Preaching and Teaching: Religiosity, Knowledge and Performance at the Université Abdou Moumouni in Niamey, Niger

Vincent Favier conducts this research project.

This project focuses on religiosity and its manifestations among students and lecturers on the university campus of Niamey, Niger. It investigates how students and lecturers learn, teach, and communicate, in other words, how they interact at university while they live, experience and practice their religion every day. It also explores how certain lecturers and preachers perform their social role, respectively as academic and moral actors of this institution of higher education. This project will shed light on the ways Nigerien students engage with academic and religious life as they seek new avenues to succeed economically and socially in an adverse context. The concept of “Good Life” may be fruitful to grasp their strategies, hopes and dreams to become the future elites of the nation.

This project seeks to contribute to the anthropology of religion in contemporary West-Africa, focusing especially on Salafi and Pentecostal groups. These denominations are rather used to qualify broader religious trends that one would find on the campuses. The study approaches religious manifestations through the rubrics of “social performances”, “rhetoric” and “performativity” in order to interrogate the physical, visible, and audible means through which religion establishes itself on university campus. It also investigates how knowledge is appropriated, considered, passed on, utilized or contested in different settings from seminars to informal discussions. Which spaces does religion occupy or seek to pervade? How do religious practices shape campus life? Does religiosity affect academic practice and eventually reform or challenge the university?

In addition to the written study, a project to produce an ethnographic film will expand the research into the field of visual anthropology. The film will attempt to give a general account of campus life, to portray a few individuals’ lives so as to highlight how academic, social and religious interactions shape this environment. This study of socio-religious interactions and performances in this Nigerien university sheds new light on the relationship between academic training and religious practice.

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