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

Online workshop 7: “Searching for premodern pandemics: the plague in African History”


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” will be facilitated by Prof Gerard Chouin (Williams&Mary, USA). It will be held on Tuesday 26th  of May 2020 at 7pm (Nigerian time) on our Facebook page. 

/!\ This week workshop is held at 7pm (Nigerian time) / 1pm (EDT) because Prof Gerard Chouin is based in the USA.  /!\

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 will address 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 will revisit the African conceptualization of the term ‘disease.’ To do so, and he will build on classic anthropological-historical works by pioneers like John Janzen, Eric de Rosny, and, more recently, Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga. Secondly, he will survey 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 will discuss 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 will describe the methodological approach used in a series of four papers published in December 2018, using archaeological, documentary, and biological sources. He will also resituate 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

How to participate?

It is pretty easy, everybody can participate:

  1. Like IFRA-Nigeria’s Facebook Page
  2. Click on the link to watch the live on Tuesday 26th of May at 7pm (Nigerian time).
  3. You have the possibility to comment during the live. Please only ask relevant questions in line with the discussion.
  4. Toward the end of the session, there is an opportunity for a short Q&A session where the facilitator, Prof Gerard Chouin will pick up from the comments and answers the questions live.

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Institute of African Studies
University of Ibadan
Ibadan, Oyo State
+234 (0)8.147.616.463

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IFRA Library

Opening hours: 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday
Contact: Rachel Fabunmi,