Institut des Sciences des Sociétés / Institute for Social Studies (INSS-CNRST)

The Institute is located in the Nongrmassem section of the 4th District of Ouagadougou, the northeastern part of the capital city of Burkina Faso.

The INSS is a public institution dedicated to research in the humanities and social sciences. Its history can be traced back to the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (IFAN) founded in Dakar in 1936, with regional branches across the French colonial empire. In 1960 the Centre Voltaïque de la Recherche Scientifique (CVRS) was created with the aim to coordinate humanities research in the country – initially called Upper Volta, later Burkina Faso. It became the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in 1978, then the Research Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences in 1981. It took its current name in 1995. From 1997 to 2016, the INSS was composed of five scientific departments covering 17 areas of research: andragogy, anthropology, art, communication, law, economics, Egyptology, gender and management, geography, history, linguistics, literature, musicology, philosophy, political science, sociology.

Research Teams

The INSS is divided into five departments:

  • Socio-economics and Development Anthropology
  • Populations Studies
  • Educations Sciences
  • Law, Politics and History
  • Linguistics and National Languages

These departments are supported by three technical services in charge of audiovisual archives, cartography and documentation.


The INSS employs 90 researchers and scientists, 22 technicians and 16 employees in administration and support.

Research – Constraints and Development

The research issues addressed by the INSS are directly related to the constraints of development.

  • Governance and citizenship
  • Educational system and employment issues
  • Population, production system and spatial management (urban and rural)
  • Food safety and food security
  • Public policy, discrimination and social reintegration
  • Gender, human rights, climate change
  • Poverty and endogenous resilience of populations

Research Programs

The programs are designed to contribute to strengthening sub-regional and African integration. They are based on the premise that the success of development projects depends on better knowledge of knowledge of society and peoples. In this regard, improving the performance of education systems requires diversifying and adapting education provision to the development challenges with which Burkina Faso remains confronted.

On the social level, research should contribute to enhancing the resilience of population in the face of the adverse effects of climate change by proposing innovative technologies. The knowledge base thus built should help to improve local governance and strengthen national identity. There are concrete needs, like mobility and road safety for which local administrations and communities can be better tools and positioned to apprehend and solve problems. This imperative puts the study of national languages and cultures a key component of development strategies. Indeed, the broad-based access to the resources produced through research is only possible when citizen are able to get the information and knowledge available in the languages they master.

Projects in Progress

At the moment, three projects focus on access to health and education and the preservation of archives. In the Dori, a study is underway on the socio-cultural factors in access to health care and a mechanism influencing the nutritional health status of children under the age of five. In Kaya, Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulassoo, in partnership with the organization Light of the World, a study examines how to implement and improve inclusive education. Regarding archives, FONRID funds the digitization and backup of material.

Main Results

– Historical monographs

The institute has published significant studies on the historical dynamics of the communities of Burkina Faso. The monograph initiative based on the premise that the knowledge of the peoples of Burkina Faso is an excellent development tool that can help present and future generations to draw on past experiences and the shared cultural heritage of the country, as well as strong elements to think development strategies rooted in the socio-cultural reality of the national community. In the same vein, it contributes to strengthening national identity. This program has resulted in publications including the history of Ouagaadougou from the origins to the present, the history of kingdoms and chiefdoms in precolonial Burkina Faso, the history of the political representation from the council of elders to the parliament, the Kingdom of Boussouma from the origins to the end of the colonial era.

Original titles of selected monographs:

  • (1996) Monographie de Koulouba: Recherche sur l’origine et l’évolution de la chefferie
  • (2006) Histoire des Ouagadougou des origines à nos jours
  • (2009) Histoire des royaumes et chefferies au Burkina Faso précolonial
  • (2009) Histoire de la representation politique au Burkina Faso: Des conseils des Anciens à l’Assemblée nationale
  • (2012) Le Royaume de Boussouma des origines à la fin de l’occupation coloniale

– Linguistic Atlas of Burkina Faso

The project can be traced back to a multi-state convention that resulted from exchanges between researchers from Benin and Burkina. A number of meetings followed in Abidjan, Nouakchott and Lomé. In 1978, the UNDP signed a contract with the CNRST to collect data needed to ground the prospective introduction of national languages into the formal school system. Hence, the IRSSH (later INSS) was established with the mission to lead the fieldwork toward mapping the linguistic reality of the country. The ensuing investigations would involve topological studies (leading to the correction of many place names and the spatial redistribution of languages and dialects, and sociolinguistic inquiries). This way, from 1982 to 1986, several phase publications would highlight specific aspects of the linguistic reality of the country. The database was pertinent but the overall program suffered from structural shortcomings. There were few scholars, who at times came up with very different positions and conjectures on the linguistic situation. Most of all, the data collected was not sufficiently exploited or circulated. Thus the INSS resumed the atlas project to give it a new impetus. The ongoing research has helped shift positions on several key aspects: in terms of establishing the number of languages and the degree of inter-intelligibility between variants of the same language. To be sure, there is still a great deal of work needed to done to refine the linguistic cartography of the country.

– Food security

With the support of the NGO Oxfam, the INSS conducted studies on the accessibility of food in times of economic crisis. The results shed light on the availability of foodstuff for different populations, the right to food in real life and the food quality in relation to eating habits. These results have served as advocacy tool for Oxfam in its effort to improve access to food for vulnerable populations.

– Digitization and safeguarding of the audiovisual archives of INSS

Six hundred (600) analog carriers (soundtracks, cassettes, and vinyl records) have been digitized so far. So have been two hundred (200) photos out of a stock of eight thousand (8,000) photos. In addition, seven thousand (7,000) iconographic media, i.e. slides and negatives, about twenty VHS movies of the colonial era and Mini DV have been processed.

The project has contributed to safeguarding part of the immaterial cultural heritage of Burkina Faso, which embodies the social, historical and spiritual values of the country’s traditional societies.

– Mapping accident zones in Ouagadougou

This research is conducted in partnership with the French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), University of Montreal, Yalgado University Hospital, and the National Police. Its objective is to find out where the road accidents concentrated in Ouagadougou and to pinpoint their causes. The results show that 60% of the accidents occurred at 50 m from the traffic lights.

– Permanent Digital School Atlas of Ouagadougou and its surroundings (ASPENO)

The atlas was produced in partnership with IRD and other institutions. It makes it possible to geolocate the entire school supplies in Ouagadougou until 2015. It also allows the results to be obtained in the form of image maps and web mapping. These are accessible at

– Socio-economic reintegration of prisoners at the end of prison sentence

The program included the training of prison security guards and social workers and involved socialization through gardening (vegetable production), literacy courses in the Moore and Jula languages and marketing techniques for prison products.

Finally, a key publication captured the socio-political transformation that occurred in Burkina Faso from 2014 and 2016:

Transformations sociopolitiques burkinabè de 2014 à 2016: Perspectives anthropologiques des pratiques politiques et de la culture démocratique dans « un Burkina Faso nouveau » (Sten Hagberg, Ludovic Kibora, Sidi Barry, Siaka Gnessi et Adjara Konkobo. Uppsala Papers in Africa Studes 2, 2017).


– National partners

  • Ministries (Burkina Government)
  • University of Burkina Faso
  • Swedish Cooperation
  • Delegation of the European Union
  • French Cooperation
  • Joseph Ki-Zerbo Foundation
  • Oxfam, Action Against Hunger, OCADES, Médecins du Monde, Light for the World, among other NGOs

– Regional and international partners

  1. Institute for Development Research (France)
  2. University of Uppsala (Sweden)
  3. University of Montreal (Canada)
  4. French Development Agency
  5. South Point Institute – Center on Local Knowledge Studies (Mali)


The institute is still confronted with the insufficient involvement of the social sciences in the conduct of public policies. A corollary is the lack of sufficient financial resources for the training of young scholars in order to ensure the succession of senior researchers and the valorization of research results. Still there is much to be done to expand capacities in infrastructure and logistics.


The creation of research laboratories and mixed research units is being planned to revive the linguistic survey and cartography of Burkina. Also, the transformation of the archives department into an “audiovisual service” is expected to open up its activities to the general public. The mapping laboratory should become a center of excellence for geographic information systems. In all, the INSS is expected to become an observatory of national political life that will interact and collaborate closely with state institutions through goal-oriented agreements.