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Research seminar: "Taboos and Eco-resilience in Yorùbá Sacred Orature"

Thursday 28 April 2022, 4:00-5:30PM (BST)
Michael Sadler SR (LG.15) University of Leeds

Please join us on Thursday 28th April, 4.00-5.30 pm (BST) for a research seminar with Dr Oluwabunmi Tope Bernard (Obafemi Awolowo University and SOAS University of London), who will speak about

"It is neither a rat nor a bird: taboos and eco-resilience in Yorùbá sacred orature"

The research seminar is hosted by the Leeds University Centre for African Studies, the Centre for Global Development, and the School of English. The event  will take place in hybrid form, meaning that you can attend in person or online (via MS Teams).


Scholarly debates surrounding the current global crises of environmental degradation are not only epistemological, but also normative. Using an ethnographic lens, this study examines how strict taboos are used as tools for environmental sustainability in Yorùbá sacred orature. This perspective has much to contribute to the core claim of Yorùbá vision of eco-justice, that the imperative of economic development should not obscure the community’s moral responsibilities for conservation and a sustainable environment.

Reading the selected sacred orature in light of Buber’s “I and Thou” idea, Dr Bernard argues that Yorùbá sacred orature-inflected morality allows us to regard nature as a living entity that has life, existence, and being. This study concludes that the imposition of taboos on killing or eating certain insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, cutting of certain trees and the consequences of flouting them as contained in the selected sacred orature also ensured the survival of the fauna within this ecological niche.


Dr Oluwabunmi Tope Bernard teaches Yorùbá language and literature at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. Her research interests include Yorùbá language, literature, gender and sexuality, postcolonial and environmental studies. She has authored and co-authored peer-reviewed articles in various journals, encyclopedias, and books.  Her research titled “Lend me your penis: sex and sexuality in Yorùbá lampooning songs” won the prestigious University of Michigan African Presidential Scholar (UMAPS) fellowship in 2020.

In 2021, she was invited to participate in the Sustainable Futures in Writing project that was sponsored by the University of Glasgow and the British Academy. She is currently a visiting scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London under the Leventis Research Co-operation Programme doing research on the discourse on environmental sustainability in Yorùbá sacred orature. Her research employs a combination of ecocritical interpretation, ritual performance theory analysis of the symbolism and indigenous Yorùbá hermeneutics to explain causes of environmental degradation and possible ways of achieving environmental sustainability in the Yorùbá sacred orature.