Swahili Culture Bibliography


Brennan, James R. Taifa: Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012.

This work analyzes race, nation, and identity politics, as they intersected in the making of Ujamaa – Tanzania’s twentieth century socialist program. It is relevant to a reader interested in the history behind Tanzania’s sociopolitical and racial landscape and its implications on city culture.

Callaci, Emily. ‘Dancehall politics: mobility, sexuality, and spectacles of racial respectability in late colonial Tanganyika, 1930s–1961,’ The Journal of African History, 52:3: (2011), 365–84.

This article speaks to Tanzania’s history of cultural nightlife. It depicts shifting gender and racial politics, and how dance clubs became an arena to debate politics and culture in Tanzania.

—. Street Archives and City Life: Popular Intellectuals in Postcolonial Tanzania. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.

Callaci offers a contemporary historical look at intellectual politics and culture. She analyzes how Tanzanian politics and migration to cities produced culture and an intellectual political discourse. She calls the arenas in which these ideas circulated, “street archives.”

Caplan, Patricia, and Farouk Topan. Swahili Modernities: Culture, Politics, and Identity On the East Coast of Africa. Trenton, N.J. ; Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press, Inc., 2004.

This edited volume provides insight into the ways that modernity has influenced Swahili culture, as well as the ways that Swahili people have reckoned with globalization and instilled cultural boundaries. The work illuminates the diversity of Swahili culture.

Ivaska, Andrew M. Cultured States: Youth, Gender, and Modern Style in 1960s Dar Es Salaam. Durham [N.C.]: Duke University Press, 2011.

Ivaska portrays Tanzania’s history of gender politics and cultural respectability. 

Thompson, Katrina Daly. Popobawa: Tanzanian Talk, Global Misreadings. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.

This monograph discusses the implications of gender, segregation, and culture within the Popobawa legend on the coast of East Africa. Thompson offers a compelling depiction of story-telling, conversation, and humor, and the ways that language reveals deep cultural meanings.

Ogot, Omar. The Promised Land.Kenya: East African Educational Publishers. 1991.

Written by one of the first female Kenyan writer to be published, the novel explores family and gender dynamics in East Africa. Ogot explores the concept of the ideal African wife by telling the story of a young farmer and his wife who migrate to Tanzania from Kenya.

Omar, Alwiya S and Leonce F Rushubirwa. Tuwasiliane Kwa Kiswahili – a multidimensional approach to the teaching and learning of Swahili as a foreign language. Madison, Wisconsin: NALRC Press, 2007.

This book provides lessons that focus on the four language skills in Swahili. Moreover, the authors specifically focus on discussing topics that relate to culture in Swahili speaking countries.



UNESCO World Heritage Centre. “Lamu Old Town.” http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1055

This website offers pictures, and a brief synthesis of Lamu Old Town, an original (and the longest inhabited) Swahili settlement.

“Swahili.” Art & Life in Africa – the University of Iowa Museum of Art. https://africa.uima.uiowa.edu/peoples/show/swahili

The University of Iowa website offers an introduction to politics, social structures, religion, and art in East Africa. There are visual aids which depict the striking doors that line the streets of Zanzibar and other art pieces.

—. “Utani na Mizaha: Researching Swahili Humor.” Utani na Mizaha: Researching Swahili Humor. Accessed November 24, 2017. https://swahili-humor.tumblr.com/

“Swahili Proverbs: Kangas” Center for African Studies – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign http://swahiliproverbs.afrst.illinois.edu/kangas.htm

This website highlights the importance of proverbs and the role of Kangas in Swahili culture. The website also provides a wide array of proverbs that are arranged according to themes.

Hassan O. Ali and Kassim O Ali. “Swahili Language & Culture” http://www.glcom.com/hassan/index.html

The website provides information on Swahili language and culture by discussing the following: history of Swahili, Swahili lessons, Swahili Dictionary, Swahili Poems, Kanga History, Kanga Writings, Cultural Objects, and additional resources.


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