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Made in Nigeria

Duress and Upwardly Mobile Youth in the Biography of a Young Entrepreneur in Enugu

Inge Ligtvoet

What does duress mean in the lives of those who are not by definition understood to be living in duress—namely, upwardly mobile young people in a relatively peaceful city in southeast Nigeria? In this article, I try to answer that question by presenting the life story of Azu, a young designer in Enugu who has made his way out of a poverty-stricken background through a relatively successful entrepreneurship. His biography, based on interviews and observations, and partially through a shared experience of constraint in Nigeria, serves as an example of duress in the lives of those who—by family, educational background, or career success—are considered “well-off” compared with most youths in the country. I argue that duress for these youths is informed by social expectations due to their acquired status as much as by the sociopolitical uncertainties that they have been confronted with throughout their lives.

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Tracking Skilled Diasporas

Globalization, Brain Drain, and the Postcolonial Condition in Nigeria

Nduka Otiono

This essay examines the trajectories of skilled labor migrants within a global South-North migration matrix using an interdisciplinary framework. Focusing on Nigeria's huge brain drain phenomenon, the essay draws from the limited available data on the field, interpreting those data through theoretical perspectives from postcolonial studies, Marxism, cultural studies, and human geography. The study spotlights the example of the United States of America as a receptacle of skilled migrants and raises questions of social justice along the North-South divide. The research demonstrates that contrary to the dominant image promoted by some elements in the Western media of migrants as irritants or criminals who disturb well-cultivated, advanced World economies and social spaces, 1 those nations benefit highly from Africa's (and other migrant countries') labor diasporas, especially the highly skilled professionals.

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Medical Ethnography over Time

Penetrating “the fog of health” in a Nigerian community, 1970–2017

Murray Last

Too often, research into the health of a particular community is brief and superficial, focusing only on what is public and leaving the private health of women and children ‘foggy’. By contrast, long-term anthropology can offer access to processes taking place within a local culture of illness. Here, an account of a community’s experience of health over the past 50 years not only outlines the key changes as seen anthropologically but also shows how even close ethnography can initially miss important data. Furthermore, the impact of a researcher – both as a guest and as a source of interference – underlines how complex fieldwork can be in reality, especially if seen through the eyes of the researcher’s hosts.

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Alessandro Jedlowski

This article analyzes the articulation between mobility and technology within life trajectories marked by migration, exile, and the search for economic achievement. It does so by focusing on a Nigerian couple’s (attempted) itinerary of return migration from Italy to Nigeria, and on the tensions that surround the role played by a specific transport technology, the shipping container, within this process. It highlights how, throughout the itinerary that brings the container from Italy to Nigeria, its social meaning and that of the cargo stored in it become the center of a series of tense interactions, in which diverging imaginaries about transnational mobility, migration, and life abroad come to the fore, and provoke radical transformations in the life of the people involved in the itinerary of the container itself.

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Keeping the Goddess Alive

Performing Culture and Remembering the Past in Osogbo, Nigeria

Peter Probst

This article focuses on the debate about cultural heritage in the context of art, history, and politics in the Yoruba town of Osogbo in southwest Nigeria. Some forty years ago, Osogbo became the center of a vibrant art scene. Today Osogbo’s fame as a symbol for the renaissance of Yoruba art and culture has faded. What has survived, however, is the debate about the shrines and sculptures shaped by the Austrian-born artist, Susanne Wenger, and her local collaborators in the grove of Osogbo’s guardian deity Osun. It is argued that the present day conflicts about the meaning of the image works standing in the Osun grove are based upon their perception not so much as art but rather as media which in the very sense of the word—mediate between different realms of social importance in terms of time, space, power, and wealth.

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Regional integration from “below” in West Africa

A study of transboundary town-twinning of Idiroko (Nigeria) and Igolo (Benin)

Olukayode A. Faleye

English abstract: This article examines the phenomenon of town-twinning between Idiroko (Nigeria) and Igolo (Benin). While transboundary town twinning is the integration of settlements across distinct state territories—an emerging pattern of borderland urban evolution—this seems to be a new impact of the colonially determined borders in West Africa. Despite the challenges posed by the partition of West African culture areas, town twinning has more recently turned into an established form of regional integration based on a “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” approach in the region. Using qualitative methodology based on descriptive analysis of oral interviews, government records, geographical data, as well as diverse literature, this paper uncovers the role of “borderlanders” in negotiating borders through increased non-state transnational sociospatial cooperation and networking. Apart from altering the traditional state-centric territoriality, this new development may entail broader economic and socio-political implications in the region.

Spanish abstract: Este artículo examina el hermanamiento de las ciudades de Idiroko (Nigeria) e Igolo (Benin). Mientras que el hermanamiento de ciudades transfronterizas es la integración de asentamientos más allá de los distintos territorios estatales—un patrón emergente en la evolución urbana de las regiones fronterizas—esto parece ser un nuevo impacto en las fronteras colonizadas en África Occidental. A pesar de los retos de la división cultural en África Occidental, el hermanamiento de ciudades se ha convertido recientemente en una forma de integración regional con enfoque “de abajo hacia arriba” más que “de arriba hacia abajo.” Empleando una metodología cualitativa basada en un análisis de entrevistas orales, archivos gubernamentales, datos geográficos y una literatura diversa, este artículo revela el rol de las regiones fronterizas en negociaciones transfronterizas de cooperación y de formación de redes socio-espaciales no estatales. Además de alterar la territorialidad tradicional centrada en el estado, este nuevo desarrollo puede generar implicaciones económicas y socio-políticas más amplias en la región.

French abstract: Cet article examine le phénomène des villes jumelles d’Idiroko (Nigéria) et d’Igloo (Bénin). Alors que les villes jumelles transfrontalières sont le résultat de l’intégration d’implantations au-delà de territoires étatiques distincts -un schéma émergeant d’évolution urbaine en région frontalière-, ce cas semble être un nouvel impact des frontières déterminées par la colonisation en Afrique de l’Est. Malgré les défi s posés par la partition des aires culturelles de l’Afrique de l’Est, les villes jumelles se sont converties plus récemment en une forme établie d’intégration régionale fondée sur une approche régionale de bas en haut plutôt que de haut en bas. À partir de l’’usage d’une méthodologie qualitative basée sur une analyse descriptive d’entretiens, d’archives gouvernementales, de données géographiques ainsi que sur une littérature diverse, cet article met à jour le rôle des régions frontalières dans la négociation des frontières à travers la coopération et la formation de réseaux socio-spatiaux trans nationaux non étatiques. En plus de modifier la territorialité traditionnelle centrée sur l’État, ce fait nouveau peut entraîner des implications économiques et socio-politiques plus larges dans la région.

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An Author Meets Her Critics

Around "Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria" by Ruth Marshall

Ruth Marshall, J.D.Y. Peel, Daniel Jordan Smith, Joel Robbins and Jean-François Bayart

In the now very rapidly growing literature on Pentecostalism in Africa, Ruth Marshall’s book occupies a special place. In disciplinary terms, most of that literature falls under religious studies or history. The anthropologists came later, particularly those from North America, who had to get over their distaste for a religion that seemed so saturated in the idioms of the US Bible Belt. The originality of Marshall’s book is grounded in its linkage of questions derived from political theory with rich data collected through intensive and sustained fieldwork. But she insists it is not “an ethnography of the movement” (p. 5), so what exactly is it?

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J. D. Y. Peel

Marloes Janson, Wale Adebanwi, David Pratten, Ruth Marshall, Stephan Palmié, Amanda Villepastour, J. D. Y. Peel, Richard Fardon and Ramon Sarró

In Nigeria, a country associated with conflict and violence, a common phrase in Pidgin English used to characterize the nation is “Nigeria is a war.” However, as J. D. Y. Peel has pointed out in his extensive work, Christian-Muslim relations in Nigeria are not marked just by conflict and violence. Christians and Muslims have long lived side by side in Yorubaland in southwestern Nigeria, often in harmony with practitioners of Yoruba religion—the boundaries between the three not always sharply demarcated (Peel 2000). In line with J. D. Y.’s optimistic nature, his work has a positive message: the Yoruba teach us about how different faiths can co-exist in peace.

Open access


Anthropological Knowledge and Practice in Global Health

Rodney Reynolds and Isabelle L. Lange

Since the turn of the millennium, conceptual and practice-oriented shifts in global health have increasingly given emphasis to health indicator production over research and interventions that emerge out of local social practices, environments and concerns. In this special issue of Anthropology in Action, we ask whether such globalised contexts allow for, recognise and sufficiently value the research contributions of our discipline. We question how global health research, ostensibly inter- or multi-disciplinary, generates knowledge. We query ‘not-knowing’ practices that inform and shape global health evidence as influenced by funders’ and collaborators’ expectations. The articles published here provide analyses of historical and ethnographic field experiences that show how sidelining anthropological contributions results in poorer research outcomes for the public. Citing experiences in Latin America, Angola, Senegal, Nigeria and the domain of global health evaluation, the authors consider anthropology’s roles in global health.

Free access

Rachel J. Wilde, Gayle Clifford, Áron Bakos and Kristine Hickle

Learning Under Neoliberalism: Ethnographies of Governance in Higher Education Susan Brin Hyatt , Boone W. Shear and Susan Wright (eds), New York: Berghahn Books (Higher Education in Critical Perspective: Practices and Policies Series), 2015, ISBN: 978-1-78238-595-0, 226pp., Hb. £80.00, Pb. £20.00.

The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy and HIV in Northern Nigeria Kathryn A. Rhine, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-253-02143-4, 218pp., Pb. $30.00.

eFieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology in the Digital World Roger Sanjek and Susan W. Tratner (eds), Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press (Haney Foundation Series), 2016, ISBN: 978-0-8122-4778- 7, 312pp., Pb. £29.99.

Trafficked Children and Youth in the United States: Reimagining Survivors Elżbieta M. Goździak, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016, ISBN: 9780813569697, 194pp., Pb. £25.95, $27.95, Hb. £78.50, $85.00.