SOAS Research Student's Society Conference

Yes, part of the PhD process is to take part in conferences to present papers and publish articles in order to get your name and your research out there ... and, of course, a little bit of academic exchange about and beyond the research topic and a bit of networking don't hurt either.

However, its just not my strength. I like to focus on one thing a time. - Like last week, there was an interesting conference about the Nigerian film industry at the University of Mainz where quite a few people I'd have loved to talk to were around but me ... well, I'm a bit short money-wise at the moment and don't know anybody in Mainz where I could have found shelter for a night or two, so in the end I took my writing-up responsibilities as a convenient (and not completely untrue) pretext not to attend. However, now the SOAS Research Student Society and my own department are both holding conferences during the first week in June. Hence, no excuses there. I just had to send in an abstract each ... and, for better or worse, both have been accepted. So here I am writing on these papers and, like always during the last few months, taking longer than I had anticipated.

Well, I consider both chances to bounce off some not yet fully developed ideas, ideas that although interesting and crucial to my understanding of the wider subject are rather tangential to the argument I want to make in my dissertation. In that sense, they are a great chance to explore these ideas that otherwise would have fallen by the wayside.

One of them you find right up at the top of that blog: northern Nigeria. I have to confess that I originally approached the term very naively, i.e. as a rather value-free reference to a geographical region. And while I got away with it for most of my fieldwork, during my second presentation at Unimaid I was told in no uncertain terms that the regional approach I had adopted was rather problematic. Shouldn't I rather focus on Hausa or Kanuri art? With my interest in the relationship between Islam and arts wasn't I obscuring the presence of Christian minorities in the such named region in general and among artists and art educators in particular? I have to confess that I had not previously reflected upon these questions. Hence, I was surprised by these reactions but I never really found (or, let's be honest: took) the time to reflect upon them more than just in passing. So, the SOAS Research Student's Society's Conference's focus on Regional Studies and Critical Perspectives on Regions presents a great opportunity to do exactly that: Why these strong reactions? What are the enmeshments of regional and national religious, social and identity politics they indicate? Do they have any relevance for my own research and if so, how? ... Well, I will probably not be able to present any ultimate conclusions at the conference but am very much looking forward to some feedback on my ramblings on the issue. Maybe, if I work out a way of uploading the paper I might actually ask for your feedback right here as well ... maybe.


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