Winner Africa Thesis Award 2018: Cynthia Olufade: Oath taking and the transnationalism of silence among Edo female sex workers in Italy

The winner of the Africa Thesis Award 2018 is Cynthia Aghunotse Olufade for her thesis Oath taking and the transnationalism of silence among Edo female sex workers in Italy. Cynthia Olufade completed an MA in African Studies (Diaspora and Transnational Studies) at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan (Nigeria) in March 2018. The prize has been presented to Ms Olufade at the LeidenASA Annual Meeting on 13 December 2018 at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden.

Read the full text of the thesis or buy the book in the ASCL webshop (€ 10,00).
Read the jury report.

This study aims to interrogate the oath taking phenomenon among Edo female sex workers in Italy - in a bid to understand how the oaths taken back home in Edo State, Nigeria, translate into an intangible aspect of the trafficking process.

To achieve the aims of the study, the research utilized the qualitative method of data collection. It involved the use of in-depth interviews with 22 female returnees from Italy, 2 juju priests, 6 NAPTIP (Nigerian governmental organization against human trafficking) officials, 2 ‘trolleys', 3 heads of charity organizations in Benin and 1 prince. Observations were also carried out with the said returnees and some sex workers on the field.

The research reveals that the transnational silence exhibited by different categories of actors in the sex work network sustains the industry. The study also reveals that the oaths form only a part, albeit important, of the construction of debt and bondage in the context of Edo transnational sex work. In light of its findings, the study concludes that the idea of transnationalism of silence is as effective as the oaths taken in the context of Edo transnational sex work.

Read an article on De Correspondent about human trafficking from Nigeria to Europe, for which Cynthia Olufade was interviewed (article in Dutch, comments by Cynthia below the article in English).

Interview with Cynthia Olufade in Mare.

This year we received 31 theses submitted for the Award. The jury would also like to make a special mention of the runners-up:

Tycho van den Hoog (Leiden University, second place) for his thesis North Korean monuments in southern Africa: Legitimizing party rule through the National Heroes’ Acres in Zimbabwe and Namibia (read the full text, pdf).

Rebecca Chudaska (Wageningen University, third place) for her thesis Informational governance: Exploring how the flow of water-related information affects farming practices and decision-making in Ada East (read the full text, pdf).

The j​ury 
The ASCL wishes to thank the jury of the Africa Thesis Award 2018 for the careful reading of all theses and their well-thought-through final decision:

Dr Ir Yves van Leynseele (University of Amsterdam) (chair)
Dr Akinyinka Akinyoade (African Studies Centre Leiden)
Drs Wim Brummelman (journalist)
Ms. Likoko Eunice (PhD fellow, University of Amsterdam)
Dr Karin Nijenhuis (African Studies Centre Leiden)