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Annachiara Raia Annachiara Raia
Annachiara Raia

Faculty of Languages & Literatures
Literatures in African Languages

Annachiara Raia, born in 1988,   has been a Research Associate in Literatures in African Languages since April 2017. She obtained a BA in “Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa”, and an MA in “Languages, History and Cultures of Mediterranean and Islamic Countries” at the University of Naples, L'Orientale.

Afterwards, for her PhD thesis, which she pursued in a cotutelle framework of the University of Naples and Bayreuth University, she worked on the Swahili version of the story of Joseph. She defended it in January 2017. She has furthered her academic training through field research in Kenya; a Summer School on ‘World Literature’ in Lisbon; and seminars on ‘World Philologies’ held in Naples.

Professional Background

April 2017- Current 

Research Associate in Literatures in African Languages (Prof. Dr. Clarissa Vierke), University of Bayreuth

January 2018

Defense of the PhD thesis pursued in cotutelle between the University of Naples L'Orientale – Department of Asia Africa and Mediterranean and the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS).

October 2016 - February 2017

Teaching Swahili Literature 1, (winter semester) University of Bayreuth

May 2013

MA degree in “Languages, History and Cultures of Mediterranean and Islamic Countries”, University of Naples L'Orientale

November 2010

Bachelor Degree. “Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa”, University of Naples L'Orientale.


Oct.2009-June 2010

Erasmus Scholarship for studying in France -  “Institute National de Langues et Civilisations Orientales” (INALCO), Paris.

Oct. 2013-Oct. 2016

PhD scholarship granted by University of Naples “L’Orientale”, ‘POR SFR Fondi Regione Campania’, Italy.

June 2015

Premio Università Paolo Iannotti 2015 “Laureati Eccellenti”, Italy.

Nov. 2016-Apr. 2017

Scholarship from “Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies” (BIGSAS), Germany.

Paper Presentations

October 2018. „Madhumuni ya Topan. On what being a Swahili literary critic means”. SOAS BARAZA in honour of Prof. Dr. Farouk Topan, London, October 27

August 2018. „Dotting varieties. Swahili in Arabic script and calligraphy from the East African coast”. Wocal9 on ‚African Languages in the world’ Rabat, Morocco, August 25-29

June 2018. „Trans-local migration and cultural appropriation from across the Swahili East African region.Yusuf’s network”. Interim Conference of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR) on ‘Folk Narratives in regions of intensive cultural exchange’, University of Ragusa, Italy, June 12-16, 2018

June 2018. „Beyond the text boundaries. The editorial project of 19th century Swahili verse by Zahidi Mngumi and his contemporaries”. Workshop Publishing Manuscripts,University of Hamburg Center for the Manuscript Study Culture (CMSC )7-8 June, 2018

May 2018.Elimu ni utajiri kuliko mali. A tour across the one thousand texts housed in the archive of an individual intellectual: Mahmoud Ahmed Abdulkadir Mau from Lamu”. 31st Swahili Colloquium ‘Mtandao’ (‘Network’), University of Bayreuth 11-13  May 2018

March 2018. „ Kutia sauti –‘to give voice’. A conversation with contemporary authors and singers of Swahili popular poetry from the Kenyan coast.” . BIGSAS Symposium ‘Power to the People? Patronage,Intervention and Transformation in African Performing Arts”, Moi University – Eldoret, 20-25.03.2018

October 2017. „Reading Poetry - Listening to advice: Mahmoud Mau’s Wasiya wa mabanati and its polyphony. ” Workshop on ‘Reading Poetry’. Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, 8-10.10.2017

May 2017. „ World literature from the margins? A web of motifs and narrative expansions within the story of Joseph from the Swahili coast.” at thje 30th Anniversary Swahili Colloquium ‘Mahusiano! Lugha na Fasihi katika maingiliano’, University of Bayreuth, 26-28.05.2017

April 2017. „ Visually pleasant texts or imperfect copies? The many ways to copy the Story of Yusuf. ” SFB Workshop on ‘One text – many forms: A comparative view on the variability of Swahili manuscripts’, COMSt University of Hamburg, 21-22.04.2017

Oct. 2016. „On how the academic understanding of Swahili poetry shaped practices of manuscript writing and copying at the Swahili coast.” At the Hamburg SFB Workshop on ‘Textual and Material Craftsmanship What Does Copying a Manuscript Mean?’. University of Naples “L’Orientale”, 6-8 October.

June 2016. „ Takabadhi Utendi wa Yusufu. Witnesses and variants of the Swahili epos on Joseph.” at the seminar on ‘World Philologies 2. Ricerche sulla prassi filologica in Asia, Africa e Europa’ (organized by Dr. Florinda De Simini). University of Naples “L’Orientale”

April 2016. „The social commitment of Swahili Poetry. Taking the example of Mahmoud Mau’s tenzi compositions ” at the 42nd Annual Conference of African Literature Association (ALA) on ‘Justice and Human dignity in Africa and African Diaspora’. ACALA Panel on ‘Justice and Human Dignity in African Language Literatures, Linguistic practices and Language policies’ (organized by Prof. Dr. Clarissa Vierke). Atlanta, 6-9 April.

March 2016. „ Cultural Grafting. The adaptive relationship between Sūra 12 from the Qur’ān and the Utendi wa Yusuf” at the International Study Days on ‘The world of Swahili poetry: plural perspectives and ongoing researches’ (organized by Dr. Flavia Aiello).        University of Naples “L’Orientale”, 21-22 March.

Dec. 2015. „ Dalla strofa al testo. Strutture e motivi di tenzi swahili”. Lecture in the class of Swahili literature - Department of Asia, Africa and Mediterrean, University of Naples “L’Orientale”, 16.12.2015

May/June 2015. „The Story of Yusuf’s arrival at the Swahili coast. Tracing texts and sources in a comparative perspective” at the 28th Swahili Colloquium on ‘Linganisha!      Comparative Perspectives on Swahili Linguistics, Literary and Cultural Practices’ University of Bayreuth, 31.05-2.06.

Nov. 2014. “The Utendi wa Yusuf from the Swahili coast. A first draft from a PhD project and field research” at the Research Colloquium, University of Bayreuth, 11.11.2014

Sep. 2014. „From the Text to the Tradition. The Swahili Islamic story of Joseph and its social context of reading“  at the ASAI Conference on Africa on the Move, within the Panel on the theme of “ Contemporary Dynamics of oral and written arts in African Languages” (organised by Dr. Flavia Aiello). University of Macerata, 17-20.

May 2014. “On Swahili-manuscripts in Arabic script: layout and orthography of the Utendi wa Yusuf” at the Conference on ‘Current Research in African Studies in Honour of Prof. Dr. Eugeniusz Rzewuski’. Univeristy of Warsaw, 16.05

Annachiara Raia

Faculty of Languages & Literatures
Literatures in African Languages

I am a specialist of Swahili Language and Literature at the Faculty of Languages and Literatures – Literatures in African languages. My background is in Swahili and Arabic language and literature and I am interested in Swahili literary adaptations, traditions and criticisms across Muslim lands of the Indian Ocean and the African continent.

My research has started taking Swahili literature in the history of criticism as a main perspective once I have been working with the Swahili adaptation of one of the most widely- travelled stories of mankind (the Islamic Story of Joseph). This has allowed me to deal with Swahili manuscripts of the 18th and 19th century and to start inquiring on intertextual relations between texts, authorship and authorial interventions – which are particularly moot points in Swahili classical compositions drawing from Muslim tradition in Arabic. Beyond this, I have started analyzing contemporary forms of adaptation and extended my focus on contemporary poetry and practices of composing and performing poetry. A question that recurs throughout my research is the multi-layerdness of a text and its afterlives: How texts relate to prior ones and why they get copied and readapted in other forms. Similar approach brings my attention to look at texts not as entities per se, but as artworks entangled with their context and network of artists.


  • Kenya, Mombasa and Lamu
  • Tanzania, Dar es Salam

Research interest:

  • Swahili literature and manuscripts in Arabic script
  • Scripts and allographic traditions
  • Manuscript cultures and text editions
  • Comparative literature and philology
  • Swahili intellectual literary practices from the coast
  • Islamic Africa and Indian Ocean Literatures 
Annachiara Raia

Faculty of Languages & Literatures
Literatures in African Languages


Article in a journal (peer-reviewed)

Raia, Annachiara
A Mosaic of Scripts : Arabic Script in Africa from a comparative perspective
in Quaderni di Studi Arabi vol. N.S. 12 (2017) . - pp. 207-218

Article in a journal (not peer-reviewed)

Raia, Annachiara
Innesti culturali : La riscrittura creativa della storia di Yusuf in poesia Swahili
in Smerilliana vol. 19 (2016) . - pp. 425-454

Article in a book (peer-reviewed)

Raia, Annachiara
Remarks on Swahili manuscripts in Arabic script : layout and orthography of the Utendi wa ...
In: Kraska-Szlenk, Iwona ; Wójtowicz, Beata (ed.): Current research in African studies : papers in honour of Mwalimu Dr. Eugeniusz Rzewuski - Warsaw: Elipsa, 2014

Annachiara Raia

Faculty of Languages & Literatures
Literatures in African Languages

Annachiara Raia
Research Associate

University of Bayreuth 
95440 Bayreuth 

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