ERC PhD Scholarship: Sufi Poetry in Wolof

ERC PhD Scholarship: Sufi Poetry in Wolof

Deadline: The closing date for applications is 28 February 2021 (23:59), with interviews to be conducted online on 23 March 2021. The candidate will be expected to start his/her doctoral programme in September 2021. The scholarship application materials and references should be sent to with ‘ERC PhD scholarship: Sufi poetry in Wolof’ in the subject heading.

The School of Modern Languages and Cultures (‘Translation and Transcultural Studies’) at Warwick University invites applications for doctoral study commencing in September 2021. An ERC-funded scholarship will be available on a competitive basis for an exceptional candidate meeting our requirements. The successful candidate will join a team of researchers working on the ERC project Philosophy and Genre (PhiGe): Creating a Textual Basis for African Philosophy, led by Professor Alena Rettová (University of Bayreuth) and Professor Pierre-Philippe Fraiture (University of Warwick). PhiGe interrogates the role of textual genre in the expression of philosophical meanings. It consists of eight Research Streams, covering a variety of textual genres in eight languages from several regions in Africa. The successful candidate will work on Wolof Sufi poetry within Research Stream 4 of the project, which delivers a comparative study of Sufi poetry in Swahili and Wolof. On top of working on his/her doctoral thesis, the candidate will be expected to make contributions to the collaborative activities of the team, give conference presentations, and help to organize team activities in Senegal and Gambia.

Further details: Multiple traditions of religious poetry exist in Africa, preserved in manuscripts in Arabic writing (ajami). Only very few transregional comparisons of Sufi texts in African languages exist to date. Research Stream 4 of the project looks at Sufi poetry in Swahili and in Wolof. The successful candidate will be expected to study Sufi poetry in Wolof, as contained for instance in Assane Sylla’s four volumes of Poèmes et pensées philosophiques wolof, as well as poetry collected by the candidate during fieldwork. Research Stream 4 further draws comparisons between Wolof and Swahili Sufi poetry and examines also Sufi poetry in other African languages, such as Hausa and Fulfulde. A key contribution of Research Stream 4 to the project is an interrogation of the poetic genres employed by Sufi poetry. While these genres constitute a written resource of thought in African languages, often dating back several centuries, and stand in sharp contrast with the predominantly oral mediation of many sub-Saharan cultures of learning, Sufi poetry balances on the edge of writing with its emphasis on performance and oral transmission. Indeed, these genres redefine the categories of oral and written. The physical experience of text recitation does not merely consist in sensual appreciation of the poem’s aesthetic qualities but is often seen as conducive to religious experience.
The School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Warwick offers its graduate students a buoyant research culture and community, with some 27 students currently enrolled on PhDs in the School, alongside taught and research Master’s students and a number of postdoctoral research fellows. Postgraduate researchers play a vital role in the University of Warwick’s broader research community, together with postdoctoral researchers and academic staff of national and international renown. In the 2014 REF, Warwick’s research outputs in Modern Languages were ranked 5th in the UK. 80% of its research and 80% of its ‘impact’ were ranked at 4* or 3*, and 100% of its environment was similarly ranked as world-leading or internationally excellent. This places the University of Warwick at the top of the Russell Group. Modern Languages at Warwick ranks 8th in the UK according to The Guardian Best Universities in the UK 2021 League Table.
Staff working in Translation and Transcultural Studies in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures have expertise in a wide range of research areas, including cultural translation and transculturalism, memory, African, postcolonial and transcultural studies, literary translation, sociolinguistics, self-translation in multilingual contexts, gender and feminist translation studies, sociology of translation, and history of publishing.
Beyond the School of Modern Languages, PhD students are supported by CADRE (the Centre for Arts Doctoral Research Excellence), the Doctoral College, and dedicated spaces and subject support offered by Warwick University Library. 

Supervisory arrangements: The successful candidate will be based at the University of Warwick. S/he will be supervised jointly by Professor Pierre-Philippe Fraiture (University of Warwick) and Professor Alena Rettová (University of Bayreuth).

Funding: The funding will cover the fees (full-time study) for 3.5 years at home level and a stipend at UKRC rates. The candidate will be expected to spend the second year of his/her doctoral programme in West Africa; the fieldwork expenses will also be partly covered from the project. The annual renewal of the funding will be subject to satisfactory progress.

Requirements: Native or near-native competence in the West African language Wolof; competence in Arabic and French, or in additional West African languages, will be an advantage; a B.A. (2.1 or equivalent) and preferably a Master’s in a related subject (See: PhD in Translation and Transcultural Studies ( such as philosophy, literature, language and culture, religious studies, or area studies with a focus on Africa; knowledge of Sufi Islam.

The application for the PhD scholarship should consist of a CV clearly detailing the candidate’s academic trajectory; a personal statement; a research proposal demonstrating how the candidate’s envisaged doctoral research matches the requirements of the project; and the names and contact details of two referees. Please send these materials as attachments in Word or pdf format to (as below) and ask your referees to send in their references to the same email address and by the same deadline.
applicants should simultaneously apply for a place of study on the PhD programme in Translation and Transcultural Studies (course code: P-Q3PG ) on the University of Warwick’s online application system, following the link from:, entering personal and study details as required. You may upload the same research proposal and personal statement as for the scholarship application.