University of Cambridge > > Centre of African Studies Occasional Talks > 'Ise Olokun Esin: Self-apprehension and the belligerent poor in colonial Lagos'

'Ise Olokun Esin: Self-apprehension and the belligerent poor in colonial Lagos'

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The act processes of the poor permeate literature in the social, anthropological and now the historical sciences. Varieties of interrogations direct attention towards the implications of their livelihood on political economy, in all its segments. From this, a challenge stares us in the face – the emerging necessity for interrogations on their thought processes. This is the rationale behind this study which attempts to examine individual apprehension of the self viz-a-viz socio-economic reality and how such self-investigation translates into collective consciousness. Using a self-apprehension narrative in the Lagos Weekly Record of 1921, it says, that several factors combine to generate in the individual an acquiescent attitude due to the need to understand the transition process of colonial society. It combines this narrative with other written documents by individuals including children and the positions of other secondary sources to advance the argument that the process of self-apprehension and consciousness generated belligerent attitudes against the colonial dispensation. Gradually, the individual poor joined groups that increased his or her efficacy in terms of advocacy within the system. In this way, he was able to influence, up to a level, policy decisions that affected his membership of a collective. The study selects the domestic servants association as a case study because it was the most “unorganised” within a gradually growing complex system of belligerent responses to colonial administration. It argues that within this “disorganisation”, the group was able to garner some efficacy and advocate for the rights of its members. It concludes by saying that the domestic servants union was a significant indication of the brewing cognition that more ‘sophisticated’ advocacy groups like the Railway Workers Union and others acted upon, hence laying a foundation of belligerency for the post-colonial dispensation.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Occasional Talks series.

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