Franco-Nigerian Student Exchanges - Adeleke Adekunmi

202210 Adeleke

"My experience as a PhD student at INALCO, Paris"


Adekunmi Adeleke is an IFRA-fellow and a Ph.D student at the University of Ibadan Nigeria, and Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO), Paris. He discusses his experience in Paris.


What is your background ? What did you study ?

I am Adeleke, Adekunmi Obafunmi. I am a Nigerian, born in Ibadan, and a culture enthusiast. For my first degree, I studied Classical Studies, and Cultural and Media Studies for my M.A. degree, both at University of Ibadan. I am currently a Ph.D student at the University of Ibadan Nigeria, and Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO), Paris. 

Due to my background in Classical Studies and Cultural Studies, the disciplines introduced me to the classical world, the history, literature, and most important the culture of the past and the present, that is continuously evolving and being negotiated. I developed the interest to study Yoruba culture, and specifically Yoruba ritual performances. Likewise, the passion to understand the numerous cultural imports in the everyday life of the Yoruba people necessitated my desire to attend master Classes on research methods or approaches.

My thesis discusses the performativity of gender roles and power relation in the Yoruba Arugbá ritual spaces. Judith Butler (1990) argues that there is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender, that identity is performatively constituted by the very expression that are said to be its results. In essence, gender roles, and power relations need to be performed by humans, and are not space bound or stereotyped to be performed in particular manner. Four research objectives are designed for my thesis, and I prefer to paraphrase them here. The four objectives are set to study the various Arugba formations, to study the delimitation and transgression of normative borders, to study power and gender relations, and to understand the semiotic imports of props and costumes used in the various ritual performances.


Since when are you a IFRA Fellow ? How did you hear about IFRA and how have you benefited from IFRA-Nigeria ?

I have been an IFRA Fellow since the year 2018. I learnt about IFRA during my Masters programme at the Institute of African Studies, through IFRA’s activities and engagements with the Institute and the students. I have been able to attend some of the “Masters Class on Research Methodology”, organized by the IFRA. In 2021, I received a ‘Travel Grant’ from IFRA to travel to France.


202210 AdelekeBHow did you hear about the exchange programme with INALCO? Can you explain to us what the programme was about? 

I got to know about the exchange programme from my supervisor at INALCO. We met while he was in Nigeria, and we had series of discussions concerning my research interest, and I learnt more about the exchange programme from our discussions. The 'cotutelle' programme is a mechanism that promotes mobility among doctoral candidates, and encourages scientific cooperation between French and foreign research teams. Candidates conduct their research under the oversight of, and with guidance from, a PhD adviser from each of the two countries involved in the programme. Working jointly, both advisers provide a full measure of supervision for the candidate.

It is a platform where there is an exchange of students between the two institutions, and the students are expected to be immersed into the scholarship and culture of such institutions, and country. While at INALCO I had the opportunity of attending French classes, and also taught some Yoruba classes (L1 and L3) as a Teaching Assistant. Language competence, teaching and research capability are envisioned to improve through the exchange programme. 

I was able to access the libraries at INALCO in Paris, and at the University of Lille. My thesis adopts the theory of Power and Sexuality Model, and Cultural Semiotics. These theories and discussions on gender and power are postulated by French scholars like Michel Foucault, Simone De Beauvoir, Roland Bathes, and many others. With the review of their perspectives, there is balanced discussion and view, since my thesis straddles between two institutions. Another interesting part thing concerning my bibliography and literature review is finding recent books on Yoruba Studies in the libraries in France. I was able to access and use the book titled ‘Encyclopedia of the Yoruba' Edited by Toyin Falola and Akintunde Akinyemi, which not only updated my bibliography but holds bulk of relevant discussions to my thesis.


How did you like your study in Paris? Can you tell us what was different from what you experienced in Nigeria?

The school environment is conducive. While in France, I was able access lots of books and work late into the evening. The libraries in Nigeria are usually closed by 4pm, but at INALCO, Paris, it is open till 10pm. I was told I can reserve a room in the library, if I want to work overnight. I had time and lots of resources to work with. It is funny to think - oh! You still have the same time to work in your room. I do not read or do school work especially at night in a space where I have my bed. I was able to complete my literature review, and I attended seminars designed by research team ‘PLIDAM’, the team encourages presentation and participation from members of the research team.

Just as I mentioned already, I am a culture enthusiast, and Paris has lots of architectural designs, artifacts, and history, which are fascinating and interesting to me. I visited Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower and many other places. There are so many beautiful views, and landscapes. These are lifetime experiences. I had lots of road travel within France, and around Europe. I went to Bruxelles, Amsterdam, and London. A striking experience I had was going to the Eiffel Tower: I had to book my ticket in advance online as the period was the yuletide season and there were lots of people. I was able to see Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower: it is a beautiful view, and quite taller than the Bowers’ Tower in Ibadan, where you can have a view of the brown roofs and the different important landmarks in the largest city in West Africa.


So now after this experience, what are your research interests today and what are your plans for the next few years?

From the experiences, and the skills learnt so far, I am interested in Yoruba language and culture, and the documentation of African traditions. I am interested in anthropology and the different research approaches. In the next few years, I hope to become a Doctor of Philosophy in Ritual Studies, and also to teach Yoruba language, culture and African traditions.  

Tags: France, PhD, profiles

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