January 2020 - Oluwaseun Williams

Interview of the Fellow of the month

January 2020 : Oluwaseun Williams, PhD candidate at the Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland.

"By all means, endeavour to take maximum advantage of every opportunity for training, research, funding and other kinds of stuff provided by IFRA-Nigeria and other establishments."

 Being part of the IFRA fellowship…

Describe yourself briefly

My name is Seun Williams. I am a PhD candidate in International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland.

Since when are you a fellow of IFRA-Nigeria?

I was officially registered as a Fellow of IFRA-Nigeria on February 20, 2017. However, I have been participating in different seminars and workshops organised by IFRA since late 2013 when I visited the National Archives Ibadan and IFRA-Nigeria for the first time. From that time on, whenever the themes to be covered at any of IFRA’s events fits with my interests, I would usually go beyond my means to make sure I was in attendance, often having to make a return trip between Lagos and Ibadan.

Indeed, I recall that in October 2017 when IFRA had the renowned public health historian Dr. John Manton of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for one of her research training seminars, I had to arrive Ibadan few minutes before midnight due to a terrible traffic jam on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. And since, I was unable to get an okada (motorcycle) to take me to my friend’s apartment in Ajibode, where I had planned to pass the night, I had to walk some 2 kilometres, braving my exhaustion and the fearsome darkness of Ajibode Road.

How have you benefited from IFRA-Nigeria?

I have benefitted immensely from IFRA-Nigeria; there can be no overstating that fact. Indeed, one of the recommendations that secured me admission and scholarship at my current institution came from IFRA-Nigeria. My CV would not have been as moderately impressive as it currently is without the series of IFRA programmes that I have attended. In fact, it was at one of the sessions organised by IFRA-Nigeria that I learnt more on how to put together a good academic CV, and good proposals and application packages for grants, funding, etc. Remarkably, I have been fortunate enough to qualify to participate in all 3 research masterclasses organised by IFRA-Nigeria in the last couple of years. I have also participated in numerous research seminars, workshops and conferences organised by IFRA-Nigeria in the last 6 or so years. These invaluable training sessions have helped me honed my research and writing skills in the area of methodologies, approaches, tools and resources, as well as critical and creative questioning/thinking. Equally, thanks primarily to the multi-disciplinarity of the trainings I have received through IFRA-Nigeria, I am employing the methodologies of ethnography for my doctoral research, in addition to my core historiographical training. What is more, through IFRA-Nigeria, I have been able to build very productive networks that cut across different parts of the world.

Have you contributed to IFRA in any way?

I once assisted personnel and researchers attached with IFRA-Nigeria on a number of fieldworks and research projects around Lagos. Also, I used to assist in taking visiting scholars and facilitators of IFRA-Nigeria on a mini-tour of Lagos city, and I must admit that this afforded me an opportunity to get to know certain parts of Lagos better too. In February 2019, I assisted in the organisation of the conference themed “Looking For and Learning from African Public Spaces,” organised by IFRA-Nigeria and the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development in the University of Lagos, Akoka.

A bit more about yourself…

What are your main research interests?

My research interests intersect themes relating to environmental/public health, the colony and urbanity/urbanism in African history. I am equally interested in issues pertaining to law and social control, and public infrastructure, as well as questions of historiography in Nigeria and Africa.

What research project are you currently working on?

My doctoral research project explores themes relating to the politics and dynamics of meat production/consumption and veterinary public health in Lagos history. For this, the abattoir and the archives are my primary sites of exploration, even though I am still in the pre-field stages of my research. I am also currently researching on the inter-linguistic semantic similitude that exists between Gun and Yorùbá languages. I am equally presently exploring the memorialisation of aspects of the historical past in Badagry town.

What is the main advice you will give to a junior researcher?

By all means, endeavour to take maximum advantage of every opportunity for training, research, funding and other kinds of stuff provided by IFRA-Nigeria and other establishments. Given the fact that there are admission limits to some of IFRA’s programmes, which are always keenly competed for, it is advisable to act fast whenever you get email notifications for events that interest you.

Also, build good, healthy relationships with good professors and senior colleagues who are favourably disposed to giving your career some positive push and boost. Always open up all your senses: critically and creatively explore the real and unreal around you. There are no limits to what is researchable within your world. Avail yourself of and make good use of the myriad of resources available on the internet. Try, endeavour, strive; make some-thing worthwhile out of what seems like no-thing!

Where do you see yourself in the future? What’s your plans for next?

First, I hope to complete my doctorate in good time. My ambition is to become a university teacher and researcher in the field of African history. I hope to join the ranks of distinguished African scholars teaching and publishing articles and monographs with first-tier journals and publishers across the globe. I hope to significantly engage the larger public with my works; I am keen on making my contributions to knowledge production and dissemination not be restricted by or to academic spaces and scholarly publications and among academicians. Very importantly, I am passionate about playing a part in helping colleagues and junior colleagues grow and advance, as I myself am a product of the continuing, altruistic and invaluable help of others.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

IFRA-Nigeria is doing a great work, and it has been doing so steadily and consistently for several years now! In fact, I daresay that IFRA-Nigeria’s impact far outreaches its modest size. Its past and current team-members with whom I have related are wonderful people. I can only thank her profoundly, and kindly ask that she continues to do more and more with the passage of time. I must also state that going forward, I am willing to assist or contribute towards any initiative or project being undertaken by IFRA-Nigeria in any way possible. Keep lighting more and more scholarly torches!

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