I am a linguistic anthropologist who investigates language, literacy and society in Manding-speaking West Africa and the French-speaking world.
I am the director of An ka taa, an organization which produces media and resources for speakers and learners of Manding.
I received my PhD in Educational Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 after writing a dissertation about the N'ko movement.
You can contact me at my first name [dot] my last name [at] gmail [dot] com.
I am the producer of a virtual grammar manual and free YouTube series teaching the basics of Manding grammar through the lens of Bambara.
Academia.edu profile (placeholder; not active)
Refereed Journal Articles
2020. The Role of Islam, Ajami writings and educational reform in Sulemaana Kanté's N'ko. African Studies Review. [2021 Prize for the best article published in the African Studies Review.]
2019. Linguistic and Civic Refinement in the N’ko movement of Manding-speaking West Africa. Signs and Society, 7(2).
2016. Manding reflexive verb constructions and registers in Jula of Burkina Faso. Mandenkan, 56, 3–28.
2015. The Social Life of Orthography Development. Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, 30(2), 1–12.
2013. Jula Ajami in Burkina Faso : A Grassroots Literacy in the Former Kong Empire. Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, 28(2).
2017. Orthography, Standardization and Register: The Case of Manding. In P. Lane, J. Costa, & H. De Korne (Eds.), Standardizing Minority Languages: Competing Ideologies of Authority and Authenticity in the Global Periphery (pp. 175–199). New York, NY: Routledge.
2017. Clear Language: Script, Register and the N’ko Movement of Manding-Speaking West Africa. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
2019. Book Review: Beyond Jihad: The Pacifist Tradition in West African Islam. By Lamin Sanneh. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. xv + 352. Religious Studies Review.
2017. Book Review: Muslims beyond the Arab world: The odyssey of ʿajamī and the Murīdiyya. Fallou Ngom. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp xxiii + 306. Religious Studies Review, 43(1), 73–74.
2013. Book Review: Ethnography and Language Policy. Teresa L. McCarty, ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. xvi + 309 pp. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 44(3), 340–342.
Here is a selection of some of my current and on-going work...
Emerging from my dissertation, my book manuscript project uses multi-sited transnational fieldwork to track a West African social movement as it engages with definitions of Blackness, citizenship and Islam while promoting mother-tongue literacy and education. Built around the unique orthography invented in 1949, my research probes the pan-Manding N’ko (ߒߞߏ) movement through a discourse analytic focus on the linguistic forms, usage and ideologies through which larger societal debates unfold.
With support from Fulbright-IIE and three Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowships, I have carried out this ethnographic research since 2011 in classrooms, homes and radio-stations across Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, as well as France and the Northeastern United States.
"NA BARO KÈ"
“Na baro kè” (literally, 'come chat') is a project to provide Manding-speakers and -learners with an online subtitled video series on YouTube of street-side “chats” with everyday people in West Africa.
My other research project focuses on the cultural and linguistic dynamics underlying Ajami—the understudied practice of writing Indigenous African languages in Arabic script. Initial pilot research on this topic resulted in a both a sponsored conference presentation in Brussels as well as an article, “Jula Ajami in Burkina Faso: A Grassroots Literacy in the Former Kong Empire” (2013), in the journal Working Papers in Educational Linguistics.
MANDING (BAMBARA/JULA) - ENGLISH - FRENCH DICTIONARY
An ongoing collaboration with Antoine Fenayon of Association Donniyakadi in France to improve our online and mobile-friendly Manding dictionary with learners of Bambara and Jula in mind.
"ALIMAMA SAMORI KO-MA"
Typesetting and translation of the non-standard transcription of the Jula-language performance of the "Tale of Samori Touré" by Amadou Kouroubari to Maurice Delafosse in 1899/1900 (as appears in Delafosse, 1906)
French - Intermediate II: “Griots modernes: l’art de la parole” (Fall 2017 – two sections)
Manding - Elementary I (Fall 2017)
Educational Linguistics (Fall 2016)
An ka taa
Over 20 students of Bambara, Jula and Maninka tutored since 2015
Appearances, Clips, Productions
Interview segment on Cherifla's "N'ko Laseli" - (2018, May 30)
Interview segment during RTG coverage of the annual N'ko gathering in NYC (2017, April 14)
Interview 1 on Cherifla's "N'ko Laseli"- (2016, August 06)
Interview 2 on Cherifla's "N'ko Laseli"- (2016, August 20)
Interview on RFI Mandenkan (2021, December 13)
Interview on Language Teaching Inspiration (2020, February 01)
Interview on RFI Mandenkan (2019, October 27)
Conference Presentation (in Manding) - Kankan, 2013
Interviewed (in Manding) by Ibrahima Traore, 2012
The role of translation in West African language multimedia pedagogy. (Interview in "Hopscotch Translation" - 2021, November 21).
Le mandingue écrit: YouTube, N'ko et Ajami. (Interview in "Africa4" Blog of Libération - 2019, August 18).
Sulemaana Kantè: writing unity in difference. ("Why African Languages" Blog - 2019, January 11)
A lesson in sociability. ("Bridges from Bamako" Blog - 2018, December 21)
Coleman Donaldson Discusses the Social Life of Writing Systems. (Daily Gazette - 2014, April 25)
BU graduate awarded Fulbright scholarship. (Daily Free Press - 2011, September 7).
My writing on "An ka taa" (2016-Present)
My writing on "A-label: African Languages Between the Lines" (2018-Present)
“Making Transcripts Public in Manding.” Society for Linguistic Anthropology's blog. 2019.
My writing on "Speech Event" (2013-2016)
Basic Bambara—the podcast (2019)
An ka taa podcast (2017)