The African Studies Program is excited to introduce Fauzi, a PhD student in the History Department. She received her master’s from the History Department at University of Ghana where she researched migrant Sissala women in Accra. Her research has been featured in the women’s oral archive project at the Library of Africa and the African Diaspora.
What brought you Madison and how are you liking it so far?
My research interests brought me to Madison. Towards the end of my study at the University of Ghana, where I was getting my master’s in history, I began looking into Ph.D. programs. UW-Madison happened to be the ideal place for me among the lot that I considered and applied to. Drawn by the faculty in the African History program and the minor in Gender and Women’s History, I accepted the offer from the Department of History. I got to Madison in mid-August and had the opportunity to enjoy the last moments of summer. I like it here so far, but fingers crossed for the winter.
What has your past research been on?
Two main projects have captured my research interest in the immediate past: My master’s dissertation on migrant Sissala women living in Accra and the flagship women’s oral archive project that I coordinated for the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD). My work on migrant Sissala women set out to situate migrant experiences within the larger discourse of Ghanaian/African women’s coping mechanisms during the Structural Adjustment Program in the 1980s, whereas the oral project at LOATAD brought to light the various accounts and stories of Ghanaian and other African women which lend insights into their lives and identities. Both projects have not only grounded my interests in foregrounding African women’s stories but have also exposed me to new and unconventional methods of obtaining these stories.
How are you hoping to evolve your research in grad school?
My current research lies at the intersection of modern African history and women and gender history where I hope to investigate migrant women’s sense of identity through their interest in popular cultural forms such as films in the independent era in Ghana. The History graduate program here at UW-Madison has so far given me a sense of the ways that I can navigate this interest. In the short while that I have been here, the History in Africa and the Transnational Women and Gender History courses have shaped my thoughts on methods and sources that will be useful for researching Africa’s past and African women’s lives, most of which I had never thought about. I am optimistic about what is to come in these courses and the many others that I will enroll in subsequent semesters. Added to that, I recently discovered the digital archive section of the UW-Libraries and I look forward to employing the resources available there in my research and my overall intellectual growth in the period that I will be here.
You center West African women, and specifically Ghanaian women, in your research. What do you think their stories have to offer political conversations happening in African Studies and our broader perspectives?
To me, the African continent is like this huge canvas on which many different images can be found. These images speak to the different peoples, periods, and aspects of the continent’s past. African women are crucial to these images but unfortunately, the practice of presenting the continent as one with a single story has led to the obscuring of their perspectives thus leaving an incomplete image on the canvas. Over the years, so much scholarly work has been produced by African feminist scholars who have reimaged this canvas in the hopes of (re)presenting African women in the histories of the continent as integral parts of the whole. The success of this has been through capturing African women using diverse lenses that seek to highlight the differences yet reinforce their connection to the continent. It is thus, important that we remain cognizant of the diversities of African women’s lives when capturing these images which include their economic and political endeavors and social relations, all of which lend meaning to Africa’s pasts and present. This approach of capturing the nuances that bind African women mirrors the very nature of the continent as a unit that is made up of diverse peoples and stories. I am following in the steps of those who have done this in the past, and those who continue to, because it is important to understand how the presence of African women offers new perspectives and meanings to African history.
Outside of grad school, what hobbies do you pursue?
In my pastime, I enjoy reading fiction and, occasionally, creative non-fiction. Some of my favorite works have been by African and other black women writers including Nawal El Saadawi, Andrea Levy, and Zora Neale Hurston. I am currently reading the collection of short stories, Accra Noir, which weaves together different accounts of life in Ghana’s capital, Accra, from the viewpoint of residents of various localities that make up the city. Like many of the works of fiction I take delight in, this collection provides a momentary yet gratifying escape into those worlds that it captures.
Produced by Carly Lucas