Report of the Workshop “Religions on Campus: Coexisting Traditions, Reformulating the Secular and Life Projects”

The workshop, organized in cooperation between the REMOBOKO research group and the Laboratoire d’Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local (LASDEL) in Niamey (Niger), took place from October 31 to November 5, 2022 at the LASDEL, Niamey. Titled “Religions on Campus: Coexisting Traditions, Reformulating the Secular and Life Projects”, the workshop focused on Islam, Christianity and traditional African religions and their different representations on university campuses.

Besides the main theme of the workshop, the week also offered methodological training for young researchers in the afternoons. For this purpose, Thomas Veret, Dr. Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, Dr. Frédérick Madore and Dr. Katrin Bromber presented different aspects of scientific writing, research, publications and field research. This dual focus allowed the participants to present and discuss their own research in the morning and to learn new aspects of methodological work in the afternoon, but also to gain insight into the scientific experience of more established scientists.

A total of 17 participants attended the workshop. In addition to researchers from Niger, Nigeria, Benin and Mali, scientists from France, Canada and Germany also participated. As the countries of origin of the participants were very diverse, the workshop was conducted in both French and English. This diversity enabled the access and view from different perspectives and different approaches, as well as bridging the gap between the Anglophone and Francophone scientific production. In addition, the workshop was open to Université Abdou Moumouni (UAM) students, who were able to actively participate in the discussions and benefit from their exchange with more experienced scientists.

On Monday, October 31, the participants were first welcomed by the scientific director of LASDEL and the Director of UAM. They emphasized the need to consider the university as a social space, confronted with conflicts of values and the importance of the REMOBOKO project and the cooperation between REMOBOKO and LASDEL. After the formal welcome, the workshop started with the first presentations. Each person presented for about an hour followed by a discussion.

Vincent Favier (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, ZMO) opened the session with his paper on “L’accueil des nouveaux bacheliers. Les étudiants découvrent l’environnement académique”. Favier’s presentation focused on the relationships between the different students and the groupings they create at UAM. Thus, the chapter he presented is not a historical outline, but an ethnographic look at university life at UAM.

This was followed by the presentation of Dr. Madore (ZMO) entitled “‘Trop jeunes’, ‘immatures’ et pas suffisamment engagés: entre déclin des associations confessionnelles et nouveaux défis du militantisme étudiant à Lomé et à Abomey-Calavi”. Although Madore is a historian, he adopted an anthropological approach. Besides the challenges for students to express their faith in an authoritarian context, Frédérick Madore dealt with the mutual influences between Christians and Muslims, the handling of religiosity and secularity, and ultimately understood the campus as a microcosm of national socio-political life. Dr. Katrin Bromber (ZMO) moderated the discussions.

After lunch, the first methodological session was led by Thomas Veret (Institut de Linguistique et Phonétique Générales et Appliquées (ILPGA), Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle). In his tak entitled “Publier dans une revue de sciences sociales: processus, contraintes et strategies”, Veret explained the strategies, constraints and processes that can be encountered when publishing a journal articles.

On Tuesday, 01.11 the workshop started at 08.30 chaired by Agnès Badou (LASDEL Parakou). Bello Adamou Mahamadou (ZMO) presented a chapter entitled “Adoptons-nous afin de pouvoir faire passer le message de l’Évangile: l’évangilasation pentecôtiste à l’Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey”. In this paper, Bello Adamou Mahamadou presented the approach of different actors in their missionary activities. He further examined the extent to which their proselytism contributes to the transformation of the academic public sphere and the extent to which expansionist (transnational) policies influence the UAM.

Next, Dr. Mounkaila Abdou (UAM) presented “L’enseignement d’Almaghili.” Abdou, after an introduction to Almaghili and a reflection on his work, succinctly presented his doctoral thesis on the topic of the same name. This was followed by the presentation of Abdoulbaki Djibo (UAM) “Les formes contemoraines d’appropriation de l’Islam et du christianisme à Niamey”. Djibo mainly addressed the spaces and ways of transmission of knowledge and religious values. He focused on the leading question of the forms of knowledge acquisition that promote the appropriation of Islam and Christianity.

In the afternoon, Dr. Jean Pierre Olivier de Sardan (LASDEL) provided insights into his years of field research and approach under the title “Discours des cherchés et interprétations du chercheur: exigences méthodologiques et pièges idéologiques.”

On Wednesday, November 2, Amadou Issoufou (UAM) started the day with his presentation on “La pénétration du wahhabisme dans la partie ouest du Niger”. After a geographic overview, Issoufou contextualized the emergence of Islam in Niger, in order to address the spread of Wahhabism in the country. This was followed by the presentation of Muhammad Yakasai (Humboldt University of Berlin) “Transformation of Islamic Scholarship/ learning in Kano Nigeria: 1950–1995”, which is a chapter from his dissertation. Yakasai examined the implementation of Shari’a in Kano and Northern Nigeria and the political response of Muslim elites. He intended to provide a picture of how Muslim elites establish policies from below.

Next, Dr. Nadir A. Nasidi (Ahmadu Bello University) presented “One University, Two Faiths: The Nature and Dynamics of Muslim-Christian Relations in Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, 1977–2019.” After a historical outline of the emergence of the two religions, Islam and Christianity, in Kano, Nasidi explained the relation of the two communities and their adherents at the university campus in Kano.

After the lunch break, the participants of the workshop had an excursion to the university campus of the UAM. Here, the group had the opportunity to discuss with the general director  of the Centre régional des œuvres universitaires, the secretary general  of the Union des étudiants Nigériens de l’université de Niamey, and members of the executive committee of the Association des étudiants musulmans du Niger. The excursion was rounded off by a student event at the university’s amphitheater on issues related to sexuality. Here theory and practice were connected and the participants gained a common basis by visiting a campus together. Thus, the exchanges with different actors of the UAM offered new insights that drove the discussions and research.

On Thursday 03.11, Oumarou Moussa (UAM) presented on the topic “Influence de l’islam sur l’abolition de l’esclavage dans les sociétés touarègues et zarma-sonay dans l’ouest du Niger depuis le 19ème siècle”. Oumarou Moussa socially classified the issue of slavery and addressed the reparation and criminalization of slavery. This was followed by the presentation of Sekou Sala Timbely (Faculté des Sciences Sociales (FASSO) de l’Université de Ségou) on “La conversion religieuse dans ses formes et motivations sur le campus universitaire de Point-G à Bamako (Mali): des formes plus classiques aux plus inédites”. Timbely presented, among others, sacred manifestations of the religious on campus, as well as profane activities, such as training, association work, personal development, organization of tutoring courses, blood and material donations, etc.

After a break, the third methodological session took place. Dr. Madore introduced the participants to different ways of online research and access to academic literature. Under the title “Recherche documentaire en ligne”, Madore went into detail about different platforms to freely access scientific articles. He further explained the different possibilities on the websites to find further literature.

In the afternoon, Veret led his second methodological training session on “Rédiger pour être publié: enjeux et défis”. Verret went into the different stages of publishing a paper in an academic journal. For example, he explained the structure of a scientific article and gave various examples to illustrate the process.

On the last day of the workshop, Friday 04.11, Dr. Ibrahim Moussa (Université André Salifou de Zinder) presented on “La présence de l’islam sur le campus de l’Université André Salifou de Zinder: entre assise et rivalités”. First, Dr. Moussa presented the history of the city and the University of Zinder, and then went on to discuss religiosity on this campus. This was followed by the final presentation of the workshop giving by Dr. Bromber under the title “Academic publishing: personal reflections on a challenging practice”. She offered personal insights into her academic career and shared her experience of publishing, the difficulties she has faced, but also solutions to have a successful publications record.

Dr. Abdoulaye Sounaye, head of the research group REMOBOKO gave some concluding remarks. According to him, in addition to campus and religion, leitmotifs were coexistence, secularity, as the works dealt with coexistence and secularity, among others. Coexistence also raises the question of space through the campus, the mosque, etc. A space where values are shared, where people meet each other, where there is imitation and competition. Also, Sounaye highlighted that the campus is also the social beyond the academic and the religious.

One can step out of religiosity to understand religiosity. This is the case of secularism when trying to analyse how it is understood by different actors. He goes on to discuss the role of actors in making religiosity visible and important on campus. Clothing, in particular, is an important example of this religiosity. There is also the question of space, morality, life (its understanding), and living conditions of students, among others. One should also look at the actors with whom students relate (teachers, university authorities, etc.). On the question of bureaucratization of religion, Sounaye noted that participants have addressed mostly religious associations, or organized religion, but religiosity is often disorganized and escapes these groups.

Besides the scientific agenda, there is a political agenda, that of going beyond English and French according to Sounaye: “It is important to mention the fact that we have been able to stay together and work together. This is also a success of REMOBOKO.”

For his part, Dr. Madore argued that the methodological training was a key element of the workshop. He also pointed out the opportunity to have brought different geographical backgrounds in contact with each other.

Dr. Moussa Talibi (enseignant-chercheur à l’UAM), who represented the Minister of Higher Education in Niger, emphasized religiosity as a sociological transformation. The transformation is not only because they are ideologically trained, but out of conformism. He stressed the importance of the workshop because it had the courage to address issues that are difficult to address. Finally, Talibi highlighted the fact that Niger faces security challenges and therefore the difficult distinction between terrorists and civilians. Thus, there is a kind of implosion in the country and the most effective weapon is education.

Report – Workshop 16-17 November, 2021

Organised by the Remoboko research group (Religion, Morality and Boko in West Africa: Students Training for a Good Life), a workshop on Religion in higher educational institutions in Africa and beyond: (Re)Conversion, Power and Authority from a comparative perspective took place at ZMO on 16 and 17 November 2021. In total, the workshop comprised four panels with different presentations. Participants had the opportunity to participate on site or via Zoom. About 40 people from Africa, North America and Europe participated in the workshop.

The objective of the workshop was to focus on conversion and power/authority in religious interactions. It aimed to offer insights into (re)conversion (as a social and spiritual process) and power/authority (emanating from individuals, religious leaders, or institutions) on university campuses. Prioritizing a comparative approach, its aim was to bring together various analytical and methodological approaches and disciplinary perspectives to examine the dynamics of conversion and construction of authority in higher educational institutions.

Two of the four panels took place on the first day, Tuesday, November 16th. While the first panel was chaired by Ahmadou Hamage Issa (Université Abdou Moumouni), the second panel was chaired by Ibrahim Bachir Abdoulaye (University of Bayreuth). Dr. Abdoulaye Sounaye (ZMO), Adéjoké Rafiat  Adétòrò, (University of Ibadan/ZMO), Bello Adamou Mahamadou (Université Abdou Moumouni/ZMO), and Vincent Favier (Freie  Universität Berlin/ZMO), welcomed the participants with a few introductory comments. The topic of the first panel was Religiosity, identity and the dynamics of conversion in educational institutions/ Religiosité, identité et les dynamiques de la conversion dans les établissements d’enseignement. Bello Amadou Mahamadou opened the first panel with a presentation entitled Étude comparative de la transformation identitaire des étudiants à travers la conversion religieuse. During his presentation, Bello Adamou Mahamadou spoke about the factors for adopting a religious identity and asked whether a conversion from outside can be evaluated as a sign of alienation in a big city. Bello Adamou Mahamadou’s lecture was rounded off with a commentary by Dr. Gerd Spittler (University of Bayreuth) who gave an overview of the great diversity on lived Islam at the Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger, from 1984 to 2018. The second presentation was given by June Temitope Gbadamosi (University of Ibadan) on the topic of Pray for us: Passive culture of Muslim conversion to Christiantiy amongst residents of Obafemi Awolowo Hall, University of Ibadan. She explained that the Obafemi Awolo Hall is known to be the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa and that religion is considered as a knowledge system in this hall. In her ethnographic accounts, she addressed a wide variety of factors that influence this knowledge system (beliefs from home, beliefs from the holy books, prayers as powers). In the discussion that followed, the concept of African Islam was questioned. The third presentation was then given by Sekou Sala Timbely (Universite Abdou Moumouni) on the topic of Conversion religieuse des étudiants sur les campus universitaires de Point G et de Badalabougou à Bamako (Mali): entre affirmation identitaire et persuasion. The presentation dealt with the religious associations on campus, and with religious conversion and the motivation of the respective converts. In the discussion that followed, participants addressed the variety of different movements on campus and interrogated the reasons for such phenomenon. The last presentation before the lunch break was given by Dr. Guy Bucumi (Université de Shebrooke) on the topic on « L’émergence des universités confessionnelles en Afrique : De la gestion du fait religieux aux rivalités confessionnelles ». He spoke about the education of youth in religious doctrines with regard to judicial background and gave deep insights into why Islam is the religion of revelation. Furthermore, Dr. Guy Bucumi talked about confessionalization of the University and confessional rivalries and the religious role of confessional universities.

After lunch, the second panel dealt with the topic of Missionaries and educational institutions: the issue of authority / Missionnaires et établissements d’enseignement:  la question de l’autorité. The panel was introduced by Dr. Dorothea E. Schulz (University of Münster) and was opened with a presentation by Dr. Mara Leichtman (Michigan State University) on the topic of Transnational Authority, Kuwaiti Islamic Charitable Institutions, and Higher Education in East Africa. During her presentation, Dr. Mara Leichtman explained that the aim of these programs is to develop Islamic universities so as to increase the quality and quantity of well-educated Africans. Participants asked for example if there “Are any parallels with West Africa” or “What exactly contains the reaction of political authorities to these kind of universities” after Dr. Mara Leichtman’s presentation. The discussion that followed addressed questions of the impact to the Islamic University in daily life. The following presentation was given by Ameen Kasim (Islamic University College, Ghana) on the topic of Abdicating Islam for Quality Education? Experiences of Muslim Students at Wesley Girls’ Senior High School. In his presentation, he examined the issues of being Muslim student in a reputed Christian high school in Ghana, between compliance and resistance to school rules that affect Muslim students’ religiosity.  The third lecture was given by Dr. Frédérick Madore (ZMO) on the topic of Islam on University Campuses – Salafism in Cote d’Ivoire. Dr. Frédérick Madore talked about the first Muslim association in the country, the AMSCI, and the way it became a leading model for similar associations. In the discussion, he did not only address the national discourse on Salafism in Côte d’Ivoire, but also explained to what extent one can speak of a categorisation of social classes depending on religious identity. Concluding the first day, Mbaye Lo (Duke University) gave a keynote lecture on the topic of Reforming higher educational institutions in Africa: beyond religion and beyond secularism. The lecture engaged with historical developments and reforms in African education, and interrogated to what extent these reforms were shaped by Islamic institutions of higher education. Once again, the influence of colonial settlement during the colonial period on the current African higher education and development of these institutions with the background of different knowledge systems (europhone vs. arabophone) was emphasized.

On Wednesday, November 17th, the second day of the workshop started with the third panel on the topic of Religious diversity and cohabitation on university campuses / Diversité religieuse et cohabitation sur les campus universitaires chaired by Seyni Mamoudou Ibrahim (University of Bayreuth). The third panel was discussed by Dr. Elodie Apard (LAM). The second day started with a Keynote lecture from Dr. Karen Lauterbach (University of Copenhagen) on the topic of Becoming small ‘big men’ of God: Pastorship, spirituality and joining power in Ghana. Karen Lauterbach focused on pastorship as a pathway to become small “big men” (“Pastors have the ability to bring about change”) and how power is conceptualized in the context of Ghana. This was followed by a presentation from Vincent Favier on the topic of Comparison as a mode of knowledge production in academic contexts: interpreting history through the lens of religious narratives. Vincent Favier explained during this lecture, among other things, that Africa, longer than anyone else, has created his own civilization and that the colonial heritage could still be felt. He gave insights about how students at the UniversitéAbdou Moumouni in Niamey, Niger, relate to the past and how different groups combine historical narratives with religious ones, thus producing a new historical reading that serve their interests. After that, Nadir Abdulhadi Nasidi (Ahmadu Bello University) gave a presentation on the topic of One University, Two Faiths: The Nature and Dynamics of Muslim-Christian Relations in Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, 1977-2019. Nadir Abdulhadi Nasidi talked about the history of conflicts between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria, and gave some insights into the internal and external factors that shape the relationship between Muslims and Christians in all higher institutions in Nigeria. His lecture focused on questions like why Muslims of Northern Nigeria refused to put their children into westernized educational institutions and to what extend the fear of conversion influenced the history of rivalry. The following presentation was then given by Youssoufou Bakayoko (Universite Alassane Ouat tara) on the topic of Vivre sa foi Tabligh au sein des campus universitaires de Côte d’Ivoire: Ethnographie du cheminement de la religiosité des étudiants. Youssoufou Bakayoko talked about the reasons why students join the Tabligh movement in an ideologically plural context and what are the actions that mark their presence on campus. Furthermore, he gave deep insights on how students define themselves in relation to other Islamic entities. The final comments of the third panel were given by Dr. Elodie Apard. She highlighted to what extent contributions to the third panel provided the participants with a wide range of political insights. In addition, she concluded that diversity means not only competition but is also a manipulation of the past.

After lunch, everyone started the last part of the two-day workshop invigorated. of the fourth panel entitled Controlling the campus: rise and power of socio-religious groups/ Contrôler le campus: montée et pouvoir des roups socio-religieux, waschaired by Hamissou Rhissa Achaffert (University of Bayreuth) and discussed by Dr. Frédérick Madore (ZMO) and Dr. Benedikt Pontzen (ZMO). Adéjoké Rafiat Adétòrò gave a presentation on Power Politics and Othering in religious communities at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Adéjoké Rafiat Adétòrò focused on questions of authority and power on campus as well as on tensions between Sunna and Shia at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Furthermore, she gave deep insights into the question to what extent one can assume that the university is a reflection of society and not a place with its own dynamics. The following presentation was given by Abdoulbaki Djibo (Universite Abdou Moumouni) on the topic Occupation de l’espace du campus universitaire: dynamiques, enjeux et construction de l’autorité de l’AEMN/UAM. He gave an account on the social – religious, political and economic context of Niger and the launch of Abdou Moumouni University. Abdoulbaki Djibo spoke not only about the major social and political change processes in Niger and at the UAM, but also about the main factors affecting daily life on campus such as the occupation of space and the confrontation between different types of structures (e.g. coexistence of different actors in the same space). The third presentation on the topic of Pentecostalism on campus in Zimbabwe was given by Dr. Simbarashe Gukurume (Sol Plaatje University). During his presentation, Dr. Simbarashe Gukurume gave insights into the growing influence of Pentecostalism on the campus, how the university and Pentecostal groups are a form of governmentality and explained how power is contested within this particular space. Amongst other things, he focused on the the way university students try to navigate the epistemological differences and how these become contested between these different groups. The last presentation of the fourth panel and of the day was given by Dr. Mamadou Yéro Baldé (Universite Cheikh Anta Diop) on the topic of Religion, jeux de pouvoir et d’influence au sein du campus universitaire de Dakar. Dr. Mamadou Yéro Baldé gave insights into the difficult concept of religion and its different meanings or definitions. He also spoke about the context and emergence of religious student associations in Dakar. Furthermore, he spoke about identity, influence and power in this context. The concluding remarks were then given by Dr. Abdoulaye Sounaye and Dr. Frédérick Madore. They focused especially on the mission ofuniversities as institutions of state constructions and what people are trained for on campus.

After two days with a total of four different panels in which valuable research and new knowledge were shared, exchanged, and discussed, the workshop came to an end. It ended with an informal dinner in Berlin before everyone headed home.

Written by Anna Schenkenberger

Anna Schenkenberger is a Master’s Student at Christian – Albrechts – University of Kiel and an intern at ZMO in the “Contested Religion” research unit. She is writing her Master’s thesis about the challenges for EU cooperation with non – EU countries in the field of Migration. She studied International Politics and International Law in Kiel and Istanbul, as well as Social Sciences and Law in Erfurt. Her research interests focus on Migration, Islam and Religion and the Middle East.

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