African Studies


Research Institutions and Competencies:

Excellence Initiative of the German Federal and State Governments:

The Africa research priority was established at the foundation of the University of Bayreuth in 1975. Today Bayreuth African Studies include teaching and research activities in 40 disciplines from the Humanities (Cultural and Social Sciences, Language and Literature Studies), Law, Economics and Natural Sciences (Biogeography, Ecology). This broad range and diversity of knowledge on Africa is unique at a single university, and cross-disciplinary research groups have been created from the very beginning. The collaboration of researchers in the same African region creates high synergy effects visible in common research and study programmes, including international Ph.D. programmes. Bayreuth African Studies benefit from the university’s selected stock of books and media on Africa, which is the second largest of its kind in Germany (155,000 volumes / media). These facilities have clearly contributed to Bayreuth’s high international reputation for Africa-related interdisciplinary expertise over the last 30 years.
Since 1990 the Institute of African Studies (IAS) has coordinated research and teaching of the Africa-related disciplines and launched new perspectives and projects. In addition, it offers annual funds for two visiting researchers from African universities. The IAS is also the publisher of the Newsletter of African Studies at Bayreuth University informing periodically on current projects and of three book series, two of them online.

Several scientific institutions belong to the IAS (the Iwalewa House, the Graduate School BIGSAS, and DEVA), while others are cooperating partners (e.g. ZENEB). The Iwalewa House of the University of Bayreuth was founded in 1981. It is devoted to contemporary African culture and arts. As a place of research, documentation, exhibitions and meetings with internationally renowned artists, the Iwalewa House transmits Africa-related knowledge to a wider public. The Centre for Natural Risks and Development Bayreuth (ZENEB, since 2001) connects environmental and cultural research on hazards and coping strategies in developing countries including issues specific to the African context.

Since 2006 and 2007, three sub-Saharan research projects have started with funding of the Volkswagen Stiftung programme “Knowledge for Tomorrow”. Researchers investigate on Sharia debates and their perception by Christians and Muslims in selected African countries, on the belief in the paranormal and occult in Western Africa, and on local strategies of conflict management in Guinea-Bissau. Since autumn 2007, Bayreuth African Studies has experienced a significant boost, when four new structures were established:

  • the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS)
  • the Tanzanian-German Centre for Postgraduate Studies in Law
  • the Digital Archive and Information System (DEVA)
  • the new International Summer Academy “Religion and Order in Africa”

BigSasThe Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS) is a centre of innovative Ph.D. training and research in Germany in the field of African studies. BIGSAS brings together excellent young African and non-African scholars to work jointly guided by a multidisciplinary mentorship. Additionally, BIGSAS creates an African Universities network where it develops new Ph.D. training structures in order to avoid an African brain drain. BIGSAS is funded during the first five years by the “Exzellenzinitiative des Bundes und der Länder”.

The Tanzanian-German Centre for Postgraduate Studies in Law was established in 2008 with DAAD funds at the Faculty of Law, University of Dar es Salaam. It offers to outstanding African students a postgraduate study programme in law (LL.M. and Ph.D.) conducted in close cooperation between the Universities of Dar es Salaam and Bayreuth. Creating an environment that is conducive to research and offers favourable conditions for international cooperation plays a special role in this programme, in addition to the promotion of future leaders in the field of law.

DEVA – the project for the digitalization, edition and availability of data of African Studies - started in 2007 with funding of the German Research Association DFG. DEVA will give scientists access to the collections of the Iwalewa House, and to data generated since 1984 during two Collaborative Research Programmes and a Research Training Group. Notes and documents of the first generation of Bayreuth African Studies researchers are also systematically archived. The international DAAD-Summer Academy “Religion and Order in Africa” will host every year ten scholarship-holders from Africa for an intensive four-week course. They will attend specific lectures in Anthropology, Social Sciences, Religious and Islamic Studies and programmes offered by the Iwalewa House. The Summer Academy complements perfectly the activities of the BIGSAS Graduate School.

The University of Bayreuth maintains contacts and continuous scientific exchange with 31 universities in 24 African countries – partly on the basis of partnership agreements. This exchange is beneficial to both sides. Scholars from Bayreuth supervise African Ph.D. students and Postdocs, invite African guest professors and teach at African universities, thus supporting young researchers in Africa. The academic cooperation also contributes to the development of research centres and to the scheduling of advanced degree programmes in Africa. The Institute of African Studies is co-founder of a European network of African Studies Institutes (Afro-European Group of International Studies, AEGIS). AEGIS includes nineteen renowned African institutes in twelve European countries cooperating to support common research projects and to strengthen the exchange of knowledge between Europe and Africa.

University of Bayreuth -