African Studies PhD Scholarship (Arabic Sources for West African History, West African Manuscripts in the British Library)
The Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham (incorporating the Centre of West African
Studies) and the British Library are pleased to announce a three-year scholarship for students commencing their MPhil/PhD in
African Studies in January 2014. The scholarship is attached to an AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership awarded to the
British Library for research and cataloguing related to its collection of West African Arabic manuscripts and its forthcoming
exhibition: ‘West Africa: Cultures of the Word’. The successful applicant will receive (at UK/EU rate) full tuition fees and
maintenance funding (£13,726 for 2013/14, increasing annually), plus associated expenses (£550 yearly maintenance payment from
AHRC; up to £1,000 per annum from the British Library to cover travel
and related costs).
The doctoral project
The successful applicant will be expected to pursue doctoral research on West African history with a focus on the Central Sahel
region (Hausa, Tuareg, Fulani, and Kanuri languages/societies). While several possible lines of investigation could be pursued, a
critical study of sources produced in the 18th, 19th, or early 20th century has the potential to shed light on the Islamic pluralism that
characterises this region.
This opens up a wide field of enquiry. We welcome proposals focusing on any aspect of the social, political, religious, or economic
history of the Central Sahel, based also on a critical analysis of relevant Arabic sources. Part of the student’s research will
concentrate on the study of Arabic sources from the British Library’s West African manuscripts and, possibly, archival collections in
Niger and Nigeria.
Supervision arrangements and professional experience
This studentship offers a collaborative supervisory team that brings together two specialists from the University of Birmingham, Dr
Benedetta Rossi, Lecturer in West African Studies, and Dr Anissa Daoudi, Arabic Language Coordinator at the Centre of Modern
Languages, with the Curator for African Studies at the British Library, Dr Marion Wallace. The selected applicant will profit from the
resources and networks of both partner institutions, becoming a full participant in the lively African Studies research community at
Birmingham, while also gaining first-hand professional experience of curatorial work at the British Library in London, including
cataloguing and exhibitions work, and possibly making video/audio recordings in West Africa.
The student will be allocated office space in the Library and be able to participate in the Library's rich programme of public events,
study days and student seminars, and to disseminate their research findings to academic and non-academic audiences.
In the longer term, the blend of academic research and curatorial work should considerably enhance employment-related skills,
while inspiring a project with considerable potential for knowledge exchange and public impact.
While supervision and training in Arabic language will be available at the Department of Modern Languages (Arabic division) of the
University of Birmingham, a minimum qualification for the successful candidate will be proficiency in reading Arabic.
Applicants should provide copies of language certificates or other proof of having received training in Arabic (preferably Classical
Arabic) with their application. Interest or expertise in relevant disciplines, for example the history or anthropology of West Africa,
or knowledge of West African languages and/or French, will also be an asset.
Applicants must be UK or EU residents and meet the normal entry requirements for the MPhil/PhD in African Studies
How to apply
To be considered for the African Studies PhD Scholarship, prospective applicants are invited to send a covering letter, cv, research
proposal of no more than 2000 words, and full contact information of two referees (including e-mail address) to Sheena Robertson
( firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday 21st June 2013. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed via Skype and/or in person at the
University of Birmingham, and may be asked to take an Arabic language test. Interviews will take place in the first half of July.
PLEASE NOTE that, to be eligible for the full award (fees and maintenance), applicants must fulfil the AHRC’s residency criteria.
1. be settled in the UK (e.g. with permanent residence, indefinite leave to remain or refugee status);
2. have been resident in the UK for the last three years (and the primary reason for residence must not have been educational).
Applicants resident in the European Union may be eligible for a fees-only award.
For more information see http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/StudentFunding-Guide.pdf, Annex A.
Further information is provided below.
For questions, inquiries, or an informal discussion please contact Dr. Benedetta Rossi email@example.com or Dr. Marion Wallace
Marion.Wallace@bl.uk (who can also provide further information about the BL exhibition).
PhD Scholarship in African Studies at the University of Birmingham:
1. The British Library’s West African manuscripts
The British Library holds at least thirteen volumes of West African manuscripts, and these are at the core of this collaborative
doctoral partnership. One of the student’s primary tasks will be to identify, research and produce metadata for all these
manuscripts, but with a focus on those relating to the Central Sahel region. The manuscripts mainly date from the nineteenth
century and include some Qur’ans as well as devotional works, poetry, popular literature and manuals on magic, talismans and
amulets; much of their content has not yet been identified.
2. The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP)
The EAP (http://eap.bl.uk), which is based at the British Library, funds the preservation of the archives of pre-industrial societies all
over the world. For preservation purposes, digital copies are created, and these are normally made available on the EAP website.
This PhD studentship offers an opportunity (depending on the student’s interests and discussions with the supervisors) to work on
digitised EAP collections. Those of particular interest to this project may be:
- EAP 387 – Nigerian ajami poetry mss in Fulfulde
- EAP 087 – Arabic manuscripts at the Kano State History and Culture Bureau (included in a broader collection)
- EAP 535 – Arabic and Hausa ms material in National Archives, Kaduna, Nigeria
3. PhD outline proposal
Information on the original proposal can be found at
(Please note, however, that the geographic focus of the studentship now offered is the Central Sahel region.)