Botswana collection of the DGFB now fully accessible

The “Deutsche Gesellschaft der Freunde Botswanas” has donated its library to the Africa Special Collection at Frankfurt University Library. Members of this German Association of the friends of Botswana are dispersed all over Germany. The central position of the city of Frankfurt provides easy access for all of them. Additionally, the rich collections on sub-saharan Africa  seemed to be the right context:  In 2012 more than 250 titles collected by the members found their lasting home directly beside many volumes of modern research literature on Botswana and more titles bought locally in Botswana. Now in 2016 all of the material has been catalogued and indexed by subject.

AIDSpamphletsIMG_20160706_131148 HeritagePamphletsIMG_20160706_130918








According to the members of the association the focus subjects covered are

  • books and pamphlets on HIV/AIDS
  • politics
  • government publications including statistics and development plans
  • tourism and heritage







Access to the Botswana titles:

  1. To explore the donation of the “Deutsche Gesellschaft der Freunde Botswanas” a local key in the online catalogue allows to restrict the search to this special collection.
  2. To include any other titles on Botswana available at Frankfurt University Library use the subject indexing in the online catalogue.
  3. Find Botswana related literature in other important European libraries through ilissAfrica.

Sources on German Colonial History online

Frankfurt University Library digitized some of the books and journals originally collected by the German Colonial Society (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft). The journals Deutsche Kolonialzeitung, Amtlicher Anzeiger für Deutsch-Ostafrika, Amtsblatt für das Schutzgebiet Deutsch-Südwestafrika, Amtsblatt für das Schutzgebiet Kamerun, Amtsblatt für das Schutzgebiet Togo and several books including even a colonial cook-book are available online.

Administration & everyday life in German colonies

DKZAt the beginning of 2016 we could acquire digital black-and-white copies of

some official gazettes, like

and some more important historical sources like

German colonialism in books and images

SchwabeTogoSf17-44-afterpage24Additionally, some deluxe editions containing several images also in colour have been digitized:

Some older accounts are documents of the pre-colonial and general history of colonialism:

  • Caput bonae spei hodiernum : das ist: vollständige Beschreibung des Afrikanischen Vorgebürges der Guten Hofnung von Peter Kolben (1719)
  • 3. Afrika, Die Länder und Völker der Erde oder vollständige Beschreibung aller fünf Erdtheile und deren Bewohner von Johann Andreas Christian Löhr, Leipzig (3rd edition 1819)

    Die Länder und Völker der Erde oder vollständige Beschreibung aller fünf Erdtheile und deren Bewohner, Teil 3. Afrika / Johann Andreas Christian Löhr, 3., nach dem jetztigen politischen Stand der Dinge neu umgearb. Aufl., Leipzig : Fleischer, 1819, before page 269

    Die Länder und Völker der Erde oder vollständige Beschreibung aller fünf Erdtheile und deren Bewohner, Teil 3. Afrika / Johann Andreas Christian Löhr, 3., nach dem jetztigen politischen Stand der Dinge neu umgearb. Aufl., Leipzig : Fleischer, 1819, before page 269

Some of the works inter-relate with the Colonial Picture Archive:

  • WohltmannSq17-99-page14120 Kultur- und Vegetations-Bilder aus unseren deutschen Kolonien von Ferdinand Wohltmann (1904) shows images also available in the image archive. The caption below the pictures in the book offer much more detailed information than the meta-data in the Colonial Picture Archive, e.g. the image on page 14 shows the “Theobroma Cacao Linné” and explain details of cacao farming: “Man pflanzt ihn in Kamerun im Verband von 5×5 oder 5×4 oder 4×4 Meter und hat demnach 400 bezw. 500 bezw. 625 Bäumchen auf 1 Hektar.”

Further individual works were digitized in lower quality during the course of the preparation for interlibrary loans. Finally, the Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon by Heinrich Schnee (1920) has been completely digitized. This invaluable contemporary source – published in 1914 and 1920 respectively by the Governor of German East Africa – is full-text searchable and the index words are linked by hypertext (click on “Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon 1920” at the website of picture archive).

The Special Collection

During the second half of the 19th century numerous societies arose that concerned themselves with caring for German emigrants, and spreading of colonial ideas. The colonial library consists of the libraries of several colonial societies. The most important was the “German Colonial Society” (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft, DKG) founded in 1887. For their propaganda activities its members collected not only books (ca. 18,000) and journals, but also more than 50,000 photographs (mainly lantern slides), which were used to illustrate their publicity lectures in Germany. The Colonial Picture Archive is already online since 2004, and includes also the collection of photographs, photo albums and postcards owned by the Sam Cohen Library, Swakopmund, Namibia.

The special collection “Colonial Library” with the signatures S 17, Sq 17, and Sf 17, stemming mainly from the library of the German Colonial Society and the Imperial Colonial Office, is completely listed in the Online Catalogue and can be searched by means of the original subject classification. In addition, the catalogue of the Colonial Library is available online as a PDF file: Volume 1 contains the alphabetical division and Volume 2 the division according to the arrangement of the catalogue of the German Colonial Society library.

The books in the collection suffer a lot of acid deterioration (see an example). Therefore usage of the books is restricted to the special reading room.

Please note: Due to German copyright restrictions and other contractual obligations some of the digitized works can only be accessed at the premises of Frankfurt University library.

Specialised Information Service for the African Studies in Germany granted

africa_colored__frankfurtULFrankfurt University Library is most happy to continue its special collection on Africa in the new era of the “Specialised Information Services” funding programme.

In 2014 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Special Subject Collection “Africa South of the Sahara” funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). In the last three years the nationwide co-operative acquisition scheme in Germany has been restructered. This december the DFG accepted the proposal to set up a Specialised Information Service for the African Studies from 2016 onwards.

The Specialised Information Service (SIS) will support a broad range of academic disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and cultural studies. Academics working in this field are represented by the German African Studies Association (Vereinigung für Afrikawissenschaften in Deutschland e.V.).

The first main task is to co-ordinate the relevant institutions providing information on African studies in Germany (libraries, archives, research collections, …) in order to develop a sustainable information infrastructure adhering to international professional standards. In close cooperation with the German ASA the project will give an overview about the expertise scattered amongst a multitude of institutions and bring these different knowledge centers together in workshops. The SIS will advise especially smaller departmental libraries e.g. in the fields of Open Access, scientific data and information literacy.

CoverCollageFIDThe second main purpose is to acquire research literature published in Africa. Local academic debates and lots of empirical data are published by local publishers in printed books or in academic journals edited by small university departments. The academic community in Germany aims to undertake research on an equal footing with African scholars. Therefore it is necessary to get access to local academic publications published in Africa. Due to the difficult acquisition this literature is not available at every institution in the same scope and in the same quantity. Finally, the SIS helps to balance the unequal presence of African research output in the sciences dominated by the Anglo-American research community.

More information by the DFG:

dfg_logo vad_logo

Guide on “Writing in African Studies Journals” (2015 edition)

Quick overview about writing in African Studies Journals with main requirements, tips on writing and selecting the right journal. This guide puts together some information of two African Studies Journals Round Tables that had been organized at the Sixth European Conference on African Studies (ECAS 6) in Paris (8-10 July 2015). The first edition of this blog post was published in 2011 and revised in 2013 in the aftermath of ECAS 4 in Uppsala and ECAS 5 in Lisbon (see credits below). The video of the 2013 panel is available on YouTube.

HandyFotoCollageJournalCoverIMG_20150702_120343Main points of requirements

  • originality = based on original data, fieldwork or offering at least a new view on a country (ask the “so what”-question)
  • clear structure = making one argument
  • significance = relevance of the contribution, engage with broader debates
  • (a research article should be around 8.000 words sticking to the author guidelines of the respective journal)
  • do not send in a chapter of a thesis, an article is a “stand-alone piece” (Lindsay Whitfield, African Affairs)
  • pick the journal first => to know your audience and the “house styles”  (e.g. if a long introduction is required or not)
  • expect revisions & embrace criticism (this is just normal)

How to write an exciting article

  • make people want to read your article = tell something interesting
  • gap filling is not enough, it should be an original contribution with empiric data  and a fresh way of using the data
  • give readers a nice journey, make it readable in style and structure; transitions between chapters should be smooth, guide the reader through
  • a literature review is not enough, wait until your work is done
  • avoid too much of disciplinary jargon, other people must can understand it as well
  • one article should present only one idea/argument (not two or three)
  • cite only literature which is used and is necessary for the argument (not too much)
  • not too much quotes, even if they are exiting, and any quote has to be interpreted
  • the exiting argument should not be presented at the end of the article
  • choose titles carefully (see the LSE blogpost by Patrick Dunleavy)
  • get someone else (e.g. supervisor) to read it before submitting it

How to choose the right journal

  • consider the covered region
  • consider the covered disciplines
  • consider the general focus
  • consider to publish in a disciplinary journal, not an African Studies journal
  • consider the turnover time between submission and publishing
  • have a look at the journals website, its mission statement and to some of the already published articles to get a feeling of the targeted audiences, the style, the way arguments are made and the profile
  • consider to publish in a journal in which articles appeared, that are cited by you
  • some journals are more open to younger scholars than others (e.g. Afrika Focus, Politique Africaine, ROAPE) and the acceptance rate is different (e.g. JAH 30 % or JMAS 15 % )

Some examples (with links to their guidelines for authors)

  • African Affairs: focus on contemporary Africa, political events; social sciences; case studies have to have wide implications; no special issues; attached to ASA UK
  • Africa (IAI): all regions and disciplines covered; articles need a broad “ethnographic approach”, with experience on the ground, must affect people; have a new strand publishing articles from ‘African local intellectuals’; articles can be submitted in French and Portuguese as well but will be published in English
  • Africa Spectrum: Open Access; focus on social sciences, but all disciplines are covered; all English policy
  • Afrique Contemporaine: focus on contemporary African dynamics; pushing frontiers of the disciplines; work with the author to make the work interdisciplinary; push authors to use maps, photographs.
  • Afrika Focus: Open Access; multidisciplinary; special issues; promote young African scholars; have also reports; publish in English and French; all submitted content (e.g. photos) should be available for open access.
  • The Journal of African History: eminent on all periods of history, oldest, try to have a balance between younger and more established scholars
  • Cahiers d’etudes africaines: focus on anthropology and history (founded by G. Balandier 1960), have special issues.
  • Critical African Studies: no regional or disciplinary boundaries; keen on critical debate, theoretical & empirical innovations, esp. coming from Africa-based scholars; some flexibility on article length beyond usual limits; driven by special issues; want to push new debates
  • Journal of Modern African Studies:  bias to politics but focus on longer term perspectives (not current affairs); papers should contribute to the understanding of modern Africa and be of interest in five years still; papers should be understandable by non-specialists
  • Journal of Southern African Studies: focus on long-term impact; boundaries of “Southern Africa” are flexible; 4 issues with 11-15 articles (big); less keen on economics; each paper is discussed with the advisory board; sponsors conferences; work with authors very much (could this become a good paper?)
  • Nordic Journal of African Studies: Open Access, purely online; focus on language; will have a new editorial board soon
  • Politique Africaine: focus on the contemporary Africa and sociopolitical studies from below; mainly in French but also in English (papers can be submitted in other languages as well); has always a special issues (dossier); calls for papers on these special issues are announced on the website regularly; they like “book debates” (three reviews plus answer by the book author).
  • Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE): interdisciplinary, focus on radical perspectives/materialist analysis/struggles from below (against inequality, oppression, …)
  • African Studies Review: US-based, closely related to ASA US; interdisciplinary
  • Beside the journals mentioned above exist a lot of more journals on African Studies world wide:
    see the list of African Studies Journals at ilissAfrica.

How the selection process works

  • After a paper is submitted to a journal, the editor will do an initial check: does the paper fits to the journal, to the basic standards (length, …) and has it the potential to become a good paper?
  • Then it is sent to two plus x reviewers (can be from the board or external). They send in comments.
  • The editor makes a synthesis and send it to the author with a clear advice. A process of revision starts and at the end the article is published. Take the time to revise, the quality is much more important than the speed of publication.
  • Note: 99% of the articles have to be revised according to the comments made by the reviewers.
  • Stay loyal to the review process, do not switch to a different journal without telling the journal editors of the first attempt.

Open Access & Self-archiving

  • Most of the journals are offering an Open Access model, some like Africa Spectrum and Afrika Focus are Open Access without an author’s fee, others like JSAS offer the possibility to make articles Open Access paying an author’s fee once.
  • Most of the publishers allow the authors to make the article or a simpler text-version available on institutional repositories after a delay (e.g. African Affairs: 24 months after first online publication in the journal). See the  SHERPA/RoMEO list to find out, what the individual journal publishers conditions are.
  • Unfortunately there are Open Access Journals that are better to be avoided.

Guides by Journals & Publishers

  • The journal “African Affairs” provides very useful general guidelines with many aspects important to any journal article.
  • Taylor & Francis provides many “Tips for publishing your research“, also with chapters on “Understanding journal metrics: the impact factor” and “Open Access”.
  • AuthorAID (based at INASP) supports especially developing country researchers in publishing their work with resources, events, e-learning tools etc.
  • Guide for African Authors” by Emerald

Writing Workshops, Scholarships & Prizes

  • Afrika Focus, JAH, JSAS, Politique Africaine all offer workshops e.g. in Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, but also in Germany, France, …
  • JSAS offers an annual Terence Ranger prize for emergent scholars who have written their first article in JSAS. Africa Spectrum has a Young African Scholar Award. Politique Africaine has a new initiative to support 20 PhD students for three years with winter schools. ROAPE e.g. has a fund for African scholars based in Africa, offers writings workshops and internships for two PhD students to attend the editorial working group. Has an annual Ruth First Prize for the best article by an African-based author published in ROAPE.
  • Often writing workshops are offered at the conferences of African Studies Associations, e.g. a “Early Career Scholars Writing Workshop” at ASAUK or a workshop “How to write, review and publish a scientific paper” at ECAS 2013 in Lisbon. Some are announced at Africa Desk.


  • African Studies Journals Round Tables “Promoting Young Scholars” & “Promoting Interdisciplinary Approach” at the 6th European Conference on African Studies on the 8th of July 2015 in Paris.
  • Writing in African Studies Journals: what, how, and where?” at the 5th European Conference on African Studies on the 29th of June 2013 in Lisbon chaired and introduced by David Pratten, Oxford University. The video of this panel now is available on YouTube.
  • “Writing in African Studies Journals: what, how, and where?” at the 4th European Conference on African Studies on the 16th of June 2011 in Uppsala chaired by Andreas Mehler, GIGA Hamburg. The general introduction came from Sara Rich Dorman, African Affairs.
  • My thanks go to all the panelists and convenors.

50 years DFG-funded Special Collection “Africa South of the Sahara” (1964-2014) at Frankfurt University Library

Since 1964 Frankfurt University Library (at that time called “City and University Library”) is in charge of the Special Subject Collection 6.31 “Africa South of the Sahara” in a co-operative acquisition scheme funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). Some 20 German university, state and special libraries cover more than 100 academic disciplines and regions. The aim is to acquire at least one copy of every relevant book for a German library. Nationwide access is guaranteed via interlibrary loan. With more than 210,000 volumes, “Africa South of the Sahara” is the largest collection on sub-Saharan Africa in Germany and one of the top collections in Europe.


Between 1964 and 2014 the funding of the DFG allowed to collect continuously books, journals and other materials published in African countries with the help of local vendors, on acquisition trips, and with the help, e.g., of the Library of Congress Nairobi Office and the Goethe-Institut. In 1970 the DFG sponsored 32000 DM to acquire 1077 volumes, in the 1980s and 1990s the DFG-part raised up to 100000 DM allowing to add on average around 3000 books a year to the collection. In 2014 the DFG-budget exceeded 100000 EUR. The library in Frankfurt added the necessary own contribution and especially the funds for staff and space. These numbers demonstrate the strong continuity in funding and collection building.

Additionally, it was possible to develop and maintain bibliographic and current awareness services in a broad sense and to adapt these services to the general technical development: e.g. from the printed “Current Contents Africa” (1975-1993) to the “Online Contents”-database (2009-) included in ilissAfrica. At all times it was possible to raise extra funds for the acquisition of special collections, like those of Janheinz Jahn or Janos Riesz.

Finally, beside the regular tasks of collection building, indexing and information services two large projects were managed to get realized: first the digitization of the Colonial Picture Archive (1991-2004), second the set-up of the ilissAfrica subject gateway (2007-2010). In the following a survey of the stages of development, services and projects is given.

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Guide to historical photographs from Africa on the web

This guide gives an overview about selected web-projects making (historical) photographs from Africa available online in digital format.


Kurt v. Schleinitz, 1907/1914, Tanzania, 004-1051-14

Kurt v. Schleinitz, 1907/1914, Tanzania, 004-1051-14

Image databases mainly result from large digitization projects making these important visual traces accessible not only for the African studies scholar but also for the people in Africa interested in their own history.

Often, these historical sources are not available in the country where the photograph has been taken in the past. So an unrestricted, worldwide access improves the local knowledge about the visual past and supports the preservation of the local cultural heritage. While the indexing of some of these projects was done from a very European point of view (prejudices and habit), local African people may add their interpretation and knowledge of persons, objects and places to the metadata attached to the pictures. Also they are encouraged to offer counter-interpretations and local productions of meaning.

An attempt to offer a Togolese interpretation of German colonial pictures is made by the research project of Dr. Koukou Azamede working on a critical interpretation and didactic presentation of historical photographs from the archive of the German Colonial Society (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft).

Kolonialfotografie-ScreenshotRight now most of the image databases offer a somehow static presentation of pictures in sequence, deprived of their storage in the physical collection. Most of the projects tell not much about the contemporary use of the pictures. Open questions concern the flow of images across spaces, the re-use of pictures in other media (e.g. newspapers, books etc.) and the continuing (even unintended) effects. There is a growing literature on visual history and visual anthropology with some brilliant studies on individual photographs. However, right now, this did not have an impact on the design, interfaces, organization and contextual framing of image databases.

While interpreting photographs is a very demanding task, locating images on the web is only seemingly easy. Especially, it is difficult if one looks for photographs of very specific places, persons or material objects. One has to rely on verbal descriptions of the visual content. Often image databases use classifications or special thesauri to index the content. However, one has to look very closely on how theses thesauri do work, how the terms are spelled, not all do offer a search with synonyms, etc.

Another possibility to make the discovery of photographs from Africa easier would be the aggregation of scattered content in one digital place. An example might be the project “WikiAfrica” with over 30,000 African contributions to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia project thanks to the involvement of 100 institutions. It contains e.g. the image collections of the Brooklyn, the Tropenmuseum and the National Archives UK.

Some works to enter the academic discussion:
  • Heike Behrend: Contesting visibility. Photographic practices on the East African coast, Bielefeld: Transcript 2013.
  • Adam Jones (ed.): Through a glass, darkly: photographs of the Leipzig Mission from East Africa, 1896 – 1939, Leipzig: Univ.-Verl. 2013.
  • Richard Vokes (ed.): Photography in Africa: ethnographic perspectives, Oxford: Currey 2012.
  • Thomas Jack Thompson: Light on darkness? Missionary photography of Africa in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans 2012.
  • Jens Jaeger: Colony as Heimat? The Formation of Colonial Identity in Germany around 1900, German History 27 (2009), 4, pp. 467-489.
  • Wolfram Hartmann (ed.): The colonising camera : photographs in the making of Namibia history, Cape Town: Univ. of Cape Town Press 1998.
  • (in German:) Christine Brocks: Ist Clio im Bilde? Neuere historische Forschungen zum Visuellen, in: Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 53 (2013), pp. 453-486.
  • more literature via ilissAfrica
Photographer E. Hecker in Ovamboland, A_0ii_6874

Photographer E. Hecker in Ovamboland, A_0ii_6874

Digital collections of individual libraries and archives

  • Colonial picture archive, Frankfurt University Library, includes the image collection of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (DKG) documenting especially the German colonial activities. The database presents 53000 digitized historical pictures covering the whole of Africa and comprises the collection of photographs, photo albums and postcards owned by the Sam Cohen Library, Swakopmund, Namibia. While the general search interface is in German, the Africa-section can be retrieved in English via ilissAfrica.
  • Photographs of Africa, University of Florida Smathers Libraries, includes photographs of Africa from various research projects and photographers, e.g. by cinematographer/photographer Martin Rikli (1898-1969) documenting his Ethiopian expedition from 1935-36.  Another example ist the 1940 photograph album by Entomologist and Professor Lewis Berner conducting malaria research in the Gold Coast.
  • The Humphrey Winterton Collection of East African Photographs: 1860-1960,  Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University, includes about 7,610 photographs organized in 76 separate albums, scrapbooks or loose collections and 230 glass lantern slides.
  • University of Wisconsin Digital Collections in African Studies, with the Harold E. Scheub Image Collection and “Africa Focus: Sights and Sounds of a Continent” offering 3000 slides and 500 photographs drawn from contributions by UWM faculty.
  • Liberian Photograph Collections as a part of Indiana University Liberian Collections, with Willie A. and Lucile S. Whitten Photography Collection (Liberia in the 1960s and 1970s), William V. S. Tubman Photograph Collection and Frederick D McEvoy Photograph Collection (1967-1968 Sabo labor migrants in southeastern Liberia).
  • Visual resources Relating to Africa at Yale, e.g. photographs taken by professor David E. Apter to complement field research on African nationalism and the transition to independence from 1952 to 1960.
  • Frobenius Institute’s online image database consists of 60.000 images produced mainly during numerous expeditions in the first half of the 20th century to Africa.
  • DEVA – Digitalisierung, Edition, Vernetzung, project by African Studies in Bayreuth. Available are the photographic archive by the linguist and theologian Ernst Dammann and his wife Ruth, mainly from field research in Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa, 1933-1975; photographs taken by the anthropologist Professor Otto Friedrich Raum during his teaching and research journeys in South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, 1938-1968; and photographs taken during field research by Professor Gerd Spittler in North and West Africa since 1967, mainly on Tuarag and Hausa in Niger, Nigeria and Algeria.
  • Picture archive “African Independence Jubilees” of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, with more than 12,000 photos of the different events that were part of the official jubilee anniversary programs as well as other events that also celebrated the nation in some way (User’s Guide).
  • Photographic and Film collections, University of Cape Town, UCT Libraries
  • Digital Namibian Archive (DNA), a collaborative project by Utah Valley University and the Polytechnic of Namibia operating in conjunction with the Namibian National Archive. The digital photo collection includes e.g. the Stolze Album about Swakopmund.
  • Online photo archive of the University Library of Antanarivo, Madagascar.
  • The Cape Coast Archive, an effort by Ghanaian institutions together with the University of Virginia Library, and the United States branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), to document the unique cultural landscape of the Cape Coast, Ghana region. See especially the “Images from Military Museum” sub-collection.
  • Memórias de África e do Oriente, digitized photographs on lusophone Africa, e.g. a political activism collection of the Arquivo Histórico de São Tomé e Príncipe, 1975.
  • Swaziland Digital Archives, photo archive with photographs from Swaziland from 1860 to the 1990s, including explanations about the photos and small texts about the respective era. Many pictures were taken by the photographer Joseph Raucher.
  • picture archive of the Royal Geographical Society Picture Library
  • picture archive of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Photothèque Indigo)
  • the photograph holdings of the Genocide Archive Rwanda
  • the work of photographer and publisher of postcards Edmond Fortier, CENTRE EDMOND FORTIER, with photo exhibitions on Guinée 1905, Bénin 1908/09, Djenné 1906, Dogon 1905, St-Louis 1900, Tombouctou 1906
  • Nigeria’s Pan-Atlantic University presents its collection of rare historical documents and photographs via the Google Cultural Institute. Spanning 1851-1914, they tell the story of Nigeria’s formation as a colony. The second exhibition traces the transformation of Lagos from a cosmopolitan colonial trading center to West Africa’s largest metropolis.

Missionary archives

5,000 websites indexed in ilissAfrica

ilissAfrica managed to hit the 5,000 mark in October: The database on internet resources offers a collection of websites from and on sub-Saharan Africa. These websites are indexed comprehensively with keywords, abstracts, and classifications.

Goethe-InstitutThe website “Word of Mouth” of the Goethe-Institut was the 5,000th website indexed by the staff of ilissAfrica. It offers a very good introduction to the topic of orality. The project aims to build bridges between societies shaped by oral traditions and the predominantly text-based global knowledge society. In addition, “Word of Mouth” presents information on German activities in the field of oral history, oral literature, new media and indigenous knowledge thus facilitating intercultural exchange.

ilissAfrica’s “General search” allows a combined search in major African Studies library catalogues and databases together with the database on websites mentioned. Try the following search for “orality“. Another example might be the search for “truth commission” leading not only to books, articles and other full text studies, but also to the offical website of the truth commissions of South Africa, Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Aften four years of operation the “internet library sub-saharan Africa” is very proud to be labled as “an excellent resource” by the standard reference work “African Studies Companion” published online by Brill and edited by Marie-José Wijntjes (founding editor: Hans Zell). We appreciate any feedback to further improve ilissAfrica.

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Guide to find “Book Reviews” in African Studies Journals

“Book reviews” are very useful to make academic research more efficient: They save time in choosing the right books to consult. They allow a quick overview about new publications without having to read them all in detail. They do give an impression about strengths and weaknesses of a book. Often they ask new questions, not answered by the reviewed book. Even if they are not of high quality, at least they offer a summary of the main arguments. So this Guide will introduce some tools helping to locate book reviews in African Studies journals (i.e. special databases) and on the web. Some of the mentioned search techniques are applicable also for databases indexing journal articles not mentioned here in detail.

Database containing “book reviews” only: IBR-Online



  • Internationale Bibliographie der Rezensionen geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlicher Literatur = International Bibliography of Book Reviews of Schorlarly Literature in the Humanities and Social Sciences (de Gruyter) [toll access]
  • The IBR as an interdisciplinary, international bibliography of reviews contains entries on over 1.3 million book reviews of literature dealing primarily with the humanities and social sciences published in 6,820 scholarly journals (mainly European). Reviews of more than 570,000 scholarly works are listed. IBR is updated on a monthly basis, the annual addition to the database is approx. 50.000 entries. All articles contain German and English subject classifications. Every entry contains also the following information: On the work reviewed: author, title; On the review: reviewer, periodical (year, edition, page, ISSN), language, publisher.
  • The journals indexed include e.g. Africa Bibliography, Africa Spectrum, Africa Today, Africa, African Affairs, African Philosophy, African Research and Documentation, African Studies Review, Afrika und Übersee, Cahiers d’études africaines, Canadian Journal of African Studies, History in Africa, Journal of African Languages and Linguistics and many more.
  • Use the search field “Review of:” to look for the full titles and bibliographical details of the reviewed works. “Author:” is the author of the reviewed book in the form “last name, first name”. Other search fields are Reviewer, Periodical, Subject headings and Classification. All search fields offer an autocomplete functionality.
  • Access via the publisher de Gruyter or via DBIS in Germany. See one example here.

Journal Article Databases including “book reviews”

Most of the databases indexing journal articles are useful tools to locate book reviews. Only a very few have special indexes and search fields for the title/author of the reviewed work. However, many offer the possibility to refine searches according to the document or publication type. Some of the most important databases in this context are:

JSTOR (Journal Storage – The Scholarly Journal Archive) [toll access]

  • The JSTOR archival collections contain the back issues of more than 1,500 scholarly journals across 50 disciplines that span 500 years. 60 African Studies journals are indexed, e.g. Journal of the Royal African Society 1901-1944, The African Archaeological Review 1983-2009, African Arts 1967-2007,  Botswana Notes and Records 1968-2008, Journal of African Cultural Studies 1998-2007, The Journal of Modern African Studies 1963-2007, Journal of Religion in Africa 1967-2007 and more. Access to the individual journals depend on the Archival Collection licensed by your local library.
  • Book reviews on JSTOR can be retrieved either in the advanced search with “Narrow by:” the “Item Type:” “Reviews”. Additionally, the search can be further limited with “Narrow by discipline” to the African Studies.
  • The more sophisticated possibility is to use the “Citation Locator” with “Item Title:” and “Author:” of the reviewed work:JSTORfieldAbbr Read more of this post

“ilissAfrica Mobile” – new touch-optimized website for smartphones

ilissAfrica MobileJust head to on your mobile browser to get ilissAfrica’s cross search on the go – whatever device you’re using and wherever you are.

The “internet library sub-saharan Africa” (ilissAfrica) integrates relevant conventional and digital information resources on the sub-Saharan Africa region scattered on websites, databases or library catalogues in order to facilitate research. ilissAfrica allows a cross search in catalogues of research libraries like e.g. UB Frankfurt, GIGA Hamburg, IFEAS Mainz, ASC Leiden and NAI Uppsala, and in Africa-sections of the databases “World Affairs Online”, “Online Contents”, “Bielefeld Academic Search Engine” and the colonial picture archive as well as in a database on internet resources with more than 4.800 websites on sub-Saharan Africa.

With we hope to increase the usability and accessibility of ilissAfrica in African countries with low internet bandwidth but with splendidly constructed mobile cellphone networks,  e.g. up to 50% of Nigerians access the web via mobile devices for instance.

Instead of writing unique apps for each mobile device or OS, the mobile website uses partly the jQuery mobile framework to design a website consistent across different browsers. It was especially difficult to adapt the complex federated search (noYaMS) to a small display with touch-navigation.

Mobile “Search”

Home-Screenshot_2013-04-25-11-44-47 .  Gacaca Screenshot_2013-04-25-12-11-40

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On Display: Open Online Courses & Open Educational Resources for Africa

Two recent developments in the area of distance education and open access might have benefits for students in Africa: massive open online courses (MOOC) aim at large-scale participation and open access. Participants do not need to be a registered student and are not required to pay a fee. Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible and openly licensed media that are useful for teaching and learning. They are resources meant to be used for education and include, for example, full courses, course materials, learning objects, videos or tests.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

  • CollageMOOCsHarvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a new online-learning experience with online courses at EdX. EdX’s goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is governed by MIT and Harvard. If offers HarvardX, MITx and BerkeleyX classes online for free. In 2013, EdX will offer also WellesleyX and GeorgetownX classes and courses by the University of Texas System.
    The MIT course 14.73x “The Challenges of Global Poverty” is intended to be an introduction to the issues of global poverty, as conceptualized by leading economists and political scientists.
  • 33 US universities – like Columbia, Duke, Emory, Princeton – have partnered with Coursera, a social entrepreneurship company, offering courses online for anyone to take, for free: “Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.” (Vision of Coursera). Of interest are courses in statistics, data analysis but also the humanities, e.g.:
    Listening to World Music“, by Carol Muller, a South African born Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. This course is about the ideas and vocabulary for listening to world music, and examines the music of several world music cultures and how they have entered into mainstream popular culture.
    The Modern World: Global History since 1760“, by Philip Zelikow, the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia, gives a survey of modern history from a global perspective.
  • UDACITY offers courses especially in the computer sciences, mathematics and physics.
  • Stanford University offers “Class2Go” and “Venture Lab“.
  • Compare the timeline offered by the Chronicle of Higher Education under the headline “What You Need to Know About MOOCs“.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

  • OERcollageOER Africa provides a starting point for finding OER. The project focusses on the supporting and developing of OER in agriculture, health education, foundation courses and teacher education. In the section “OER in Action” they  showcase some African OER initiatives, like the IADP-SADC Digital Resources Project, that looks to extend the International Association for Digital Publications (IADP) Affordable Access project running in South African higher education institutions into universities in Malawi and Botswana.
    OER initiatives in Africa” is a similar overview hinting to e.g.
    The UCT OpenContent directory, a web portal for accessing open teaching and learning content from University of Cape Town and
    Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA), bringing together teachers and teacher educators from across sub-Saharan Africa and offering a range of OER materials in four languages to support school based teacher education and training.
  • In 2011 the African Virtual University (AVU) launched the portal OER@AVU – Open Educational Resources” hosting e.g. 219 text books available in English, French, and Portuguese, 91 videos, and other resources e.g. on ICT and Intellectual Property Rights.
  • The “Open Textbooks: List” by Student PIRGs offers a good overview about some examples of Open Textbooks, e.g. by the publisher Flat World Knowledge. For a broader approach see the Wikipedia Category:Open content.

Finally, compare the eLearning Africa conferences and the article by Claire Adamson on “Finding the Sweet Spot: Open Educational Resources in the developing world” (January 22nd, 2013, eLearning Africa News Portal) for a more critical acclaim of the debates.

Thanks to hints by Nadia Cohen and to the project “Bildung weltweit” with a web-dossier on “Open Educational Resources“!