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Exploring ‘KEO’ Survey Data

Insa Nolte, Rebecca Jones, Khadijeh Taiyari and Giovanni Occhiali, ‘Research Note. Exploring the survey data for historical and anthropological research: Muslim-Christian relations in south-west Nigeria.,’ African Affairs, 115 (460), 2016:541-561. Open access to the article can be found here.

This research note explores the use of quantitative data and surveys in the fields of history and anthropology. Although well established in other areas, quantitative methods are often bypassed in the aforementioned fields due to the lack of tangible material, poverty of quantitative data and the discursive nature of both academic fields. The authors, however, argue that quantitative survey data can make an important contribution to this type of research, especially if it is open for critical analysis.

The article focuses on the 2012-13 ‘Knowing Each Other’ (KEO) survey on religion among the Yoruba of south-west Nigeria. It critically discusses the production of their survey data, describes how challenges were anticipated and addressed; and dissects flaws and biases resulting out of their method to convincingly argue that the analysis offers important insights into the social reality of a country or region. It shows that surveys ‘should not be treated as unproblematic expressions of ‘the truth’, but they can provide systemic insights into the lifeworlds of large numbers of respondents in ways that make unexpected findings possible and provocative arguments more credible (Nolte, et al.: 544).’

It shows that surveys ‘should not be treated as unproblematic expressions of ‘the truth’, but they can provide systemic insights into the lifeworlds of large numbers of respondents in ways that make unexpected findings possible and provocative arguments more credible (Nolte, et al.: 544).’

It details how the survey got dominated by medium-sized urban environments, how the social context contributed to a small under-representation of women and a higher number of older respondents. It explores strong evidence for a slow shift from Islam to Christianity in the area since the last comprehensive survey in 1963. And it also found that Muslim-Christian differences are clearly associated with location, age and gender. Careful consideration of these biases shows evidence that the increase of total Christians might be linked to the popularity of Pentecostalism in response to economic hardship, as discussed and researched by several scholars. However, the relatively strong presence of Islam in medium-sized cities especially in northern Yorubaland shows that the relationship might be more complex and suggests that accessibility to resources plays a role in their loyalty to Islam. On the other side a significant shift from Islam to Christianity in respondents that are less than 60 years of age suggests that universal primary education, introduced in 1955, encouraged conversion. The fact that these numbers remained stable within the age brackets suggests that their new Christian identity was passed on to the next generation contributing to the growth of Christianity in the overall population.

It explores strong evidence for a slow shift from Islam to Christianity in the area since the last comprehensive survey in 1963

This article succeeds in convincing the reader by showing how the biases and the survey results explore, engage and challenge current debates about trajectories of Muslim-Christian relations. It shows that quantitative data can be complementary to empirical research and how further critical engagement could lay bare broader trends and new lines of qualitative research that otherwise might have been overlooked.

 

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