Visiting PhD researcher at CAS – University of Copenhagen

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21 December 2016

Visiting PhD researcher at CAS

Visiting phd

Merel van’t Wout from African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) is a visiting PhD researcher at CAS. Her research focuses on identity construction, meaning-making and the creation of a sense of belonging among disenfranchised teenage boys, within the rapidly changing context in the inner city of Tamale, Ghana.

While institutionally based at the African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) in The Netherlands, she has recently moved to southern Sweden and in doing so wanted to find a way to engage more deeply with the academic environment in the Nordic countries.

According to Merel: “CAS is a logical starting point. Its open and welcoming atmosphere, inspiring colleagues and discussions and the possibility to contribute is confirmation that I have found the right place. Travelling between the ASCL and CAS allows me to benefit from and, where possible, connect both worlds. Meeting other PhD students and scholars in the Nordic countries has already proved to be stimulating and worthwhile.”

Merel about her research focus: I started my PhD in the spring of 2015 at the African Studies Centre Leiden. Prior to that (from 2011), I undertook research on the interplay - and deep mismatch - between the lifeworlds of young seamstresses in the town of Bolgatanga, the NGOs that offer them entrepreneurial training, and the discourse that celebrates female entrepreneurship as an empowering development strategy. For my PhD I moved to a more urban research setting, still in Ghana: to the city of Tamale in the Northern Region.
My PhD project explores feelings of social and political belonging of young disenfranchised teenage boys and young men in this rapidly growing secondary city. I use their stories, experiences and interpretations as a lens to look at the social transitions that are taking place in Tamale. The various ways in which these boys clash and conform with more traditional power structures, and how groups build their own social and financial empires continues to surprise and fascinate me.

My PhD is part of a larger research project: “Society and Change in Northern Ghana: Dagomba, Gonja, and the regional perspective on Ghanaian history”. This project examines the position of Northern Ghana, specifically in the context of long-term processes of change and social-economic and political inclusion and exclusion.