Zur Person

In August 2017, I was appointed Junior Professor of African Languages and Linguistics at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, and I was reappointed as Junior Professor for the second half of my tenure-track evaluation period in summer 2020. In August 2023, I eventually became Full Professor of African Languages and Linguistics. Currently I serve as acting Vice Dean/Deputy Dean (Prodekan für Forschung) of the Faculty 07 (Geschichts- und Kulturwissenschaften) of our university.

In the past six years, my research has focused mainly on linguistic-anthropological topics at the interface with sociolinguistics and (socio-)pragmatics, but has also included descriptive and to some extent typological studies of Bantu languages and various contact languages from Central and East Africa, as well as Western Nilotic (Nilo-Saharan) languages spoken in East Africa. In my research, I seek to bridge anthropology and linguistics: by bringing together my descriptive interest in specific regional contexts with key themes in linguistic anthropology, I propose to examine specific linguistic phenomena of lesser-known languages in their sociocultural context.

Most of my current research revolves around specific and intensively researched core topics to which I contributed new insights and directions (or, in case of less researched languages, for which I have conducted basic research); especially in the areas of language and culture (anthropological linguistics/linguistic anthropology); ethnography; emerging language and youth or urban language; language contact, change, and variation – also paired with multilingualism and (trans)languaging discourses; descriptive and typological studies of contact languages in the Bantu area, always including cultural factors; linguistic-anthropological approaches to tourist contexts on the East African coast; anthropological-linguistic topics such as taboo and transgression, conflict, sexuality, names and naming, emotion, and Othering; less often also addressing sociolinguistic and pragmatic phenomena and contexts; largely with regional specialization in Central Africa (Lingala, Bangala, Swahili, Kikongo-Kituba, Cilubà) and East Africa (Kinyarwanda-Kirundi and related varieties, Swahili, Mijikenda, Acholi).

Currently, I am the editor of two peer-reviewed journals, namely The Mouth: Critical Studies on Language, Culture and Society (as a founding member in 2017, [https://themouthjournal.com]), and of Afrikanistik-Aegyptologie-Online [https://www.afrikanistik-aegyptologie-online.de]. For several years I was editor of the journal Swahili Forum [http://afrikanistik.gko.uni-leipzig.de/swafo/]. Likewise, I am (co-)editor of the book series Mainzer Beiträge zur Afrikaforschung (Rüdiger Köppe, Cologne), together with several other colleagues from the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at JGU Mainz.

In 2021, I (co-)founded the peer-reviewed book series Anthropological Linguistics [https://www.degruyter.com/serial/al-b/html] with De Gruyter Mouton, co-edited with Svenja Völkel. The key idea behind the new book series is the dissemination of and contribution to knowledge production of current topics in the fields of language and culture and also bridging the disciplines of linguistics and anthropology. Moreover, as editors, we aim not only to contribute to the connection between anthropology and linguistics, but also to promote a broader understanding of the often competing and debated terms “anthropological linguistics”, “ethnolinguistics”, “cultural linguistics”, and “linguistic anthropology”.

Some of my recent publications include the co-edited volume “Approaches to Language and Culture” (with Svenja Völkel, De Gruyter Mouton, 2022), the monograph “Swahili Proverbs from the Democratic Republic of the Congo” (Rüdiger Köppe, 2022) and the co-edited volume “Global Perspectives on Youth Language Practices” (with Cynthia Groff et al., De Gruyter Mouton, 2022).

Among others, I am member of several editorial boards of international journals such as Sociolinguistic Studies, International Journal of Language and Culture, and Anthropological Linguistics.

Since my appointment at JGU Mainz in 2017, I have given close to one hundred talks at workshops, conferences, colloquia, etc., of which numerous were by invitation and/or took place abroad (e.g., in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Japan, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Spain, South Africa, the UK, Malawi, etc.).

In total, I spent more than 30 months in the field and conducted research in DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya and neighboring countries. Over the past years, I conducted several months of linguistic fieldwork on Swahili, Lingala, Kinyarwanda, Acholi, and more recently as part of the newly inaugurated Leo-Stappers-Archive (LSA), also focused on Cilubà, and as a recent research interest, began to approach Mijikenda languages from the Kenyan coast.

In June 2022, I was awarded the “Sybille Kalkhof-Rose Universitätspreis” (endowed with 20,000 €) for outstanding achievements.

Attaching great importance to international collaborations with partners from other institutions and continents, I see the diverse and international contexts of the workshops, conferences and research meetings I attend in particular as a crucial step in strengthening the internationalization of my research and of the JGU Mainz. I cooperate with colleagues from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan), Great Zimbabwe University (Zimbabwe) and University of Eswatini (Eswatini), Université de Lubumbashi (DR Congo), Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil), University of Essex (UK), and in Germany, with Goethe-Universität Frankfurt and Universität zu Köln (among others). As a guest researcher, I have taught classes on various topics at ULB Brussels, Universidade de São Paulo, and Universidad de Puerto Rico between 2020 and 2022.

Third-party funded ongoing research projects are “Appropriation and diffusion of Nigerian media production in Kinshasa (DR Congo) in the context of linguistic and socio-cultural change” (as part of CEDITRAA, a joint Mainz-Frankfurt project funded by BMBF, 2021-2024), “Rwandan or Burundian: Contouring and blurring of linguistic human categorization” (as part of the CRC 1482 Humandifferenzierung, funded by DFG, 2021-2025) and “Microvariation and youth language practices in Africa” (a DFG/AHRC-funded project of Mainz/Essex, 2022-2024). A new research project “Kontra-hegemoniale Stimmen in Musikarchiven (KoStiMa): Politische Lesarten, Kontextualisierungen, Gegenwartsbezüge” [Contra-Hegemonic Voices in Music Archives (KoStiMa): Political Readings, Contextualizations, Contemporary References] has been granted by the BMBF and will start in 2023 (with UB Mainz and colleagues from Hannover and Hildesheim, etc.).

Some of my monographs and volumes currently under contract (and in preparation) are:

Nassenstein, Nico. Western Swahili Dialects: A Grammatical Survey of the Major Varieties. Leiden: Brill.

Nassenstein, Nico & Svenja Völkel (eds.). Section: Linguistic Anthropology. In Jim Blevins, Hilary Nesi, Kirsten Malmjkaer and Petar Milin (eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Third Edition. Oxford: Elsevier.

Nassenstein, Nico (ed.). Current Topics in the Study of Lingala/Sujets d’Actualité dans l’Étude du Lingala. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.

Gibson, Hannah, Andrea Hollington, Nico Nassenstein & Colin Reilly. Microvariation and youth language practices in Africa. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.

Hollington, Andrea, Alice Mitchell & Nico Nassenstein (eds.), Anthropological Linguistics. Perspectives from Africa. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Over the past years, I have organized several conferences, workshops and conference panels in different fields, exhibitions and excursions with students. I am member of several scientific societies, among them the International Pragmatics Association (IPrA), the International Association of Colonial and Postcolonial Linguistics (IACPL), the Vereinigung für Afrikawissenschaften in Deutschland (VAD) e.V., the AG: Kognitive und linguistische Anthropologie, DGSKA, and as member of the advisory council and member of the board management of the Fachverband Afrikanistik.

For more information, kindly contact me via: nassenstein@uni-mainz.de