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Dr Kombola Ramadhani Mussa

Dr Kombola Ramadhani Mussa

Early Career Research Fellow Leverhulme Trust

Ysgol Ieithoedd Modern


I am Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Modern Languages and Translation Studies at Cardiff University.

My recent work investigates the history of the Zigula, an ethnic group based in Somalia and Tanzania, as a distinctive and instructive example of African diaspora and of multilingual experiences. The Zigula experienced a number of migrations within and outside Africa, moving from Tanzania to Somalia, and then to Kenya, Italy, and the US. In particular, the project employs categories elaborated by critical race theory, oral history and memory studies to analyse the case of the Italian Zigula, exploring the creation of post-colonial and multicultural Italian identities in the context of widespread racial prejudice.


I hold a PhD in Italian Studies from Reading University. My PhD thesis offers an in-depth analysis of the writings of three Italian migrant writers. Specifically, it discusses several of the different forms taken by orality and explores the relationship between orality and literacy, by analysing the work of: Kossi Komla Ebri (from Togo), Tahar Lamri (from Algeria) and Yousif Jaralla (from Iraq).


My research focusses on Italian Literature, Italian Cultural Studies and Black Studies.

Since 2018 I have held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the Cardiff School of Modern Languages and Translation Studies. My research project entitled ‘Language, Mobility and Identity among the Zigula (Somali Bantu)’ explores the diasporic trajectories of the Zigula, one of the major linguistic groups in Tanzania as a distinctive and instructive example of African diasporic identity. The Zigula experienced a number of migrations both within and outside Africa. At the end of the eighteenth century they left Tanzania for Somalia. There the Zigula lived as an enclave, separate from the local Somali population and they were successively colonized by the Italians. In the twentieth century some young Zigula had the opportunity to learn Italian, studying as elementary school teachers in catholic institutions. Later they returned to Tanzania to escape discrimination and exclusion. Finally, thanks to relationships with Italian missionaries, some moved from Tanzania to Italy, where, since the seventies, a group of Zigula has settled and lives in Emilia Romagna. In order to bring to light this controversial and multifaceted diasporic experience, I analyse oral and written testimonies by Zigula employing categories elaborated by narrative theory in folklore and literature, critical race theory and decolonial studies. I also put these theoretical models in dialogue with notions and theories of multilingualism, to highlight the role of multiple language allegiances in the Zigula’s construction of their own identity.

I hold a PhD in Italian Studies from Reading University. My PhD thesis, entitled ‘Oralità e scrittura. Un’analisi estetico-letteraria delle opera di Kossi Komla-Ebri, Tahar Lamri e Yousif Jaralla attraverso le forme dell’oralità’, analyses the different forms that “orality” takes in the selected migrant writers’ work, exploring the relationship between orality and literacy in their production. By engaging with the debate about orality in contemporary literature, I challenged the perception of orality as an inferior and unsophisticated form of storytelling. I challenged this perception by revealing the literary sophistication of these works through an analysis of the formal patterns they exhibit. Thus, I intended to establish a new formal and aesthetic approach to so-called Italian migrant writers. My research on these themes has been published in: ‘Forme dell’oralità nella narrativa dei migrants writers italiani’, published in Leggere il testo e il mondo. Vent’anni di scritture della migrazione in Italia, edited by F. Pezzarossa and I. Rossini, CLUEB, Bologna, 2012; ‘Orality and Written Culture in Italian Migrant Literature: The Oral Narrative of Yousif Jaralla’ Italian Studies 75 (2020), pp. 365-378.