„The pandemic has been a stumbling block for my research“

mercredi, 20. janvier 2021 um 13:18 Uhr

Teil 6 der Serie "Forschung in Zeiten der Pandemie": The Corona pandemic, says Susan Binwie Tanwie, has affected her scientific research in both: positive and negative ways. The 30 year old woman from Cameroon is a PhD scholarship holder in the interdisciplinary Graduate School “Performing Sustainability. Cultures and Development in West Africa“ at the Centre for the Study and Promotion of Cultural Sustainability, University of Maiduguri, Nigeria. The Graduate School is implemented in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair “Cultural Policy for the Arts in Development” and the Center for World Music at the University of Hildesheim. She has been on the PhD programme for about one year now. Susan Binwie Tanwie studies cultural practices for peacebuilding by taking the example of interaction of children from different ethnical backgrounds in a camp for internally displaced persons in North East Nigeria.

The Madinatu community in Borno State, Nigeria, has been suffering from Boko Haram insurgents for over a decade. The crisis has forced many families to abandon their homes in search of safety. They now live in camps as so-called Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Susan Binwie Tanwie‘s research aims on promoting peaceful coexistence among children from different ethnical backgrounds in these camps where humanitarian organizations have set up Child Friendly Spaces (CFS). Children with IDP-background and children in the host community alike go there to access play and recreational activities some of which include local and traditional games, music and dance.

The research will make use of the „video for development“ approach which is, according to Susan Binwie Tanwie, a democratic way of video production with, by and for the people, to record cultural performances (music and dance) of children within the CFS in a bid to sustain these performances and contribute to the peace building process that is ongoing within the region. 

„The pandemic has been a stumbling block for my research so far“ says the young female researcher „as I’ve not been able to access the safe spaces where the children are.“ Initial contacts with the community were made and one single visit to the CFS was possible before the pandemic started but plans for further interactions could not be realized so far. „The ban on movement and gatherings also slowed or restricted my engagement with the community as a whole.“ The humanitarian actors in charge of the safe space kept holding up the restrictions even after the official ban was uplifted in order to protect the already vulnerable community. Visitors and researchers could not access the CFS-area. 

„My worry now is about the methodology I intend to make use of: ethnography“ says Susan Binwie Tanwie. This approach entails living with the community and having a lot of contact and interactions. „Some will say we do so virtually - but come on! This is a community that depends on humanitarian assistance for almost every aspect of their lives. Most of the people here don’t even own a cell phone nor have the resources to maintain one if they do.“  

The 30 year old woman also stresses the effects the situation has on the researchers themselves: „Let’s talk about the psychological trauma this pandemic has brought to us: mixed feelings and fear of not meeting up deadlines, fear of being infected, and concern for our families. All these delay the research process.“ Susan Binwie Tanwie has a six year old daughter who stays with the rest of her family in Cameroon. „I am not even there to watch over her and tell her to wash her hands and to be careful.“

Further on, she regrets the inability to travel to workshops and to keep up the personal academic exchange. „But still, there is also a positive side to this situation: I think the pandemic has opened up new approaches to research (as virtual data collection). I’ve now more than ever created networks for myself during this period to help build my academic career as physical outings are no longer in vogue.“ Susan Binwie Tanwie states that she has been able to participate in online colloquiums and conferences which might not have been affordable to her in terms of travelling to the gatherings.

A three-month-stay at the University of Hildesheim that should have taken place this year was delayed to 2022. Susan Binwie Tanwie is already looking forward to it – and she is hopeful that the situation will come back to normal soon enough for her to be able to complete her PhD within the stipulated time.

Text: Sara Reinke


The Graduate School ‘Performing Sustainability’

The interdisciplinary DAAD Graduate School ‘Performing Sustainability’  is a collaborative training network for graduate students by the University of Hildesheim (Germany), the University of Maiduguri (Nigeria) and the University of Cape Coast (Ghana).

The initiative focuses on innovative research that brings together approaches from performance, arts and culture to bear on sustainable development as defined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A specific focus lies on issues of peace and conflict resolution.





Ihr Forschungsprojekt ist ebenfalls durch die Corona-Pandemie in besonderer Weise beeinträchtigt und Sie möchten davon berichten? Nehmen Sie gern Kontakt auf unter: wissendigital(at)uni-hildesheim.de

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Neuer Anlauf 2021: Sportstudien in der Corona-Zeit

Erstellt von Sara Reinke

Some of the camp children Susan Binwie Tanwie works with. Foto: privat

Susan Binwie Tanwie, PhD scholarship holder in the interdisciplinary Graduate School “Performing Sustainability. Cultures and Development in West Africa“. Foto: privat