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Report: Masterclass “Researching public spaces in African cities”

Date: 19th to 28th of February 2019

Location: Lagos and Ibadan

 IFRA-Nigeria, together with ENS-Paris (Ecole Normale Supérieure) organized a ten-day long Masterclass themed on “Researching public spaces in African cities” which was held from February 19 to 28, that took place in the Universities of Lagos (UniLag) and Ibadan (UI) respectively.

The Masterclass was organised by Dr. Pauline Guinard (ENS Paris, France), Dr. Emilie Guitard (IFRA Nigeria, Nigeria), Julien Migozzi (ENS Paris, France), Clémentine Chazal (IFRA Nigeria, Nigeria), Ismael Maazaz (Edinburg University, UK) and Chrystel Oloukoi (Harvard University, USA). The programme welcomed 15 participants, including 5 French students from ENS-Paris and 10 Nigerian students coming from different universities across the country, namely the University of Ibadan, the University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University in Ilé-Ifé, Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and Benue State University in Makurdi. The cohort of participants gathered Master and doctorate students from different disciplines from geography, urban and regional planning to history, political sciences or gender studies, which all had in common an interest to do research in/on public spaces.

The Masterclass was divided in two parts: the first half of the programme in Lagos, organised at the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, in UniLag, was composed of a series of theoretical sessions aiming at exploring the concept of “public space” and its resonance in African contexts. The theoretical sessions featured various lectures from Dr. Pauline Guinard (ENS-Paris), Dr. Taibat Lawanson (Associate professor of urban planning at the University of Lagos), Pr. Filip De Boeck (Anthropologist, University of Leuven, Belgium), Dr. Saheed Aderinto (Historian, University of Western Carolina), Dr Emilie Guitard (Anthropologist, IFRA-Nigeria) Ismael Maazaz (Phd student in African studies, University of Edinburg, UK), Julien Migozzi (PhD student in geography, ENS-Paris) and Chrystel Oloukoi (PhD student in Anthropology, Harvard University, USA).

 On February 21st, the masterclass also included a one-day conference organised by IFRA-Nigeria on a similar theme, “Looking for and learning from public spaces in African cities which gathered around three roundtables academics, artists, practitioners and other urban actors working in/on various African cities (Lagos, Kinshasa, Johannesburg etc.)

The second half of the programme was held at the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ibadan, and aimed at putting into practice - through fieldwork sessions in Ibadan - the various approaches, methods and tools for researching public spaces explored during the theoretical lectures. While doing a short ‘urban transect’ of Ibadan, four sites were identified within the city: 1. Agodi gate, 2. Bere Roundabout 3. Oje market and 4. Dugbe Mall. The participants were divided into 4 groups and spent three days on each identified field. This afforded the opportunity to not only witness the practicality of the theoretical debates but also to test first-hand the feasibility and rigor of some fieldwork methods previously learned. Each group experimented different methodologies encompassing observations, short informal interviews, mapping (including mental maps), sound (and even smell) scaping.

 On top of theoretical sessions and fieldwork experiences, the masterclass also granted to the participants the opportunities to attend cultural related events such as the ‘Afro Space Time’ Dance Gathering Festival in Lagos, and a masterclass with Congolese film-maker Dieudo Hamadi, organised at the Institute of African Studies on February 27 by the Thursday Film Series movie club.

The twin objectives of the masterclass were on the one hand to equip the participant with a comprehensive vision around the widely-use concept of public spaces and interrogate its applications to African contexts; and on the other hand, to provide them with the necessary tools to conduct fieldwork and initiate them to various research methodologies borrowed from ethnography.

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Opening of the Masterclass in Lagos, first cohort of students arriving from France and different Universities in Nigeria

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Lecture from Dr. Saheed Aderinto, ‘Ibadan, Urbanity and public spaces in African cities”, at the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development (UniLag)

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Lecture from Pr. Filip De Boeck, ‘How to conduct urban anthropology research in African cities’, at the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development (UniLag)

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 Debriefing after a full day of fieldwork in Ibadan:
discussing different field methodologies from mental mapping, shadowing to observations and interviews

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2019 cohort of the Masterclass ‘Researching public spaces in African cities’ at the Institute of African Studies (University of Ibadan)

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Masterclass organising team (from left to right):
Julien Migozzi, Clémentine Chazal, Emilie Guitard, Pauline Guinard, Ismael Maazaz and Chrystel Oloukoi

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