In Niger, where girl’s education is a fraught issue, schoolgirls are occasionally possessed by spirits said to have become homeless when, some time ago, the trees they dwelled in were cut to build new schools or expand existing ones. Situated at the intersection of religion, ecology, and education, this project considers what happens when schools emerge as both crucibles where futures are forged and sites of spiritual attacks that draw students back to some ancestral space-time. Through a focus on haunted schools, it explores 1) narratives of loss, displacement, subjection, and appropriation; 2) the wider claims about the past that these narratives authorize; and 3) how these claims reframe the present and ultimately call into question seemingly established futures. Far from distancing adolescent girls from a religious heritage that many have rejected, schools become entry points for the past to come rushing in, thereby endangering the very futures opened up by education. By derailing the progressive trajectories that schooling enables, possession lays bare existing struggles in the victims’ lives as well as larger constraints on future-making, forcing them to recalibrate their aspirations.
Haunted Schools: Schooling, Possession, and Ecology in Niger
Area of research:
1 Oct 2018 – 30 Sep 2019
AIAS-COFUND II Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow
This fellowship has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 754513 and The Aarhus University Research Foundation.