SOAS University of London

ERC PhD studentship: Literature in the Horn of Africa

6 March 2017

The scholarship is offered as part of MULOSIGE (Multilingual Locals and Significant Geographies: For a New Approach to World Literature), a European Research Council-funded research project led by Professor Francesca Orsini, Chair of the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS). MULOSIGE explores the numerous, often fractured, and non-overlapping worlds of literature, and studies world literature from the perspective of multilingual societies. The project aims to develop a multilingual approach to literary history, comparing the cases of North India, the Maghreb, and the Horn of Africa at three historical “moments”: the pre-colonial and colonial periods, decolonisation, and the last twenty years, when the idea of world literature has gained new intellectual and popular traction.

PhD studentship: literature in the Horn of Africa (Supervisor: Martin Orwin)

The Horn of Africa case study will examine the history of literary production, circulation and reception in multilingual Horn of Africa. The main focus will be Ethiopia and Ethiopian languages, but candidates working on Eritrea, Somalia and/or Djibouti will also be considered, particularly if their research project has a strong comparative dimension. The PhD research may focus on any period within the project’s timeframe, which spans from the mid-19th century to the present day.

The PhD student will have a background in literary, historical, philosophical or cultural studies, and will be familiar with the intellectual and aesthetic traditions, whether oral or written of Ethiopia/the Horn. They will have to be able to read literary texts in Amharic and ideally another language of the Horn of Africa, preferably Geez, Oromo, Tigrinya or Somali.

The PhD project may explore the “significant geographies” (imaginative and real) and “multilingual local” (Orsini 2015) of the literary traditions of the Horn and their co-constitution with African, Middle Eastern and/or European traditions. Possible topics may include: intellectuals who operated in more than one language; the history of translations from one language to another; the various forms of exchange and interaction between different language traditions; or the interface between orature and written texts. The project may focus on a single author, a set of authors, or trace the history of one or more genres, such as, for written literature, the history of the novel, theatre or poetry, and, for oral literature, praise poetry, war songs, or folktales. It may also compare, for example, the development of the novel in two or more language-traditions. Research projects able to contextualise literary texts within the broader intellectual history of Ethiopia/the Horn are particularly encouraged. From this point of view, applicants may propose to study the role of language in the development of cultural infrastructures such as schools and newspapers; the history of a specific institution (a theatre, a library, a publishing house); the relationship between artists, the state and governmental language policies; the history of specific platforms (such as literary magazines or literary associations) which championed interlingual and interliterary contacts; the history of a specific “multilingual local” (like a city); or a history of intellectual debates and discussions surrounding issues of literature, arts and multilingualism.

Further information

For further information about the criteria, requirements, assessments and applications visit Scholarships page.

Deadline for applications is 17:00 on 30 March 2017.

For further information, contact:

For more information please contact Dr Sara Marzagora at