Participatory filmmaking with Qur'anic students in Kano, Nigeria: ‘speak good about us or keep quiet!’

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‘Participatory’ research is often presented as a means to ‘empower’ stigmatised groups by addressing shame and by promoting attitude changes. Drawing on experiences producing a ‘participatory’ docudrama with traditional Qur’anic students (almajirai) in Kano, northern Nigeria, I reflect on the limits of ‘participatory’ research as a tool for ‘empowerment’. I describe the risks stigmatised groups may incur by participating, and consider to what extent, if at all, it can foster social change. The almajirai have attracted negative attention as presumed victims of child neglect and as ‘cannon fodder’ for Islamic radicalisation. Their participation in the filmmaking gave them an opportunity to voice their concerns and to rebuke those treating them heedlessly. At the same time, they became vulnerable to accusations and suspicions within their communities. To escape the negative connotations of poverty, they deemphasised its role for almajiri enrolment, thus concealing structural inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-649
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Issue number6
Early online date24 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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