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Report – Masterclass Inter IFRE/INED/IRD “Combining Sources in Social Sciences and Humanities: Fieldwork methods and Practices”

IFRA-Nigeria together with four other French Institute of Research in Africa (IFRA-Nairobi, IFAS Johannesburg and CFEE Addis-Abeba) organized a masterclass themed “Combining sources in social sciences and humanities: fieldwork methods and practices”. This masterclass was hosted by IFRA Nairobi and was held in Nandi Hills, Kenya from July 16 to 23, 2018.

The organizing team received 18 participants – pursuing a Master or a PhD– from Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania willing to dedicate a week learning how to combine sources when doing research in social sciences and humanities.

The summer school’s main goal was to develop a methodological reflection on objects and materials in the social sciences through an interdisciplinary perspective. It had been designed with two purposes: on the one hand, to think about sources collection and treatment in the so-called ‘Africanist’ field and on the other hand, to share experiences and knowledge with junior researchers on sourcing methods.

It is not new that the field of “African studies” have relied on wobbly ideological and historical legacy.

One way to open new perspectives on this issue is to interrogate the sources and consider cross-sourcing with a multidisciplinary approach. How are the different disciplines (anthropology, sociology, geography, etc.) building objects and collecting data? How can confronting different disciplinary approaches on a same problematic contribute to renew the reflection on the topics but also on African studies themselves?

The masterclass was split into two main parts: the first half of the week was dedicated to workshops on field methods and other theoretical trainings, while the second part of the week encompassed some practical research training through field practice under the supervision of the faculty.

The theoretical training served as a basis of reflexion on sources collection and articulation of diverse kind of sources (different materials but also materials from different disciplines). The diversity of the pedagogical team (history, archaeology, economy, political sciences, anthropology, linguistic, etc.) was an opportunity to build a detailed landscape of used sources and interrogate the potential benefits of their articulations. Some discussions highlighted the differences between oral, written and visual sources, some other focused on tools to apprehend qualitative and quantitative sources. Finally, the classes stressed the importance of research ethics in collecting sources.

The objective of the fieldwork was to experiment in situ some of the methods discussed during the theoretical training sessions. Three issues were chosen for the fieldwork sessions:

  1. Issues of land tenure
  2. Issues of identity
  3. Work issues

The participants used the beautiful site of Nandi Hills as a fieldwork space: from the offices of the local cooperative to tea plantations and small-scale farms, Nandi hills were a great place to learn various methodologies to collect and combine oral, material, spatial data. Among the methodologies put in practice that week, junior researchers conducted some go-along interviews with local inhabitants, experienced mapping as a method, produced some landscape analysis of the place, worked with observations and focus on materiality and produced texts analysis.


  • Elodie Apard, Directrice IFRA-Nigeria
  • Emilie Guitard, Pensionnaire scientifique à l’IFRA-Nigeria
  • Marie Emmanuelle Pomerolle, Directrice USR 3336 et IFRA Nairobi
  • Chloé Josse-Durand, Pensionnaire scientifique à l’IFRA-Nairobi
  • Claire Médard, Chargée de recherche IRD-URMIS
  • Valérie Golaz, Chargée de Recherche à l’INEDMerit Kabugo, Professeur
  • Eric Masese, Professeur
  • Samuel Owuor, Professeur

2018 07 Kenya Masterclass

Participants enjoying a lecture outside at Nandi Hills

2018 07 Kenya Masterclass

2018 cohort of participants and organizers of the masterclass – group photo 1

2018 07 Kenya Masterclass

2018 cohort of participants and organizers of the masterclass – group photo 1

2018 07 Kenya Masterclass

Students practicing observation and interview in a small farm

2018 07 Kenya Masterclass

Students drawing a map a middle-scale farm

2018 07 Kenya Masterclass 7

Excursion above the Rift valley

2018 07 Kenya Masterclass

Students and supervisors practicing interview with a housewife and small-scale farmers

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