Preaching and Teaching: Religiosity, Knowledge and Performance on University Campuses in Niger and Nigeria

Vincent Favier

This project focuses on religiosity and its manifestations among students and lecturers on the university campuses of Niamey, Niger, and Ibadan, Nigeria. It investigates how students and lecturers communicate, learn and teach, in other words, how they interact at university while they live, experience and practice their religion every day. It also explores how lecturers and preachers perform their social role, respectively as academic and moral actors of this institution of higher education. The multi-faced concept of Boko, mainly understood as a secular educational system, an intellectual culture, and a social aspiration, will be at the core of this study.

This project seeks to contribute to the anthropology of religion in contemporary West-Africa. It approaches religious manifestations through the lenses of “performance” and “performativity” in order to interrogate the physical, visible, and audible means through which religion establishes itself on university campuses. It also investigates how knowledge is appropriated, considered, passed on, utilized or contested in different contexts by both Salafi and Pentecostals. These religious actors are rather used to qualify broader religious trends that one would find on the campuses. Which spaces does religion occupy or seek to pervade, both physically and mentally? How do religious practices shape campus life? Does religiosity affect academic practice and eventually challenge academic knowledge?

In addition to the written study, this project will produce an ethnographic film that conceptualizes the research within the field of visual anthropology. The film will attempt to give a general account of campus life as well as to portray a few individuals’ lives, and to highlight the performativity of academic and religious practices. This study of social interactions and performances in these West-African universities sheds new light on the relationship between academic knowledge and religious knowledge.