Swahili Forum was launched in 1993 by Rose Marie Beck, Thomas Geider and Werner Graebner, with its first issue appearing in 1994. The Forum’s founding was preceded by the endeavors of Swahili scholars from different countries to build up a tighter network of communication on ongoing research in the field. A first initiative was the establishment of the newsletter Swahili Language and Society: Notes and News (SLS: NN), first issued in 1984, edited by Joan Maw, Lourenco Noronha and (from 1989 onwards) Karl Thomanek, at the Institute for African Language Studies, University of Vienna, Austria. The newsletter provided information on researchers, projects, new publications and the teaching of Kiswahili worldwide. Occasionally, short articles and reviews were also published. For lengthier articles relating to ongoing research in Swahili linguistics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics and literary studies, Marcel van Spaandonck and Jan Blommaert initiated the monograph series Working Papers on Kiswahili (WPK), which was published, from 1987 onwards, by the Seminar of Swahili and the Language Problems of Developing Nations, at the University of Ghent, Belgium. By 1993, both WPK and SLS: NN ceased to exist with the release of a final volume (No.10) of the latter, edited by Jan Blommaert at the International Pragmatics Association, Antwerp, Belgium.

Swahili Forum’s founders have attempted to fill this existing gap, so as to provide the international community of Swahili Studies with a consistent platform of scientific articles within the broad field, through the journal. The journal was first published as an annual contribution to the quarterly Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere (AAP), issued by the Institute for African Studies, University of Cologne, Germany. Between 1994 and 2002, Swahili Forum appeared in nine printed issues. Ingo Heine was part of Swahili Forum for the 1997 issue. Since 2000, Lutz Diegner has joined the editorial team. With the transformation of the quarterly AAP to the Annual Publication in African Linguistics (APAL), published since 2003 by Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, Cologne, the editors of Swahili Forum were confronted with the decision as to whether the journal should cease to exist or find a new home. This was offered by the Institute for Anthropology and African Studies within the section of African Philology, University of Mainz, Germany. Uta Reuster-Jahn, who was working at the institute in Mainz, joined the editors. Considering the high printing costs and the growing usage of the World Wide Web, the editors decided to begin to issue Swahili Forum as an online publication.  In 2003, with the financial support of the Sulzmann Foundation, Mainz, Swahili Forum 10 was published as the first volume to appear online.

Since its beginnings Swahili Forum has greatly profited from the Swahili Colloquium, which was first organized by Gudrun Miehe, in 1987, at the University of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and continued to be held in cooperation, first with Said A. M. Khamis and later on with Gabriele Sommer at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. While many of its participants continue to contribute to the journal through their submissions, Swahili Forum has also increasingly attracted authors from East Africa, Europe and a wider international academic community, extending beyond the participants of the Colloquium.  Due to the recent invitation to submit papers on issues covering all aspects under the broad umbrella theme of Swahili Studies, the journal has enormously broadened in terms of its readership. Also, an increasing concern of the authors, working on all aspects of Swahili language, culture, society, politics, history, religion and philosophy, to publish in peer reviewed journals, has led Swahili Forum to be consistently committed in improving its quality as a peer reviewed journal in order to achieve higher standards. Against this background, the editors are eagerly working on a new web presence, a fresh logo and an editorial board with a worldwide reputation.

Since 2010, and the death of Thomas Geider, the journal is edited by Rose Marie Beck (University of Leipzig), Claudia Böhme (University of Leipzig), Maud Devos (Royal Africa Museum, Tervuren), Lutz Diegner (Humboldt University Berlin), Uta Reuster-Jahn (University of Hamburg) and Clarissa Vierke (University of Bayreuth). In 2012, the journal found a new home at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and underwent a redesign. With this relocation, Natascha Bing, Irene Brunotti and Manuela Kirberg (all at theUniversity of Leipzig), joined as editors.

Next to the "Deutsche Nationalbibliothek" (German National Library) and the Library of the University of Leipzig, which have archived the electronic publications on Saxony’s university publications server, all articles of Swahili Forum are searchable in more than 300 full text and secondary research databases.
Swahili Forum is fostering its worldwide presence as a search platform, providing easy and free access to related research, and therein promoting the exchange of information and knowledge on all aspects pertaining to the study of Swahili-related topics. 

ISSN 1614-2373