The first time I came to Nigeria was in 2011 during my Master’s degree. My PhD was in Port Harcourt in 2016 I did research about Pentecostals, politics and violence in the Niger Delta. My first research in medical anthropology was about AIDS with a focus on its effect in the Yoruba community. That meant interacting with people working in medicine. Babalawos, Alfas, Aladuras, not only biomedicine or western medicine as we like to call them.

The research was very nice but the experience in itself stood out and shaped the way I interact with Nigerians, and I got to meet the Ooni of Ibadan. I lived inside the campus of the University of Ibadan. It was my first experience in Africa not just Nigeria. I was far away from home and from everything familiar. While the big things like the people I met and interviewed shaped my experience and research, it was the little things that defined it. Things like electricity, it was there was there and it wasn’t there, in a situation not similar to the one I was used to, I got to move around from one home to another because the room got flooded.

I study anthropology and the history of Nigeria. It’s a choice I made; it was not an accident. I needed to understand what is going around. In Italy, they were a lot of people doing research in Africa but they were doing it in Ghana, Benin, but nobody in Nigeria, I don’t know why considering in Rome the majority of migrants are Nigerians, Igbo people. There is a big Igbo community in Rome.

I grew up in the outskirts of Rome and there were Nigerians living there, we even had few Aladura churches in my area. I got close to them by chance. In high school I met an Igbo man who had a shop in central Rome selling traditional artifacts from Nigeria. He wasn’t interested in selling to me. He didn’t care for them; I had more interest in them than he did. For him they were things, for me they were a dialogue.


Nigeria has been my life’s work

The Nigeria community in Italy is a little bit closed in itself, they mostly speak English and feel proud about it, it affects integration and leads to people saying things that are not true without rebuttal. I feel I have a kind of responsibility at this point to engage in the media.

Nigeria is the giant of Africa and I feel that the kind of work I do can change the public opinion but the people talking to the media are people who have never visited Nigeria. I don’t know the basis on which they are saying what they are saying. There is need to have more people who know what they are talking about. When I tell people I am just coming back from Lagos, I get generic reactions and over time, it’s starting to make me angry. I know they don’t my experience, but… it’s time to know better.

I would like more social anthropologists to come into Nigeria. I did everything by myself and I don’t want the same for my students. I hope for ease when doing research in Nigeria. There are barriers set by the people that restricts access in a way that’ll brings exposure to their voices. I would also like for more generally to visit Nigeria.

Anthropologists are not pessimists like political scientists who like to say the state is non-existent in Africa, even in countries where there are a lot of crises. it is not like it is not there it is there but the people feel it differently. Only when the state is harming them. They don’t feel it in basic things like health, good roads, electricity, and basic industry for food. It is a kind of state that make the people feel its presence by disappearance.

My study of Nigeria has also helped put things in context. You can’t do social anthropology in your country because some things are just obvious, steeping out helps you make a comparison. You have to be inside and outside at the same time, immersing yourself completely while leaving space for objectivity.

I’ve had connections in my life, people telling me how they are travelling in spiritual world in Morocco and all the stories that’ve also experienced. I am grateful for that, and all my connections both weird and crazy cannot be bought. It’s not always easy, it makes me rich in a way that money can’t buy. I do not share all the interests of the people I interact with, still it is a way to enrich and open horizon.

When I see a person, I see all the worlds the person is carrying because that what we are as people, we are made up of worlds. When I am in a crowd, I think of all the worlds and experiences that are getting lost. 100 years from now, nobody really remember, in a way it burdens me. Those worlds that are getting lost.

Davide Casciano is a Social Anthropologist whose work is in the study of Nigeria. You can find his full profile and scope of research on: