The project IslHornAfr: Islam in the Horn of Africa, A Comparative Literary Approach has been conceived as a contribution to both African and Islamic studies, with the aim of producing a critical and comprehensive picture of the Islamic literary history of the Horn of Africa. The project has been funded by the European Research Council (Advanced Grant no. 322849) for the period 2013-2018.

The project is headed by the PI Alessandro Gori at the University of Copenhagen. The team is supported by several partners across Europe.

The project primarily aims to provide a pilot study of the Islamic history in Africa as it is reflected in the literary traditions of the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia). Texts (whether already available or collected during the course of the project) will be classified according to their genres, contents, titles, authors, places of creation, number of witnesses, distribution of witnesses, and linguistic and graphic peculiarities. Previously unknown and unpublished texts will be identified. Texts in Arabic will be considered alongside those written in local languages. Not only the local literary production but also locally copied texts of foreign origin will be considered. A re-evaluation of the external Islamic sources dealing with these areas will complete the picture.

Competences in philology, history, manuscript studies, linguistics and computer science will be merged in producing a Digital Research Environment for North-East African Islam. The XML-encoded relational database shall be dedicated to the works circulating among the Muslims in Africa and contain descriptions of texts and manuscripts as well as authors and places. An extensive bibliography and sample text editions shall additionally form basis for future research.

The main project objectives are:
  • expand the corpus of available texts in order to be able to produce a representative research;
  • create a growing database of African Islamic literature, African Islamic biography and African Islamic topography, furnishing thus the scientific community and students with an important tool for further research;
  • classify the texts according to their genres, contents, titles, authors, places of creation, number of witnesses, distribution of witnesses, linguistic and graphic peculiarities;
  • identify previously unknown texts and present them to the scientific community;
  • edit and publish the most important testimonies of theological and legal thought as well as examples of historiographic and hagiographic penmanship;
  • analyze the peculiarities of texts written in local languages;
  • conduct comparative research between the different subregions of the focus area;
  • conduct comparative research between the African “local” Islam and the “mainstream” Islamic tradition;
  • place the results into an Islamic traditional context following a survey of Islamic sources on the Horn of Africa;
  • increase the awareness of Islam in Africa for the scholarship, and the awareness of the value of local tradition in Africa itself, as well as contribute to the understanding of the processes of Islamization and their dependence of and effect upon local contexts.

New online: Project flyer

New online: First mission report and Second mission report