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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

The Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa is a vibrant place of research and learning. What makes the Department unique in the UK is the close interaction between African language study and work on African cultural and literary studies, reflecting the general orientation of SOAS. A number of African languages – Amharic, Hausa, Swahili, Somali, Yoruba and Zulu – are regularly taught in the Department, but staff and student research covers a much wider range of languages. Across the Department there is prominent interest in African literature in all its manifestations – whether oral or written, and whether in African languages or metropolitan languages such as English and French. Poetry, song, dance, drama, and instrumental accompaniment are pivotal and frequently interlinked forms of cultural expression in Africa, and the dynamic relevance of some or all of these is evident in contemporary art forms such as film and other visual media, which also constitute an important part of the Department’s research and teaching expertise. The fact that artistic forms in Africa are often imbued with political, philosophical and/or religious significance means that research and teaching in the Department is profoundly interdisciplinary.

Staff are engaged in their own research and publish extensively, and also collectively edit the Journal of African Cultural Studies, which publishes groundbreaking and world-class research. Current staff research areas include orality and broadcast cultures in Africa; African language metrics and traditional poetry; African language dictionaries and reference grammar; Afrophone philosophy; contemporary African literature in English; travel writing and diaspora studies; and African film, video and film festivals. Teaching and research go hand-in-hand, and with around 40% of our students registered for postgraduate degrees, we encourage close links between staff and student research. Supervised work reflects staff interests and expertise, ranging from linguistic description to sociolinguistic issues in today’s Africa; from traditional literature in African languages to contemporary African writing in English; from text-based studies of traditional philosophy and religion to African aspects of worldwide religions; and from the history of African Cinema to the rise of contemporary video film industries across the continent.

Staff are also engaged in organising symposia, conferences, film festivals, and other events that help to create a dynamic and active research culture.


Africa Department, SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG