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 thesisContinue reading “Notre Dame and the Limits of Critique”

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. AdaobiContinue reading “The 419 Scammer as Afropolitan”

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. InContinue reading “How to be a Nigerian Scholar in the West”

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 officialContinue reading “To dobale or not to dobale: speaking back to my oga culture”

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 solelyContinue reading “Revisiting Pius Adesanmi’s The Wayfarer and Other Poems”

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

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, thatContinue reading “Diaspora Ph.D. candidates and the bias of funding in African studies”

A Republic of Extraverted Pentecostals

Ebenezer Obadare’s Pentecostal Republic: Religion and the Struggle for State Power in Nigeria masterfully captures the troubling intersections of state politics and religion in Nigeria, staging vividly Pentecostalism’s unabashed appropriation of political power in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. What Pentecostal Republic accomplishes the most is how it makes intelligible the transformation of the political by the forces of religion. TheContinue reading “A Republic of Extraverted Pentecostals”