Fallou Ngom

Professor of Anthropology and Director of the African Studies Center
Fallou Ngom
Email: fngom@bu.edu
Web: http://www.bu.edu/anthrop/people/faculty/f-ngom/
Office phone: 617-353-7035
Office number: ASC 507
Office address: African Studies Center, 232 Bay State Road,
Boston, MA 02215

Maîtrise, Grammar and Linguistics, Université Gaston Berger, Saint-Louis, Senegal
MA, Grammar and Linguistics, University of Montana
MA, French (Linguistics), University of Montana
PhD, French Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Prof. Ngom's current research interests include the interactions between African languages and non-African languages, and Ajami literatures -- records of West African languages written in Arabic script. He hopes to help train American scholars to have direct access to the wealth of knowledge still buried in West African Ajami literatures and the historical, cultural, and religious heritage that has found expression in this manner. Another area of Ngom’s work is language analysis in asylum cases, a subfield of the new field of forensic linguistics. His work in this area addresses the intricacies of using knowledge of varied West African languages and dialects to evaluate the claims of migrants applying for asylum and determine if the person is actually from the country that he or she claims.

In November 2017, Prof. Ngom was awarded the African Studies Association's Melville J. Herskovits Prize for his book, Muslims beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of Ajami and the Muridiyya, which was deemed to be the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English during the preceding year. See https://www.bu.edu/pardeeschool/2017/11/20/ngom-wins-asa-melville-j-herskovits-prize/.


Fall 2019 (tentative)

Course number Course title Section Instructor Days Time Room

CAS AN 532

Literacy and Islam in Africa

A1 Ngom TR 11-12:15 PLS 505
Ajami comes from the Arabic word for non-Arab, or foreigner. It also refers to the practice of writing other languages using a modified Arabic script. Although written records are rarely regarded as part of sub-Saharan Africa’s intellectual heritage, important bodies of Ajami materials have existed in numerous communities in Africa for centuries. In South Africa, Muslim Malay slaves produced the first written record of Afrikaans in Ajami. Africa’s Ajami traditions developed in communities with a long history of practicing Islam, and who sought to adapt the Arabic alphabet to their own tongues, first for religious purposes such as prayers, writing magical protective devices, and disseminating religious materials and edicts, and later for secular functions such as commercial and administrative record-keeping, writing eulogies and family genealogies, recording important events such as births, deaths and weddings, and writing biographies, poetry, political satires, advertisements, road signs, public announcements, speeches, and personal correspondence. The course will examine both major and minor African Ajami traditions. It will investigate (1) the Islamization of Africa and the subsequent development of Ajami literary traditions in the continent, (2) the forms, contents, and goals of Ajami materials, (3) their role in the spread of Islam and the reverse effect of African influences on Islam, (4) the past and current secular functions of Ajami materials, and (5) the Arabic and Ajami materials written by enslaved Africans in the Americas. The primary goal of this course is to enable students to have access to the unique sources of knowledge generally missed in the studies on Africa written in Arabic and European languages, and to provide them with a deeper understanding of the spread of Islam and its Africanization in the continent. The course will open new research opportunities for students interested in the histories and traditions of sub-Saharan African Muslim communities. [Prereq: Consent of the instructor]

Spring 2020 (tentative)

Course number Course title Section Instructor Days Time Room

CAS LX 341


A1 Ngom MWF 9:05-9:55 TBA
Sociolinguistics, broadly construed, is the investigation of relations between linguistic phenomena and human social life. This course covers several recent theoretical approaches to the study of language and society: variational sociolinguistics, ethnography of communication, and international sociolinguistics. Also covered are development of pidgins and creoles, multilingualism, language choice, and other aspects of language and culture. [Prereq: CAS LX 250 Introduction to Linguistics or AN 351 Language, Culture, and Society; or consent of instructor.]
[Meets with GRS LX 641; Also offered as CAS AN 521]