Posted by: Viola | July 21, 2010

An Ethnographic Essay

I am the proud author of an ethnographic article/essay. I can’t say that it’s my best writing, but I put a lot of effort into it, and so did a few other people. I wrote the essay during my second and third years in grad school. My academic adviser helped me revise the essay, and a team of fellow graduate students edited the essay and sent me their comments. I often wish I could have published a lot more, while I was in grad school, but I did write every day–virtually every moment of my life as a student, it seemed. Someday, I’ll go back to all the things I wrote, all the term papers and research papers, all my private writings, all my erratic journal entries. I’ll do something with all of them, not sure what.

For now, here is one essay worth sharing, with a link to the full text below:

As my first fieldwork experience, my two-month stay in Nigeria was an opportunity to learn firsthand about ethnographic methods and the process of conducting fieldwork. The first month of my stay was spent in Zaria in Kaduna State, where I became acclimated to Hausa culture. I learned to take off my shoes and say the customary greeting of ‘Salam Walaikum’ before entering houses or private rooms. I learned to recite and respond to the morning greetings, inquiring of neighbors if they had slept well (Ina kwana?), to which one responds ‘Lafiya lau’ (‘fine’), and showing thanks for a night of rainfall over dusty and hot Zaria City by saying ‘Yaya ruwa?’ to which one responds ‘Ruwa ya yi gyara,’ or “the rain has done repair” (Akinbuwade n. d.:8-11). The second month of my stay was spent in the city of Ibadan in Oyo State. There I conducted library and archival research, and visited the Ibadan Hausa community and conducted interviews with several residents and their community leader.

My trip was much more than a first fieldwork experience. It was also a chance for me to return to Africa, an opportunity I cherished immensely. I grew up in Cameroon and welcomed wholeheartedly the chance to visit and learn about Nigeria, Cameroon’s neighbor to the west. Several Nigerians, in both Zaria and Ibadan, asked me if I was originally from Nigeria. One man, in a busy market in Ibadan, called out to me, as I walked by his shop: “Are you a child of Nigeria?” Some of the research participants saw me as more ‘African’ than foreign. This no doubt made it easier to establish trust with participants and conduct interviews, especially considering that I did not reside within the Hausa community, but was lodged in a nearby upper-class residential area. Most of the respondents I interviewed appeared to be comfortable with me and would sometimes ask me questions about my background or solicit my comparisons of Cameroon and Nigeria.

Taken from: Perspectives on Polio Immunization Campaigns in Ibadan, Nigeria, MDIA Volume 17, 2008, pages 161-184.

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