What does knowledge production about pre-colonial Somalia look like at a Western institution?

Asked by Anonymous - 6 months ago


1 Answer

Safia Aidid - 6 months ago

It is quite rare to encounter pre-colonial Somalia - or Somalia at all - while studying African history in a Western institution, which is testament to how limited historical study of the Somali territories is when compared to say, the endless fixation on Somalia in political science and development studies. The main challenge is grappling with the orality of Somali society, which means that there is little in the way of archival material on pre-colonial Somalia, though there are some documents in Arabic, Portuguese and Turkish written by outsiders. There are some recent primary source collections of qadi court records and religious poetry from Brava edited and published by Mohamed Kassim, Alessandra Vianello and Lidwien Kapteijns, and a few good works of precolonial Somali history like Lee Cassanelli's book "The Shaping of Somali Society." Most historians, understandably, focus on the colonial and postcolonial period because it is easier to find the documents to sustain those research projects.

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