University of Cambridge > > Centre of African Studies Occasional Talks > HISTORIANS’ ALLEGIANCES: NIGERIAN HISTORIOGRAPHY AND THE POLITICS OF BELONGING


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Despite their epistemological posturing as impartial producers of knowledge, historians’ subjectivities are always implicated in their preferred themes and the narrative and conceptual choices they make. The end of British colonial rule in 1960 brought a number of changes in the ways Nigerian historians and the public engage with the past, resulting in the deregulation of cultural and historical production. The penchant for a glorious past to buttress the clamor for independence allowed for a momentary grand narrative that quickly waned into a multitude of regional narratives in tandem with a toxic politics of belonging in the postcolonial era. The Civil War, economic recession and the explosion of violent identity politics between 1980s and 2000s, especially overcitizenship rights and resource control challenged the position of the Nigerian state as dominant custodian of history because its definition of Nigerian history was rivaled and contested by emerging regional histories and marginal narratives. The shifting allegiances of historians led to the production of revisionist and politically motivated historiographies shaped by four subnational forms of belonging: Islam and the politics of jihad amongthe Hausa-Fulani; the politics of ethnicity in Yoruba land; the politics of genocide and war trauma among the Igbo; and the discourse of marginalization of minorities in the Middle Belt and Niger-Delta regions. In this presentation, I posit that the notion of Nigerian history, as a grand narrative, is entirely relative to the politics and structure of Nigerian society.

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

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