New research on African languages and migration in the Rhine-Main region

Project funding via the RMU Initiative Funding for Research / Study participants sought-after

5 December 2018


The African Studies Rhine-Main initiative of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and Goethe University Frankfurt launches its first joint research project on "Africans in the Rhine-Main region: an African linguistic research project on linguistic integration." The project is funded by resources from the RMU Initiative Funding for Research.

With the project "Afrikaner*innen im Rhein-Main-Gebiet" (Africans in the Rhine-Main region), the African Studies Rhine-Main alliance, founded in May 2016 by the universities of Frankfurt, Mainz and Darmstadt, wants to make a scientific contribution to the highly topical, politically and socially much discussed subject of language and integration – from the specific perspective of African linguistics. For this purpose, Professor Nico Nassenstein from the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Professor Axel Fleisch from the Institute of African Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt investigate how migrants from Africa approach new linguistic realities in Germany and which perceptions they have of both their own languages and the target language. "Initially, we will be working with colleagues we already know from research environments in West and Central Africa. We will then broaden the range of the study and approach participants from the entire Rhine-Main region," explained Nassenstein.

The RMU cooperation project is outstanding in that Africanists are conducting their research in Germany and not on the African continent. They focus on the mechanisms that are decisive in whether linguistic integration functions or fails. In Europe, linguistic integration is typically understood as being primarily dependent on the successful acquisition of the target language and its structure. However, language acquisition mainly takes place in informal contexts outside the classroom. This spontaneous language learning, which often goes hand in hand with creative learning strategies and can be unexpectedly successful, has hardly ever been the subject of scientific investigation. Over the next two years, Dr. Sabine Littig from JGU and Professor Abdourahmane Diallo from Goethe University will research this linguistic integration.

Joint Bachelor's degree program in African Studies

The African Studies departments at Mainz and Frankfurt successfully applied for financial support from the 2017 RMU Initiative Funding for Teaching and are now planning a joint Bachelor's degree program in African Studies. It will bundle the courses offered at both universities and will comprise diverse subject areas concerning African linguistics and other research branches of African Studies. "This joint Bachelor's degree program will offer our students a far wider spectrum of languages and topics," said Professor Axel Fleisch. The new program is to combine linguistic expertise with subjects from sociolinguistics and media studies as well as linguistic anthropology and communication studies, which will also play a role in the curriculum.

African Studies Rhine-Main

Goethe University Frankfurt, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and TU Darmstadt pool their expertise in the field of African research in the interdisciplinary African Studies Rhine-Main alliance. In addition to the disciplines of Anthropology and African Studies, other areas such as Egyptology, Linguistics and Literature, Geography, Botany, and Economics are also involved. The pivotal entity serving the African Studies Rhine-Main alliance is the Center for Interdisciplinary African Studies (ZIAF) in Frankfurt.

The RMU Initiative Funding for Research

The Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) are strengthening their mutual networks through the RMU Initiative Funding for Research. From the last call for proposals comprising a total of 49 applicants, six new research projects in African Studies, Educational Research, Computer Science, Meteorology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Business Education will be funded over the coming two years, each with up to EUR 100,000 per year.

The Rhine-Main Universities (RMU)

As outstanding research universities in the Rhine-Main area, Goethe University Frankfurt, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and Technische Universität Darmstadt have joined together to form the RHINE-MAIN UNIVERSITIES alliance. The universities have worked in close cooperation with each other for more than ten years, leading to an agreement to form a strategic alliance in 2015.

The Rhine-Main universities are situated in close vicinity to one another in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main metropolitan region and offer a wide range of disciplines from medicine and natural sciences to humanities and social sciences through to engineering. With over 100,000 students and 1,440 professors, they work closely in research and teaching, promote the mentoring of young researchers and participate in an exchange between academics, business and society.

The strategic alliance between the three universities increases their collective academic capacity. By joining together, they are able to complement each other’s strengths, promote strong research partnerships and expand the course and degree offerings for their students. This alliance not only strengthens the exchange of knowledge in the region, but also forms a strong network, shaping the Rhine-Main region into an academic hub that is globally visible and internationally attractive.