Pursuing our studies, we read and write. We proofread, amend comments, take texts to class and file them away. In religious studies and in many related disciplines, we also use texts as primary sources, analyze them, and relate their contents to other texts. However, texts are not only containers for information. As material objects, texts are treated in specific ways: texts are performed and enacted. Furthermore, texts – and religious texts in particular – have iconic value not because they represent something, but because they are something.

Studies about practices with written texts in Africa are scarce. Studies about phenomena in Africa have often placed emphasis on orality and orature in order to counter a perceived lack of literacy and literature. However, in this course we attend to practices with written texts in Africa. Through reading texts on textual practices, this course is designed to scrutinize delineations of “text,” “literacy,” “reading,” and other text-related concepts with recourse to performative and iconic aspects of primarily “religious” texts. Situating our own academic reading and research practices in relation to these conceptualizations is an important aspect.

This course provides space for theoretical explorations and thus requires active participation. The literature will be provided and must be read prior to each session. Depending on need, the language of instruction will be German or English.