Moving forward through commitment
Bayreuth has potential and the doctoral students at BIGSAS are not only using their dissertation project to demonstrate that. They become active in many ways. Today on display: Hanza Diman.
Hanza came to Germany for the first time at the end of 2011. He received a scholarship from DAAD to conduct literature research in Bayreuth for his studies at the University Abomey Calavi (Benin). Although he was only to spend six months in Upper Franconia, he soon realised that there were other opportunities for him in Bayreuth. Thanks to the contact with an alumnus of the University of Bayreuth, he discovered the programme Culture and Society of Africa. Without further ado, he found himself in Bayreuth again and began his master’s studies with a focus on African history and Francophone studies. Due to his scientific enthusiasm and commitment, which he showed during his master’s studies, he enrolled as a PhD candidate under the supervision of Prof. Achim von Oppen and Prof. Uli Beisel. Although he did not become part of BIGSAS until April 2016, Hanza has already been participating in the BIGSAS colloquium for a long time. This initiative gave him the possibility to meet new people and to create a network. Due to the ‘Open-Door-Policy’ of BIGSAS, this was the perfect opportunity for him to get used to the BIGSAS system bit by bit and to prepare for his doctoral studies.
“This was a very important moment for me! If you are already involved with doctoral students, and the management of BIGSAS is also open to those who have not yet been doctoral students, then you already feel as part of the system. And then you think that if you are doing your doctorate, it must be at BIGSAS. One has just already got a taste of it”.
Doctoral studies = mythical world?
Hanza says that many people think that a doctorate is something completely different from a master’s degree, two different worlds, so to speak. But “actually, they belong together too”, says the doctoral student. Often, students already deal with the contents of their master’s studies, which they then concretize or deepen in their doctorate. Then he adds with a wink: “sure, you have to be smart”.
In addition to his great motivation for his PhD project, he also took advantage of all the offers at BIGSAS that he was interested in. This included not only the BIGSAS colloquium, but also a large number of workshops. According to the motto: “Here is a repertoire of possibilities. I have to do something”, he also organised events by himself (e.g. on the subject of project management).
“This is the only way to gain other practical experience besides your dissertation. When you organize a workshop, it is not only about the content, but also about the organizational aspects, which play an important role. You might be able to do the content, but organizing a workshop is a completely different challenge. Then I thought: If you’re doing your doctorate, then there’s not necessarily the possibility of doing an internship, but if BIGSAS gives you the opportunity to organize and stage things, why not?”
However, a workshop cannot simply be up and running. It requires discipline and determination, skills that Hanza has been able to strengthen over the years at BIGSAS. The Beninese was also able to prove his skills as a member of the BIGSAS football team. Several goals were scored in the Wilde Liga. In 2019 he was also the representative of the Junior Fellows together with Larissa Mbobda.
Taking the initiative
Hanza is of the opinion that BIGSAS supports everyone who has an idea and wants to put it into practice. He thinks that the Junior Fellows have a lot to win by taking more initiative and organising more events from which the whole BIGSAS community would profit.
“I simply enjoy getting involved in initiatives or founding them, just writing the dissertation would be too boring for me!”
Hanza will certainly not be bored. In addition to organising events within BIGSAS, Hanza is also one of the BIGSAS Junior Fellows who founded the Model African Union e.V. and project coordinator for Afrika@School. The Afrika@School project, inspired by the former BIGSAS@School project, thrives on the diversity of workshops offered at Bavarian schools by students of the university. This project gives the participants the opportunity to organise a workshop and to get in touch with students, to discuss and critically reflect on Africa related topics. But the project further promotes social interaction with the elderly population, as Afrika@School is also present in retirement homes. Why are such projects so important?
On the one hand, the media portrayals of Africa in Germany are not balanced, which leads to great dissatisfaction. Schools should serve as institutions in which such images are critically examined.
“Not everything that is said about Africa is wrong, that’s not the point, but we don’t go to schools to sugar-coat things about Africa, we just want that when you talk about the bad things in Africa, you also take a look at the positive things on the continent”.
This also leads to earlier education, so that images do not become established as stereotypes in the mind of the students so quickly. A balance is established. Ultimately, it is important for Hanza to contribute something to a process of change himself: “if you can make a difference, then you have to be aware of it and also feel obliged to do so in some way” – the balance has to be maintained and this is exactly where the initiative of his fellow students is needed.
New project: Africa Politicum
Hanza has founded a new think-and-do-tank called Africa Politicum in January 2020. With Africa Politicum, the expertise of African intellectuals and researchers especially those based in Bayreuth and enrolled at BIGSAS is put at the forefront simply “because there is a lot of potential here in Bayreuth and within BIGSAS that should be promoted”. And it is exactly what stimulated the creation of AP and what the platform, which outreach shall not be limited to Bayreuth, also stands for. Whether the presidential election in Togo or Nigerian Border Politics, or the current Political Crisis in Cameroon – AP deals with burning issues that challenge the political, socio-economic and cultural agenda in the African countries.