Posts Tagged ‘religion

13
Apr
17

bahrain, 13 april

I am in Bahrain for the Islamic Archaeology in Global Perspective conference.

20170411_090307.jpg

We have been hearing papers outlining the nature of the Islamic occupations from Brunei to Morocco via Turkmenistan, Yemen, Saudi and many others. In some areas such as the Levant, these rather late, medieval, levels were dug straight through to get to the older, Classical or Biblical-era, levels that were of more interest to the excavators. I will be talking about West Africa later today; there the problem has sometimes been the opposite, where sites were excavated down to Islamic levels – enough to try and show that a site mentioned in Arabic written records had been identified – and no further. Neither approach is considered acceptable today, by the way!

 

 

07
Jun
12

Depicting Africa

Last week saw the conclusion of the ‘Depicting Africa’ project I had been working on for the past three months with Miss Hannah S from the secondary school City Academy (see previous post). The City Academy students designed tours of the Sainsbury Centre, section by section (Africa, Americas, Oceania, and Art Nouveau) and delivered it to their peers. Favoured objects included the Middle Kingdom hippo, Epstein’s baby head and the Luba-Hemba staff. Children also had an opportunity to talk to student ambassadors about life as university students.

Depicting Africa is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a collaboration between UEA and City Academy. Over the weeks we have worked with one Year 7 class at City Academy (11-12 year olds) to try and challenge negative ideas they have about Africa and to think, more generally, about how stereotypes hinder people’s opportunities (including the chance of going to university for those able and willing).

The City Academy schoolchildren were paired with peers from the Lycée Ahmadou Kourandaga in Zinder, Niger. They exchanged emails, letters, and spoke on Skype. The City Academy schoolchildren presented news bulletins on the Egyptian cabinet, reflected on Hajj and Christian pilgrimage, researched Madagascar and Ethiopia, thought about what makes a person or an artefacts English, helped cook a Nigerian meal, reflected on angels and light in Christianity and Islam, wrote descriptions of British Museum artefacts from the Hausa area, discussed how one defines ethnic identity and visited the UEA mosque. They designed questionnaires for their Nigérien peers, conducted secondary and primary research, and began to look more critically at news reports which present only the glum from Africa.

At the beginning of the project, we had asked the children to give five words they associated with Africa. ‘Dirty water’, ‘Poor’ and ‘Hot’ came up a lot. At the end of the project we asked them the same question again and, unsurprisingly, the answers had changed (more on this later, after some number-crunching, but ‘polite’ and ‘middle class’ came up).

Over the coming months we will be designing a teaching resource (a DVD with lesson plans, Powerpoints etc.) which will be sent to other secondary schools in the UK.

It is of course never a one-way street. Perhaps it is not just the children who have changed outlook – all of us Africanists (and Africanist sympathisers) who took part have learnt much. Which was part of the point of the project. In terms of skills, responding to deep metaphysical questions in a single sentence for fear of losing your audience was certainly something for me to work on. The impact of the aid sector in shaping children’s images of Africa was also something to reflect upon…

 
 
07
Feb
12

Malanville, 7 feb 2012

Malanville is the border town between Bénin and Niger, sitting on the shore of the majestic Niger River and the major settlement in these parts.

For the past two and a half weeks, the team has been intensively crisscrossing and excavating the area upriver from here. Olivier, Doulla, Mardjoua and Lucie have been talking to blacksmiths, dyers, potters and weavers and learning about immigrants from Mali, rites and trade in fish. Abubakar and Wahabou dug a test pit near Pékinga and uncovered a potsherd pavement, hinting to some degree of kinship with Birnin Lafiya. Paul and Emma have (despite the best efforts of the Air France handlers) sampled sites up and down the valley to track use of resources by past inhabitants and the way the river influences settlement now and before.

Most of the work has focused at Birnin Lafiya (where we have been wondefully welcomed, lodged in the local administrative offices and kept supplied in cool drinks and ice by the police). Adamu, Aminou and Simon, on what was supposed to be an easy student training pit, are puzzling over a deep trench with some eight interlocking pit features, including one containing several toys. Ali worked through an ashy midden with lots of fish bone and then started surveying the wider area arund the site. Sam is patiently piecing together a succession of postherd pavements, plaster-faced walls and fired brick. Carlos is carrying out a geophysics survey, systematically working over the surface of the site in 30x30m squares yet far from exhausting this extensive settlement. Nicolas and Louis are preparing to begin their own, 3x3m, trench, which will be called SVI. Julien is learning from village elders about history and past tree usage.

We are just over halfway through so await further discoveries. It’s a complex and fascinating historical landscape.

14
Nov
11

Being and becoming Hausa

As an aside to the Crossroads project, I am really happy to say that the two UK research councils running the Religion and Society project – the ESRC and the AHRC, namely Economic & Social Research and Arts & Humanities – are funding our new project to engage with schoolchildren in Norwich and Zinder, building on the findings of a project Dr Benedetta R and I ran in 2008, called Being and becoming Hausa.

The idea back in 2008 was to bring researchers together to discuss what it means to be Hausa today, and how this sense of identity and belonging has emerged over time (read it all here). Now, with the aid of teachers at City Academy Norwich and the Lycée Ahmadou Kourandaga in Zinder (Niger), we will be discussing ideas of religion and identity with pupils aged 11-15. We’ll encourage pupils to reflect on two fronts: the way in which their identity is historically constructed, and whether their notions of West Africa are shaped by stereotypes of changeless societies and radical Islamism, often promoted by the media. Specifically, we will think with them about what it means to be Hausa, from the North Earlham estate, from Norwich, from Birni; Muslim, Anglican, atheist – how they feel the media portray them, and what factors shape their sense of self. We want to have a strong historical dimension to all of this, because although today religion plays a major role in defining, and often dividing, communities, the Being and becoming Hausa project showed this is not an historical inevitability.

Ultimately there will be a blog charting our collective learning process, and a teaching resource that we will disseminate to other schools and place on the ESRC’s Social Science for Schools website. The aim is to make a wider impact on the cultural awareness of UK youth by breaking down stereotypes about identity and religion, both in West Africa and in the UK, and to improve pupils’ thinking skills and creative output. Through its cross-curricular slant linked into Key Stage 3 of the recently revised National Curriculum, the project will also support UK schools in implementing an integrated project which will enable students to make links between different subject areas.

This project is part of the efforts by the AHRC and the ESRC to publicise the undeniable impact that research in those fields makes to society today and its contribution to wider knowledge beyond academia.




About this blog

This blog has been set up to chart the activities and research findings of two projects led by Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The first project, called Crossroads, brings together a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are hoping to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years and to understand how population movements and craft techniques shaped the area's past.

The second project, called Cowries, examines the money cowrie, a shell which served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, and in medieval times most especially in the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. We hope to understand how this shell was sourced and used in those two areas.

These investigations are funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7) and by the Leverhulme Trust as a Research Project Grant. The opinions posted here are however Anne Haour's own!

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