Axel Fleisch
Humanist of the day

Axel Fleisch

If you were born in Europe, chances are you grow into a dominant national language. If you are African, you will have experienced a much richer linguistic trajectory. It is from African languages and cultures that we learn how to navigate complex language landscapes artfully and with great creativity. This is what got me into African studies, and what still drives me.

Axel Fleisch

Born 6 December 1968, Langenhagen (Hanover), Germany

MA African Studies, 1995, Univ. of Cologne; PhD African Studies, 2000, Univ. of Cologne

Professor in African Studies 2008–, University of Helsinki
University lecturer 2007, University of Leipzig
Senior researcher 2005–2006, University of Cologne
Postdoctoral fellow “Cognitive semantics, Nguni languages” 2002–2004, University of California, Berkeley
Junior Researcher of Namibia/Angola 1995–2001, Collaborative Research Centre “Arid Climate and Cultural Innovation”, University of Cologne

Main research interests:
Descriptive linguistics, documentation of African languages (especially Bantu and Amazigh/Berber)

Publications, projects and other scientific activities

Prized and awards:
German Research Council. Postdoctoral fellowship 2002–2004.
Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study 2010, 2013–2014.

Photo: Joaquín Fanego Palat
Written by: Axel Fleisch and Tomas Sjöblom (ed.)

Academic success is mainly defined by research output, and international visibility is increasingly important. However, especially in the humanities, we have additional responsibilities, some of which are relevant at a more local level. We are to safeguard cultural heritage, disseminate academic insight to the Finnish public, and strengthen national assets –the things that are unique about Finland. Aligning these two big requirements in everyday life is not always easy. Here is how I try to pursue this:

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Gauteng is South Africa’s smallest, yet most populated province. Its capital is the economic hub Johannesburg. Further to the north lies Pretoria, South Africa’s executive capital with the seat of the South African government. A team with members from Helsinki, Gothenburg, Pretoria and Cape Town is currently carrying out research on language contact in the extremely multilingual and dynamic peri-urban areas close to these major South African cities.

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Together with my colleagues Bo Stråth (Univ. of Helsinki), Rhiannon Stephens (Univ. of Columbia, New York) and several other colleagues from Europe, the US and Africa, we have developed approaches to writing African history drawing on the intellectual precursors of conceptual history. Our website is in English,and a short article…

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