their discourses as they denigrate everything it represents and long for alternative home away from home.

Lecturer II, Foreign Languages, Obafemi Awolowo University  -  Towards Deconstructing Home in Tahar Ben Jelloun's Novels: A Critical Discourse Analysis

Abayomi Oluseyi Ogunsanya
Abayomi Oluseyi Ogunsanya  |  Abstract
The study investigates the nexus of migration and place-making by focusing on the experiences of Hausa migrants living in or maintaining a semi-permanent residency in Sabo, Sagamu, Southwest Nigeria as traders, tanker drivers and in other diverse socio-economic capacities. It explores how these migrants deploy such media of communication as cell phones, digital TV, Hausa movies and transistor radio, and such public cultures as hira (a street side conversation group) and dangurama (a dance in nightclub-like setting) to create a sense of home in a ghettoised community that bears all the traces of a ‘diaspora’. The study demonstrates, a là Kiliçkiran (2003), that people who are physically separated from places they know as ‘home’ have a profound desire to re-create a home-place, and that both the public space and the private world of domestic space play a pivotal role in this. The study was based on an ethnographic fieldwork.

Doctoral Candidate, Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan  -  Hausa Migrants, Communication Strategies and Place-Making in Sabo, Sagamu, Southwest Nigeria

Salisu Bala
Salisu Bala  |  Abstract
Much has been written on the pre-colonial and colonial history of Hausaland and Zaria by several historians, but only a few studies document Sufism and the presence of the Tijaniyya Sufi order, as well as its rapid development within the area of study. The main thrust of this research is therefore to assess the origin, spread and development of the Tijaniyya Sufi order in Hausaland with particular reference to the ancient city of Zaria from 1835 to 1935. The Tijaniyya is one of the most widespread Islamic movements in contemporary Nigeria, commanding a following of many millions. Most importantly, however, the development of the Tijaniyya in Nigeria has had a profound impact on the intellectual history of the region, with the production of many works on different subjects like Islamic law, theology, Sufism, medicine, history, astrology etc. Most of these works are preserved in private and public manuscript collections, and they are yet to be studied. A second part of this research will therefore be devoted to unveil some of the scholarly works written in the 19th century by the Tijani scholars of Zaria city.

Program Coordinator, Nigeria Arabic Manuscript Project (Namp), History, Ahmadu Bello University  -  History of Origin, Spread and Development of Tijjaniyyah Sufi Order in Hausaland: Case Study of Zaria City Circa 1835 to 1935

Morufu Bukola Omigbule
Morufu Bukola Omigbule  |  Abstract
Oranfe, Itapa, Orisalase, Obameri, Orisakire and Oodua annual ritual festivals are re-enactment rites which have artistic merits but are yet to be focused by literary scholarship. The over-emphasis on the sacred nature of the selected ritual festivals and the place of prominence accorded Ile-Ife in history has partially lend some out of the selected festivals to religious and historical scholarships. The study undertakes the challenge of determining and appreciating the inherent artistic qualities of the selected festivals as their cultural significance continues to be threatened by the impacts of modernity. The mythic realities which are seen to be represented within the context of myth-ritual theorizing raise historical, religious and ethnographic questions in respect of the way Ile-Ife is often mythically constructed as the spiritual-cum-ancestral home of the Yoruba.

Assistant Lecturer, English, Obafemi Awolowo University  -  Representations of Mythic Realities in Selected Annual Ritual Festivals in Ile-Ife