The Selfie

(After Wendell Berry) Once there was a man who filmed his existence.He went collecting his stories in selfies,with a smartphone to his fingers, makinga gallery of the finest images life brought him,of the places and faces his clicks could findin the busy and fleeting world around him. He recordedhimself in the selfie, which preserved his…More

Digital Africana

I wrote this piece in 2014, alerting humanities scholars in Nigeria and in other parts of Africa to embrace the digital humanities more actively. Much has changed since I first posted this essay on several blogs as a way of mobilizing new media scholars in Nigeria to build digital infrastructure and commit to digital pedagogies…More

Notre Dame and the Limits of Critique

Walter Benjamin’s famous insight that “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism” has continued to tug at the heartstrings since I saw images of the massive fire that engulfed the Notre Dame, that grand medieval cathedral in the heart of Paris. Benjamin’s words, from his thesis…More

The 419 Scammer as Afropolitan

In the opening sections of Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s novel, I do Not Come to You by Chance, the protagonist, Kingsley asks Cash Daddy, “Uncle Boniface, are you actually asking me to join you in 419?” Boniface’s response is a torrent of laughter that compares only to the generosity of his empire of scam emails and fraudulent rewards. Adaobi…More

How to be a Nigerian Scholar in the West

I realized recently that the Nigerian academic Oga culture, that punitive style of scholarly mentorship which forbids student thought and agency, has a diaspora version conditioned by the malaise of essentialism. So I decided to present some advice to you, the Nigerian academic who, because of your Western location, routinely dismiss colleagues in the homeland. In…More

To dobale or not to dobale: speaking back to my oga culture

So in the early 1990s, you enroll in a Ph.D. program as a brilliant mathematician but spend the next 22 years of your life on it, seeking perfection (in the hope that you win a major prize one day) and never actually completing it until you pass on. Allegedly because of suicide. That’s the official…More

Revisiting Pius Adesanmi’s The Wayfarer and Other Poems

Although his The Wayfarer and Other Poems appearsto have aged very quickly, Pius Adesanmi’s poetry collection remains an important cultural document signifying a literary response to the ambiguities of oppressive power during military rule in Nigeria. There is the possibility of reading The Wayfarer and Other Poems as a text seeking to unsettle the mythology that exile existed solely…More

A Box Full of Darkness: The Language of Trauma in Jumoke Verissimo’s Debut Novel

Through her narrative of trauma, Nigerian poet offers a debut novel that presents readers with a paradox: how darkness can both heal and enslave the mind. Jumoke Verissimo’s first novel has it all — poetic language that gushes gracefully from page to page, the intelligence of a scholar-writer casting a retrospective gaze on the politics…More

Diaspora Ph.D. candidates and the bias of funding in African studies

It would be nice to devote a panel at the next ASA conference in Boston or at other similar venues to the question of African diaspora doctoral students who are routinely excluded from opportunities reserved for their colleagues back at home. There is the assumption, normalized by most funding agencies/units/organizations both in African and Euro-American locations, that…More