20 Mar 2019 - 23 Mar 2019
14:15 - 12:00

Graduate Network African Studies
Mission 21, Missionsstrasse 21, Basel

Workshop / Veit Arlt

Graduate Workshop: Editing Primary Sources from Africa

This course provides insight into the challenging and exciting task of editing primary sources for publication. It allows graduate students to engage hands-on with a unique corpus of more than thirty edited reports from the Gold Coast (1868–1908) written by the Ghanaian pastor Theophilus Opoku (184*–191*), which will be published in the series Fontes Historiae Africanae of the British Academy and UNESCO. So the course offers an introduction to the methodological problems in working with this kind of sources and an opportunity to judge how far the editors have succeeded in their objective to facilitate the reading of social history of change and continuity in an African community.

Picture of Theophilius Opoku

Revd. Theophilius Opoku (Basel Mission Archives at Mission 21, ref. no. QD-30.112.0108)

Over a time-span of several decades Historian Paul Jenkins (former archivist of the Basel Mission and lecturer in African History at the University of Basel) and Social Anthropologist and Ghana specialist Michelle Gilbert (Trinity College Hartfort, CT) have engaged with the reports written by Revd Theophilus Opoku, assembled the complete corpus, transcribed the texts and, in an iterative process, edited them for publication. Clarifications and contextualisation are provided by their jointly-written introductions and footnotes. The publication consists of an introductory part and seven chapters containing the texts written during the various parish appointments Opoku had in the South-eastern Gold Coast. With a few months to go before the corpus goes to print, the editors invite graduate students to scrutinize the texts and put them to test.


  • 20 March (afternoon): Induction to the project and theme
  • 21- 22 March (all day): Discussion of the seven chapters and introductions
  • 23 March (morning): Closing session

Target group

This interdisciplinary workshop is open to graduate students from a wide array of disciplines, especially History, Social Anthropology, Literature, Religious Studies and Theology.


Each participant will read the general introduction and will present one of the chapters to the workshop participants, opening the general discussion with graduate students, experts and editors. In addition, each participant will take minutes of one of the sessions for reporting to the closing session. The texts will be distributed on 15 February 2019


Please register by email to by 14 February 2019. Provide information on your subject area and the current state of studies. Participation is free of charge.

Faculty and experts

  • Michelle Gilbert (anthropologist, Trinity College, Hartford CT)
  • Andreas Heuser (theologian, University of Basel)
  • Paul Jenkins (historian, Centre for African Studies Basel)
  • Nana Opare Kwakye (theologian, University of Ghana, Legon)
  • David Maxwell (historian, University of Cambridge)
  • Adam Mohr (anthropologist, University of Pennsylvania)
  • Emma Wild-Wood (theologian, University of Edinburgh)


Two ECTS credit points by learning contract (participantsUniversity of Basel)

Course convenor:

Veit Arlt, Centre for African Studies, Rheinsprung 21, CH-4051 Basel,,
T. +41 (0)61 207 34 86 ,

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