LAWRENCE — Stacey Vanderhurst, University of Kansas assistant professor of women, gender & sexuality studies, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to study how Nigerian women are fighting harassment in public spaces.
Vanderhurst will spend the 2022-23 academic year in Nigeria conducting research for her next book project and building relationships with Nigeria-based scholars and students. While in Nigeria, Vanderhurst will be based in the Sociology Department at the University of Lagos, where she will lecture in qualitative research methods and gender studies.
Fulbright U.S. Scholar Awards are prestigious and competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers over 400 awards in more than 130 countries.
Vanderhurst’s project, “Free Women,” investigates how Nigerian women activists have drawn from global campaigns and moved beyond them to combat harassment of single women.
In Nigeria, women are regularly prohibited from going to restaurants or nightclubs alone due to accusations of sexual immorality, especially of sex work. Women driving alone at night face similar harassment from police and private security forces. Vanderhurst is interested in learning how different social movements — both virtual and in the streets — are challenging that stigma and claiming the right to move through public space on women’s own terms.
Specifically, Vanderhurst’s research will investigate three recent anti-harassment movements:
- A campaign to address rampant groping and verbal abuse of women in crowded outdoor marketplaces. Through the hashtag #MarketMarch, a small group of women has organized a series of protests through Lagos’ Yaba Market and other marketplaces.
- A campaign to address harassment of women traveling alone at night and more broadly single women’s access to public spaces, including restaurants, housing estates and private transportation. With the hashtag #ToBeAWomenIsNotACrime, women share stories of harassment from rogue state actors and a variety of the other gatekeepers to civic and everyday life.
- The Feminist Coalition’s contribution to #EndSARS, a campaign against police brutality, and its work to crowdsource donations to provide mutual aid to protesters of the movement. Best known for work that is not overtly focused on women’s rights, the group provides an opportunity to explore how gender intersects with issues in class, poverty, political accountability and public safety.
Studying these campaigns allows Vanderhurst to track where global movements resonate with the diverse needs of women in Nigeria and where activists are constructing new visions for women’s rights in their communities.
“After two years of limited travel, I’m thrilled to resume long-term, immersive fieldwork with this award,” Vanderhurst said.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.