Between texts and objects: a teaching and research trip to Nigeria


In November 2017 I have visted universities, archives and museums in southern Nigeria. Thanks to the funding of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the hospitality of the Institut français de recherche en Afrique, directed by Dr. Élodie Apard, I have had the opportunity to teach, to do research and to establish contacts for future cooperations.

At the IFRA/University of Ibadan and the Obafemi Awolowo University of Ile-Ife I have met with graduate students and colleagues with very diverse disciplinary backgrounds. Together we have engaged in intensive methodological discussions about first-person writings, analysing the spiritual autobiography of the seventeenth-century Puritan preacher John Bunyan, the memoirs of the eighteenth-century Paris glassmaker Jacques-Louis Ménétra and the diary of the Efik slave trader Antera Duke.

A work session at the National Archives of Nigeria, as well as a meeting with Prof. Jonathan Aleru, who showed me the archaeological treasuries kept by the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, were further highlights of my stay in Ibadan. Examining the (roughly 1000-years-old) beads from Igbo Ukwu, which were excavated more than fifty years ago by Thurstan Shaw, was an exciting experience.

In Edo State I was welcomed by Theophilus Umogbai, the director of the Benin National Museum, and by Prof. Osarhieme Benson Osadolor, of the University of Benin, who introduced me to the historical dimension of the rich material culture of the Benin Kingdom.