SCOLMA Annual Conference 2020
Oun a ní la ń gbé l’árugẹ [i] –
(It is the heritage we have that we must celebrate):
Publishing, Collecting and Accessing African-language Materials
Monday 8 June, 2020
SALT, Paul Webley Wing, SOAS, University of London
Call for Papers
The question of writing in African languages has frequently been a matter of debate and contestation in recent times. Today, English, French and Portuguese remain the official languages of most countries of Africa south of the Sahara, and most publishing appears in these languages.
Nevertheless, books and newspapers continue to be published in many African languages, albeit often in small numbers. New initiatives such as the Jalada Translation Project are actively promoting writing in this area. African languages also flourish in many other formats – and have done so historically – whether (for example) as manuscripts, ephemera, or audio-visual forms from cassette tapes and radio programmes to YouTube films.
The 2020 SCOLMA conference will take up these issues by looking at producing, collecting, accessing, researching and preserving African-language materials.
One set of concerns for the conference are those relating to production and publishing. What is the current state of publishing of African-language books, periodicals and newspapers – and what is its history? What other formats have been vibrant in the past, and what forms are emerging today?
More generally, what forms of creativity and innovation are encouraging the production of works in African languages, and which have been successful in doing so in the past? What is the role of government policy, and of school and university education, in encouraging writing and creativity in these languages? What can we learn from the creation of literary and other works in major languages such as KiSwahili or Yoruba? For endangered languages, does publication or the creation of new work play a role in revival?
Related to this is the question of new technology, which provides new platforms and possibilities of connection, as well as enabling written communication in non-roman scripts. Is this technology making a significant difference to the future of publishing and the making of creative works in African languages? Is it a game-changer?
Libraries and archives (in Africa, the UK and internationally) tasked with collecting and preserving African-language materials are faced with specific challenges – not least the multifariousness of formats, and the fragmented nature of the book trade in Africa. What sort of historic collections do these institutions have? How and to what extent are they currently collecting printed books, and material in other formats, in African languages? How are they responding to emerging formats? How are they dealing with the linguistic challenges of processing such material? In addition to academic and national libraries, do school, college and public libraries have significant collections in this area?
Access to these collections is crucial, in particular, for mother-tongue speakers of these languages. How do potential users find out what we have, and how do libraries and archives enable access to these collections? Do current cataloguing standards and practices offer sufficient support to catalogue users? How are these collections being used by language learners and non-mother tongue speakers? How are libraries and archives outside Africa working to engage diaspora audiences, and partner with African colleagues? How are libraries in Africa promoting these materials and encouraging their use? What is happening in the field of digitisation?
Papers covering all African languages (including Afrikaans and Pidgins), as well as Arabic, are within scope for this conference. Papers looking at the issues above in relation to non-roman scripts are also welcomed.
Papers should relate to questions of publishing/producing works in African languages, and collecting, accessing, researching and preserving such materials. We are not looking for papers on more general themes relating to African languages.
How to submit an abstract
Librarians, archivists, researchers, teachers and students are invited to submit abstracts on these themes of up to 350 words, together with a short bio (one paragraph only), including current affiliation (where applicable). Please send this information to Sarah Rhodes (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 03 February 2020.
Scolma is the UK libraries and archives group on Africa. Unfortunately, SCOLMA is not able to offer funding for travel expenses for the conference.
Please find more information on SCOLMA’s homepage and via this link.
[i] Yoruba proverb