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  • Online workshop 7: “Searching for premodern pandemics: the plague in African History” by Prof Gerard Chouin

Online workshop 7: “Searching for premodern pandemics: the plague in African History” by Prof Gerard Chouin


As you may know, in accordance with the latest government statement regarding measures to contain the COVID-19 virus, IFRA-Nigeria's offices are closed until further notice, library included. However, IFRA’s team has come up with alternative solutions to continue its training activities.

We are hosting a series of online events using Facebook Live as a platform.


This seventh online workshop on “Searching for pre-modern pandemics: the plague in African History” was facilitated by Prof Gerard Chouin (Williams&Mary, USA). It was held on Tuesday 26th  of May 2020 at 7pm (Nigerian time) on our Facebook page. 

What is the workshop about?

In this era of Covid-19, how not to think of past diseases, healing processes, and pandemics in Africa? During this workshop, Prof Gerard Chouin addressed theoretical and methodological issues about the history of diseases, medicine, health, and healing in premodern Africa, a broad yet understudied field in African history, dominated as it is by colonial and postcolonial studies.

First, he revisited the African conceptualization of the term ‘disease.’ To do so, and he built on classic anthropological-historical works by pioneers like John Janzen, Eric de Rosny, and, more recently, Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga. Secondly, he surveyed different possible methods to build a history of health and medicine in tropical Africa between the 15th and the 18th century and engage with the question of the so-called ‘disease burden’ which, according to many authors, would have characterized Tropical Africa. Finally, he discussed the plague hypothesis, which suggests that sub-Saharan Africa was not spared by the infamous ‘Black Death’ or second pandemic of plague which struck Western Europe in 1347, and remained an enduring feature of the epidemiological landscape until the 19th century. Prof Chouin described the methodological approach used in a series of four papers published in December 2018, using archaeological, documentary, and biological sources. He also resituated new questions and methodological insights currently emerging from the HIATUS informal research group on the plague in premodern Africa in the context of the new paradigm in Black Death Studies that emerged out of research in genetics over the past decade and a half.

20200526 Chief Priest of the Oluorogbo Shrine at Ilé Ifè

Chief Priest fo the Oluorogbo Shrine, Ilé-Ifè, Nigeria. Credits: Keith Bratton, Mission Archéologique d'Ife Sungbo, 2015

Re-watch the workshop: 

A recorded video of the workshop is still available on the links bellow

20200526 GerardChouinWatch the video

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