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The Politics of Erasure: Dissident Memories and the Struggle for Historical Justice in Nigeria

Provostial Visiting Fellows-in-Residence on Black Life and History

Mar 21, 2024

On March 21, 2024, Samaila Suleiman, PhD. gave a keynote lecture as the inaugural Provostial Visiting Fellow-in-Residence on Black Life and History.

Event description courtesy of the Faculty of Arts:

The world is going through a moment of history wars where dissident memories and competing versions of the past are increasingly mobilized as instruments of social justice movements and political negotiation. The Rhodes Must Fall and BlackLivesMatter movements, which were occasioned by the desecration and toppling of the statues and memorials associated with colonial violence, have opened “the floodgates of historical accountability”.

This rising wave of historical reckoning not only coincides but also resonates with deep-seated asymmetries of history education and memories of past injustices in postcolonial Nigeria. The Nigerian version of historical reckoning is predicated on a constellation of contested, if hardnosed, narratives of precolonial injustices around indigenous slavery and an Islamic Jihad, British colonialism, and a violent Civil War.  The failure of the Nigerian state to effectively police and harmonize these contending narratives, through what [Dr. Suleiman calls] the history machine, paved the way for the ascendency of counter-narratives of marginalization, war trauma and genocide, and Islamization which has frequently threatened the corporate existence of the country.

In this lecture, [Dr. Suleiman argues] that these narratives, as evident in historical texts, museums, archives, and the popular media, reflect not only the broader tension between distinct intellectual trends and political agendas in Nigeria but also the fragility of a postcolonial state grappling with complex histories of injustice and competing visions of historical Justice.    

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