IFRA research training seminar: “Researching Northern Nigeria”
On Monday, 9th of April, IFRA was delighted to organise a workshop led by Dr. Vincent Hiribarren (King’s College, London), Lecturer in Modern African History at King’s College London. Last year, Dr. Hiribaren published A History of Borno: Trans-Saharan African Empire to Failing Nigerian State (Hurst Publisher, 2017), based on his PhD thesis and that he came to present in Ibadan. He has conducted archival and field research in various locations of Northern Nigeria, including Kaduna and Maiduguri, along with consulting colonial archives in Paris, London and Berlin. He has also a deep interest in cartography, as underlined in his personal website.
Open to IFRA fellows, the seminar notably aimed at discussing the challenges of undertaking social science research in difficult fields, drawing on Dr. Hiribarren’s experiences in Northern Nigeria. Dr. Hiribarren begun with pinpointing landmarks on the history of Borno. He displayed rare archival materials that teach us about successive polities that emerged in the Lake Chad Bassin, such at the Diwan (royal chronicles) of the Kanem-Borno. He and the participants debated the hurdles one can face in collecting and studying this type of materials.
The goal of the seminar was also to question the perceptions that students may express about heavy-heated phenomena in regions of Northern Nigeria, foremost among them conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and landowners, or the Boko Haram insurgency. These developing stories have captured extensive news coverage but misconceptions about them circulate widely in the media, despite the lack of reliable sources. For example, Dr. Hiribarren showed newspaper articles biasedly reporting deaths attributed to Fulani herdsmen, worryingly mentioning “onslaughts” or “invasions” of Fulani people. Dr. Hiribarren warned the participants about this kind of shoddy journalism that may obfuscate their understanding of complex issues and he encouraged them to cross-check the sources and methodologies of media reports before using them.
Finally, participants mentioned other difficult fields and discussed field research through alternative ways. For example, for conducting fieldwork in Libya has become increasingly difficult, researchers studying the country may focus on the Diasporas, monitor flows in neighbouring countries, etc.
The workshop was very well received both by the IFRA fellows and Dr. Hiribarren. Later, that week, he led two further workshops at the University of Zaria.
Dr. Hiribarren listening to IFRA fellows
Participants and the convenor relaxing after the programme
Dr. Hiribarren presenting archival materials he gathered