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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Fellow Dr Taofik Olasunkanmi Adesanmi: “The Cluster offers me a formidably promising platform for connection and interpersonal relationship"


When he arrived in Bayreuth the campus was bustling with energy but then everything changed. As his fellowship at the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence is coming to an end we sat down with Dr. Taofik Olasunkanmi Adesanmi talking with him about his academic journey leading up to the fellowship and what is next in line for him.

Dr. Adesanmi, thank you for taking the time. Could you please describe your academic journey leading up to your fellowship?

I had Bachelor of Art in English Education (B. A. Ed. English) from the Federal Government Adeyemi College of Education, an affiliate of the Obafemi Awolowo University (O.A.U.), Ile Ife, Osun State, Nigeria in 1996. This was followed by M.A. in English as a Second Language (ESL) at the same university in 2005. And from 2016 to 2018 I had Federal Republic of Nigeria’s sponsorship to study Ph.D. in English Language and Linguistics at the National University of Lesotho, Lesotho, Southern Africa. The Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence fellowship offer came at the most appropriate time for me when I had barely completed the PhD and was coveting another quality research in form of a fellowship.

Was the timeliness of the offer the only reason for apllying for the fellowship at the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence?

No, the general overview of the Cluster’s thematic interest and theoretical layout addressing multiplicity, relationality, and reflexivity coincides extremely with my own research endeavours and prospective coverage. It spans Epitaphic Discourse, Anthropological Linguistics, and Text Linguistics as reflected in conference papers presented at the Discourse Power and Resistance 2013 (DPR13) University of Greenwich, UK, and the 2nd Conference of the American Pragmatics Association 2014, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I am also greatly disposed to the application of multiple theories to researches leading to my presentation of “Enhancing Theoretical Framework: Use of Multiple Theories” at the 2017 Post Graduate Conference, Durban University of Technology (DUT) South Africa. As part of my interest in working on Africa, I co-presented a paper titled “Juxtaposition of the Speech Acts and Basotho Names in Lesotho” at the 20th Name Society of Southern Africa (NSSA) International Conference, Venda, South Africa, 2018. In simple terms: the theoretical principle of the Cluster and its thematic coverage, as well as its mode of operation described did captivate me.

Tell us a little bit about the research project that you are working on during your fellowship.

At present, my fellowship research topic focuses on “Investigating the Nexus between Animals and Basotho’s Identities in Epitaphs as Death Discourse”. This topic popped up while I was on the PhD research dwelling on “Death Discourse and Personality Assemblage in Selected Epitaphs from Lagos and Maseru Cemeteries” at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), Lesotho. The eighth schematic element called “Closing” in the epitaphic typology was observed making reference to each deceased person as belonging to an animal totemically in every clan among the Basotho. So, the research is examining the animals pre-indicated for all the clans, the rationale behind their choice, and why they are emphasized so much in the epitaphs. Perhaps as a matter of providence, the advertisement for this fellowship calling for postdoctoral researchers in areas within African studies could not have come at a better time.

Have there been special benefits in working with the Cluster for yourself and what were you able to contribute in return?

The Cluster has offered me a formidably promising platform for connection and interpersonal relationship with other reputable scholars from Africa and outside the continent dealing with diverse interesting subjects most especially in the field of linguistics and other related fields. Embarking on the Cluster’s fellowship has definitely widened my research base and whole academic horizon in terms of gaining more insights from colleagues and senior erudite researchers at various fora provided by the Cluster.  By way of contributing to the Cluster, more research collaborations that should culminate in at least a bok that will have joint international editors shall be proposed to the Cluster. Additionally, the Cluster has my allegiance to take up any assigned responsibility deemed fit either pedagogically or research-wise in future.

And then came Corona … When you arrived everything was still normal but soon the situation changed drastically due to the pandemic - what is your current situation and how is it affecting your work?

Yes, the whole society was beaming and bubbling with life before the pandemic appeared on the scene casting gloom everywhere. I was also in high spirits at the start of the programme until the demoralizing effects of the raging virus started especially because I was disconnected from the office. But the truth of the matter is that Covid-19 has shaken the whole world threatening to cut off all the fabrics of life holding every society; it is not just against an individual. With the unfailing support of the Cluster’s officials - especially Prof. Dr. Erdmute Alber, Dr. Robert Debusmann, and Eva-Maria.Voelkel-Nijs - and my hosts Dr. Eric Anchimbe and Dr. Irina Turner, the psychological imbalance has waned and I have been regaining my composure impressively. Also, the priceless support of the Pentecost International Worship Centre (PIWC) Bayreuth remains very commendable in mitigating my stress during this trying period.

What are your plans for the future – which projects are next in line for you?

First, I look forward to resuming teaching in my school, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Nigeria. Concerning my research endeavours, exploring the East and the North Africa is paramount on my mind for the purpose of interacting with and collecting more epitaphic data to understand the people. These efforts will lay the right foundation for the book projects earlier indicated.

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