African Humanities Program Postdoctoral 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. Postdoctoral awards are listed below; also see dissertation completion awards.The program is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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


Kayode Ayobami Adeduntan
Kayode Ayobami Adeduntan  |  Abstract
Among the Yoruba, narrativity inheres not only in set forms like folktale and poetry, but also in informal dialogue and conversation. The culture’s definition of the world could be inferred from these narratives. Close observation yields a better understanding of the artistic exploitation of the African reality by novelists in the tradition identified as magical realism. Individual and comparative study of these narratives also demotes the traditional discourse that favours boundaries between such poles as good and evil, spirit and matter, and reality and fantasy. The power and currency of the narrative performance is best appreciated in the light of its adoption as entertainment series by the electronic media. Methodology adopted to elicit the data for the monograph includes participant observation, non-participant observation, and focus group discussion.

Adjunct Faculty, African Studies, University of Ibadan  -  Limen of the Actual and the Fabulous: Conceptual Blurs and Cross-Roads in Yoruba Narrative Performance

Heidi Hattingh
Heidi Hattingh  |  Abstract
This project investigates the impact of democracy, post-1994 elections, on the South African social documentary photography genre to determine whether emerging trends were aligned with Western trends within the genre during the ten-year period following these elections. A literature review of Western and South African social documentary photography provides context for the fieldwork component of the study, which will be based on in-depth qualitative interviews. The purpose of the interviews is to explore the personal experiences and motivations, the social and political agendas, and the cultural and aesthetic influences that contributed to the work of these photographers and their understanding of their own practice.

Adjunct Faculty, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University  -  The Impact of Democracy on the South African Social Documentary Photographer

Gbemisola Aderemi Adeoti
Gbemisola Aderemi Adeoti  |  Abstract
Imaginative literature in West Africa, like other parts of Africa, is a by-product of urbanisation. Many writers have depicted various dimensions of city life in their countries, through the genres of the novel, drama, poetry, and short story. They have grappled with the socio-political and economic conditions that exist in the cities, sometimes pitching the subalterns who live on the fringes of urban existence against the people of power. This is evident in the works of writers like Armah, Awoonor, Sutherland, Ekwensi, Achebe, Soyinka, Osofisan, Ousmane, Sowfall, and Sarif among others. This research focuses on the urban experience as captured in the postcolonial literature of West Africa. While considering the nature of politics that shape this experience, it contends that to understand the extent of postcolonial predicament, it is necessary to conceptually interrogate the cities. This is the crux of in-depth analyses of relevant primary texts in the research.

Adjunct Professor, English, Obafemi Awolowo University  -  Politics and the Urban Experience in Postcolonial West African Literature

Obafemi Jegede
Obafemi Jegede  |  Abstract
This project argues that African oath-takings in shrines are central to African spirituality and jurisprudence. It attempts a comparative study of Igbo and Yoruba religions. In doing this, the research employs the use of indigenous Afrocentric research methods to foster decolonization of research methodology. The study interrogates and identifies Sango, Ogun, and Ayelela shrines among the Yoruba of Southwest of Nigeria and Okija and Odo shrines of the Igbo in Southeast of Nigeria. It demonstrates that African cosmology and cosmogony strongly influences the nature of African jurisprudence, as well as concepts of morality, immorality, and legitimacy. From the result of this study, it is undisputable that shrines and oath-taking are integral features of Yoruba and Igbo religions, as they are of social, cultural, and spiritual significance.

Adjunct Faculty, Religious Studies, University of Ibadan  -  Oath-taking, Shrines and Jurisprudence in Yoruba and Igbo Religions of Nigeria

Oladiipo Jacob Ajiboye
Oladiipo Jacob Ajiboye  |  Abstract
This study focuses on the phonological work of Adetugbo (1967) and Akingube (1978), the morphological work of Fresco (1970), and Ajiboye's (2004) work on the distribution of the focus marker "ni" in relative clauses and WH-constructions in the Moba dialect, among others. The goal is to find out if an older stage in the morphosyntactic development of Yoruba corresponding to clear evidence of phonological archaism in the eastern area can be identified. It relies on the analysis of traditional texts to determine the full paradigms of tense, agreement, and other closed-class items such as complementizers and copulas.

Adjunct Faculty, Linguistics, African & Asian Studies, University of Lagos  -  A Morphosyntatic Account of Five Yoruba Dialects: Oyo, Ikale, Moba, Igbomina, and Owe

Sekibakiba Peter Lekgoathi
Sekibakiba Peter Lekgoathi  |  Abstract
This study uses both oral and archival evidence to examine the coming together of the Transvaal Ndebele in their quest for a separate homeland in the 1960s; the exclusion of the Northern Ndebele from KwaNdebele; and their incorporation into Lebowa and Bophuthatswana in the 1970s. It deals with the sudden demise of ethnic identification in the face of the intensification of the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s, and the rebirth of Northern Ndebele ethnic politics after apartheid. These developments are explored from the perspectives of the Northern Ndebele, whose history is grossly understudied and misunderstood. In apartheid South Africa, ethnicity was reified and elevated above other forms of identity besides race. Ethnicity was linked to state patronage, thus making it critical for Africans to identify themeselves as ethnic "citizens" in order to access limited political and economic resources.

Adjunct Faculty, History, University of Witwatersrand  -  Bantustans and Ethnicity: The Crystallization and Fragmentation of the Transvaal Ndebele during and after Apartheid

George Akanlig-Pare
George Akanlig-Pare  |  Abstract
The goal of this project is to produce a comprehensive documentation and description of the structure and function of tone in three relatively lesser known Gur languages spoken in Ghana, namely, Talni, Nabit, and Kusaal. Specifically, this project describes the types of lexical tones in these languages. Secondly, it describes the functions of these tones in the morphology and syntax of the languages. The project advances our understanding of how the speakers of these languages organize pitch into meaningful patterns and stimulates graduate research into tone studies. The main data for this project is pitch and pitch phenomena. To obtain these data, recording sessions are carried out using digital tape recorders and computers. The sessions are also recorded on video so that a visual record of articulatory gestures will be available during the analysis. The sample population includes older and young native speakers, male and female, literate and non-literate. This takes care of sociophonetic variations based on these categories within the languages. The data gathering involves elicitations using carrier frames and word lists, and naturally occurring and spontaneous speech, and is followed by an impressionistic analysis. In addition selected portions of the data are analyzed acoustically using computer software such as Praat in order to confirm our own impressionistic analysis.

Assistant Professor, Linguistics, University of Ghana  -  A Study of the Structure and Function of Tone in Three Relatively Lesser Known Gur Languages of Ghana

Leketi Makalela
Leketi Makalela  |  Abstract
This project investigates morpho-syntactic features of an emerging English variety spoken by speakers with indigenous African language backgrounds: Black South African English (BSAE). This variety has gained importance since the post-Apartheid socio-political dispensation that linguists predicted would influence the current English standard, which might need to be (re) standardized. Yet, very little is known about its morpho-syntactic features, their geographical spread, and the degree to which they are shared and understood across a wider spectrum of the educated Black population (institutionalized). This project fills this gap through a systematic account of morpho-syntactic features prototypical in BSAE, using descriptive and experimental designs to elicit reliable oral and written data from educated participants at selected sites in Limpopo Province. Categorical analysis, MANOVA, and aegression analyses will be employed. The project unearths fresh insights on the study of English and language development in Africa.

Adjunct Faculty, University of Limpopo  -  Morpho-syntactic Properties of Black South African English: An Investigation of Institutionalization Trends in Limpopo Province

Rose Mary Amenga-Etego
Rose Mary Amenga-Etego  |  Abstract
The phenomenon of witchcraft in Africa has been widely documented by social scientists and scholars of religion across the continent. Notable among these scholars are E. E. Evans-Pritchard, S. F. Nadel, R. S. Rattray, Meyer Fortes, Margaret Field, and Hans Debrunner. Nonetheless, the persistence of the phenomenon in the face of social change continues to present new and exciting dimensions, thus, regenerating newer interests and wider attention. Probing the religio-cultural roots of witchcraft is yet another attempt at understanding one of the enduring puzzles in life and community within a specific African context. Unlike earlier studies, this study examines the phenomenon from an African epistemological point of view, taking into consideration both theoretical and methodological dimensions on the study of the phenomenon from an African feminist perspective.

Faculty, Study of Religions, University of Ghana  -  Probing the Religio-Cultural Roots of Witchcraft: A Journey into the Mystical World of the Nankani

Munyaradzi Manyanga
Munyaradzi Manyanga  |  Abstract
This project explores the development of the pre-colonial societies in the semi-arid Shashi-Limpopo Basin of southern Africa. Archaeologically, the region is best known for the development of the Mapungubwe Cultural Complex. Through archaeological evidence, historical sources, and oral traditions, the project investigates the pre-colonial communities of the basin and how they interacted with the environment. The integration of new data with previous research conducted at the key sites of Mapungubwe and K2 in South Africa provides more keys to unravelling the story of the Mapungubwe Culture Complex. The project’s results include a consolidated database of sites, informed academic reports that should form the basis for future research, and a usable history for southern Africa.

Adjunct Faculty, Archaeology, University of Pretoria  -  Objects, Texts, and Narratives: Reconstruction of the Shashi-Limpopo Cultural Landscape in the Last 2000 Years

Nana Aba Appiah Amfo
Nana Aba Appiah Amfo  |  Abstract
The project examines the syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic nature of multi-clausal constructions with a focus on clausal conjunction in some major Kwa languages (Akan, Ewe, Dangme, Ga) spoken in Ghana. Topics of interest include: (1) the nature of the nexus of such multi-clausal constructions; (2) the nature of the marker used to link clauses (i.e., what it semantically encodes and how it interacts with features of the context to communicate the intended interpretation); and (3) the relationship between markers which function as multi-clausal linkers and general focus markers, since there is often a phonological similarity, or even identity, between these two markers. Ultimately the study intends to contribute to our understanding of the nature of these constructions in the languages in question and hopes to make a contribution to the ongoing theoretical discussion about the correct grammatical classification of different multi-clausal constructions.

Senior Lecturer, Linguistics, University of Ghana  -  A Typology of Multi-Clausal Constructions in Kwa

Aaron Mushengyezi
Aaron Mushengyezi  |  Abstract
This study documents three categories of oral texts for children—riddles, folktales, and rhymes—and discusses the procedures used to transcribe and translate the material into English. The material is analyzed based on close reading and content analysis. The study discusses their form and social relevance in the child culture in Uganda, and attempts to answer questions regarding transfer of oral elements to the page; for example, what choices ought to be made in the transcription and translation process? What are the challenges of achieving “transparency” when dealing with “untranscribable” and “untranslatable” elements of the oral text? The study presents the texts in the original languages and in English translation, and thereby open this fresh archive of material to further critical inquiry.

Associate Professor, Literature, Makerere University  -  Translating Ugandan Oral Literature for Children: Audience, Form, and Social Relevance

Joseph Arko
Joseph Arko  |  Abstract
The project focuses on how differently rural and urban communities transmit literacy to the young, and the extent to which school systems use the literacies of the local communities they serve. It involves data collection from two rural and two urban communities in the Cape Coast area, in two phases: the first characterised by the use of the ethnographic methodology, and the second by interactional sociolinguistic procedures. The data is categorised using ATLAS-ti5 to allow patterns of learning practices isolated at one stage to be configured with patterns isolated later in the research. Elements of social literacies theory (Street 1984) and social capital (Bourdieu 1989) are brought to bear on the analysis and used to interpret the data. This study generates frameworks for integrating vernacular literacies with school literacies, for the purpose of facilitating more robust transmission of the literacy practices obtained in school and mainstream global life.

, English, University of Cape Coast  -  School Literacies Vernacular Literacies of Ghanaian Rural Communities

Akachi Odoemene
Akachi Odoemene  |  Abstract
This project investigates and analyses the history, nature (theories, principles, ideologies, and philosophies), and practice of a largely unknown and neglected indigenious conflict management and peace-making mechanism among the Aladimma supgroup of the Igbo people. The study identifies the relevance of the Aladimma's innate qualities to the management of contemporary conflicts in Nigeria, and all of Africa, and through a thorough understanding of this indigenious, grassroots knowledge system, offers alternative model(s) for the management of African conflicts. The project is based on the hypothetical argument that Africa can still get on the pathway of sustained harmony and co-existence if its management strategies can re-focus on such previously abandoned indegenious systems of conflict management and peace-making like the Aladimma’s. It employ an eclectic framework of data collection, involving oral interviews, focus group discussions, archival materials, non-participant observation, and the use of secondary sources.

Lecturer, African History, University of Ibadan  -  Aladimma Indigenous Conflict Management and Peace-making Mechanism: Theory, Practice, and Prospects for Contemporary African Conflicts

Dominica Dipio
Dominica Dipio  |  Abstract
African cinema is principally premised on the framework of cinema as an instrument of education more than entertainment. The corpus of films investigated in this project includes feature films in sub-Saharan Africa that gained recognition in the 1960s. After the post-euphoric era of political independence of most African countries, African (film) artists saw themselves as responsible guardians of their new nations and viewed their artistic forms of expression not simply as popular forms of entertainment, or celebration of national myths, but as critical, political, and ideological instruments. Given this context, this research examines how issues related to gender and the position of women in African communities are represented by filmmakers, as part of the conscientization agenda, and what this reveals about gender relations in African communities.

, Literature, Makerere University  -  Gender Representation in African Film Narrative: A Feminist Critical Approach

David Olugbenga Ogungbile
David Olugbenga Ogungbile  |  Abstract
This project investigates indigenous festivals and celebrations as important elements in understanding how identity is defined, constructed, and reinforced among the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria. The Yoruba have several towns that are distinct from one another in terms of their migration origin, ancestral lineage and clan, and kingship institution. Each of these towns creates its own meaning in the wider Yoruba cosmos through festivals that are linked to myth, ritual, and religion. The study shows (1) how people celebrate their common unity through performance of festivals; (2) the relevance of festivals in contemporary multi-religious communities; and (3) how indigenious identity continues to be relevant in the face of modernity.

Adjunct Faculty, Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University  -  Cultural Memories, Performance, and Meanings in Indigenous Festivals and Celebrations among the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria

Godknows Eric Kofi Dorvlo
Godknows Eric Kofi Dorvlo  |  Abstract
The use of mother tongue as the medium of instruction for the first three years in schools in Ghana was the language policy long before independence. However, the challenge faced in minority language areas where a second language rather than a first language is employed as the medium of instruction has not been adequately addressed. This study investigates language use in the classroom in a minority language area, Logba, to ascertain the levels of comprehension of and performance in the lingua franca, Ewe, among the pupils in the first three years of primary school. These findings are compared to the situation of pupils in a monolingual Ewe community in Sokode. The goal is to determine whether the use of the second language is advantageous to the Logba children or not.

Adjunct Faculty, University of Ghana  -  Language Use In Education In Schools In Minority Language Areas - The Case of Logba

Imani Sanga
Imani Sanga  |  Abstract
Intercultural music exchange has always been a common practice in Tanzania. However, new international encounters and resulting intercultural influences between the West and the rest of the world since the nineteenth century have given rise to the politics of cultural imperialism and racial superiority/inferiority consciousness. Consequently, postcolonial subjects find themselves in ambivalent situations in which they are pulled by forces of nativism and those of cosmopolitanism. This study examines the relationship between the postcolonial condition, consciousness, and experience on the one hand; and aesthetics, practices, and politics of contemporary music in Tanzania, on the other. Using perspectives from postcolonial theory, Judith Butler's theory of performativity, and Henri Lefebvre's theory of spatial trialectics, the study examines the aesthetics of intercultural music and dynamics of music intercultural exchange as well as the role of music in negotiating gendered, sexual, religious, and class-based forms of subject constitution in postcolonial Tanzania.

Senior Lecturer, Fine and Performing Arts, University of Dar es Salaam  -  Music and Postcolonial Space: Aesthetics, Practices, and Politics of Contemporary Music in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Gertrude Fester
Gertrude Fester  |  Abstract
This study focuses on the forging and changing identities of women slaves and their roles and agency in the journey from slaves to citizens in the Cape, South Africa (1843 -2008). A group of slaves formed the St. Stephens church in 1843. In 1857 the Dutch Reformed Church initiated apartheid when their synod passed the ruling that whites and blacks could not jointly have Holy Communion. Yet in that same year, this slave congregation decided to join this White synod which, until 1994, marginalized them. In this highly fragmented, racial, social, political, and patriarchal environment, how did power dynamics play out? What was the role of women slaves in these power games? This project explores the social transformation within the microcosm of the congregation of St. Stephens and explores the agency, lives, and power of women within it, tracing the changing South African political scenario and women’s responses to them.

Associate Professor, Women and Gender Studies, University of the Western Cape  -  Creed, Culture, Colour – The Construction of Western Cape Women Slaves, South Africa (1843 to 2003)

Tracie Chima Utoh-Ezeajugh
Tracie Chima Utoh-Ezeajugh  |  Abstract
This project investigates uli as body design, and subsequently opens up new opportunities for re-imagining this traditional design idiom in contemporary artistic setting. The art of make-up in the theater has always been an indispensable factor in the communication of human experiences to an audience. To remain relevant, the African make-up artist must evolve practical options. Being home-grown, uli has the potential of being most suited to the African skin. This study investigates the potentials of uli as an alternative make-up material in contemporary African theater practice and fills the gap created by the noticeable dearth of relevant works in the area of make-up.

Adjunct Faculty, Theatre Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University  -  Harnessing Traditional Body Design Idioms for Contemporary Theatre Practice: The Igbo Uli Heritage

Ibrahim Haruna Hassan
Ibrahim Haruna Hassan  |  Abstract
The triumvirate Fodios (Shehu Uthman, Abdullahi, Bello) were the political, military, and intellectual leaders of a nineteenth-century versatile religious revolution which led to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate, the most territorially extensive and culturally complex polity in African history, which lasted a century and whose legacy still looms large in present day Nigeria. Their writings, probably the most prolific ever in Africa, covered many disciplines and issues aimed at spreading knowledge, principles, and values and at solving social problems of the decadent society they transformed. This work is an attempt at a systematic reconstruction and interpretation in modern terms of their thought and ideas in order to make them relevant for solving similar or new social problems in the contemporary world. The basis of their thought and policies lies in Islamic tradition, yet they successfully applied it to mobilize disparate and plural societies, bringing to reality a single territorially extensive, peaceful, harmonious society and developing various aspects of human endeavour before the intervention of colonialism. This work attempts to document their ideas, policies, and methods for teaching, for further research and for public policy in the contemporary times.

, Religious Studies, Nasarawa State University  -  The Thoughts of Sokoto Scholars on Development

Michael Wessels
Michael Wessels  |  Abstract
A combination of archival and field research and textual criticism are employed in analysis of a number of narratives from several Khoisan oral traditions from the southern African region in order to test the existing interpretative paradigms that have been applied to them. In the course of this process, the study demonstrates that comparative studies are useful in discovering common cultural and narrative patterns but fail to take the singularity and historicity of the different oral traditions sufficiently into account. It argues that the narratives should be treated as discourse and their interdiscursivity and intertextuality investigated within the context of specific signifying systems and contexts of performance. This discursive turn is consistent with several strands in postcolonial studies. Indigenous knowledge systems are allowed to talk back to a hegemonic intellectual tradition that seeks to classify them in terms of its own categories. This has the effect of disrupting the exclusive claim to truth of this intellectual tradition and highlighting the capacity that indigenous knowledge systems have to generate multiple meanings and to interpret the world and themselves.

Adjunct Faculty, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa  -  Interpretation of the Oral Narratives of the Xam Bushman and Other Southern African Khoisan Peoples