2016-17 Academic Year

Conference Series 2018-19

West Africa and the Maghreb


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Texts, Knowledge, and Practice

The Meaning of Scholarship in Muslim Africa

16-18 February 2017 | Sperry Room

Conveners : Ousmane Kane and Matthew Steele


Conference 2016-17



Sitting at the intersection of African, Islamic, and Middle Eastern studies, Islam in Africa has long suffered from a crisis of disciplinary identity. Neither strictly area nor solely religious studies, Islam in Africa has only recently received attention within the academy. The shift is overdue. Africa has influenced scholarship throughout the Islamic World for better than a millennium. With the spread of Arabic literacy, African scholars developed a rich tradition of debate over orthodoxy and meaning in Islam. The rise of such a tradition was hardly disconnected from centers of Islamic learning outside of Africa. From Mecca to Sind, African scholars have played significant roles in the development of virtually every field of Islamic sciences.

Islamic scholarship in Africa remains as significant today. By the end of the twentieth century, thousands of integrated curriculum schools and dozens of modern Islamic universities have redefined Islamic studies across sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of communications technology has reshaped Islamic scholarship still further. New representations of Islamic scholarship have formed across Africa through teaching websites, MP3s, and social media apps. The emergence of these new spaces, both physical and virtual, holds the potential for recasting notions of class, authority, canon, and orthodoxy common to the study of Islamic scholarship in Africa today.

Drawn from a variety of disciplines, including history, Islamic studies, anthropology, philosophy, religious studies, and political science, conference participants will explore six main themes. The first theme is: History, Movement and the Spread of Islamic Scholarship; the second: Courts, Colonialism, and Islamic Law in Africa, the third: Authors, Texts, and Islamic Scholarship; the fourth: Contemporary Expressions of Islamic Scholarship in Africa; the fifth: Vernacular in both text and Verse; and the sixth and last panel deals with Quranic education.


To watch conference videos,  click HERE.

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