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Swahili Libraries and Indigenous Heritage


Admission requirements



Contrary to the idea of ‘restricted literacies’ in the African continent, thirst for knowledge has forged the making of libraries in several parts of Africa. This course invites to reflect critically on the notion of what a library is and stores, the intrinsic value and knowledge embedded in it and why this physical space must be studied as an important hub in the making of social and intellectual practice within a given local cultural heritage. Attention will be dedicated to Swahili libraries containing hand-written, printed and/or oral-aural materials, stored in private or public collections in East Africa, Europe or elsewhere. Investigations into specific local libraries through virtual or in-person tours, digital sources and related literature will frame the course theoretically and empirically. The study on specific case studies will enhance to critically engage with debates and tensions around the call to ‘decolonize the library/curriculum/university’.

Course objectives

  • To understand the process of the constitution of Swahili collections as a habit and practice

  • To acquire skills to access and survey libraries and collections, physically and digitally

  • To familiarize with indigenous knowledge and knowledge production

  • To develop a multidisciplinary view on textual cultures and practices

  • To enhance new research in Swahili modern cultural heritage and conservation programs


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

Internship is also possible

Assessment method

Take home examination/ assignment 70%
Active participation/ cooperation in class 20%
Abstract, oral presentation 10%
To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following: the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


There is one opportunity for a resit of the entire course (100%). The resit make-up will be arranged upon agreement between the student and the teacher.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The syllabus will be provided at the beginning of the course. Literature will be grouped thematically and must be studied before each meeting. See preliminary list below:

Allen, J. (1970). The Swahili and Arabic manuscripts and tapes in the library of the University College Dar-es-Salaam. Brill.
Eisenberg, A. (2022). Andrew Eisenberg's Collection of East African Commercial Sound Recordings at NYU Abu Dhabi
Bang, A. (2015). “Localising Islamic knowledge: acquisition and copying of the Riyadha Mosque manuscript collection in Lamu, Kenya.” In Kominko, M. (ed.) From Dust to Digital
Bang, A. (2019). “Preserving pious print - the Maalim Muhammad Idris Collection, Zanzibar.”
Baschiera, A. 2005. “The Swahili Manuscripts Project at SOAS, 2000-2004.” African Research and Documentation 99, pp. 37-43.
Baschiera, A. 2020. “Time to address repatriation of SOAS Swahili manuscripts”
Jeppie, S. (2016). “Calligraphic Africa. Notes toward the Location of Philology in Africa”, Philological Encounters 1, pp. 199-224.
Mutonga, S. and Okune, A. (2022). “Re-membering Kenya: Building Library Infrastructures as Decolonial Practice.” In Crilly, J. and Everitt, R. Narrative Expansions. Interpreting Decolonisation in Academic Libraries.
Raia, A. (2022). “Seeking ʿilm on Lamu:Ustadh Mau’s Library and Services for the Benefit of His Community.” In Ustadh Mau, A. Raia and C. Vierke In This Fragile World. Swahili Poetry of Commitment by Ustadh Mahmoud Mau. Brill.
Samsom, R. (2014). “Swahili manuscripts: Looking in East African collections for Swahili manuscripts in Arabic script.” In H. Vögele, U. Reuster-Jahn, R. Kastenholz & L. Diegner (Eds.), From the Tana River to Lake Chad. Research in oratures aliteratures. In memoriam Thomas Geider (pp. 243–284). Köppe.
Samsom, R. (2015). The dissolved collection of Sheikh Aliy Hemed Abdallah al-Buhriy (1889–1957). Islamic Africa, 6(1–2), 201–208.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Reuvensplaats


If you are interested to know more about internships possiblities, read here