Struggling for Space: Urban Cemeteries and Burial Spaces in Ibadan, Southwestern Nigeria


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




Although emerging research addresses the crises of urbanization in Africa, it has allocated minimal attention—if any at all—to the plight of the dead, especially the struggle for burial spaces in urban cemeteries. In Nigeria as elsewhere in Africa, migrants, particularly from rural enclaves, troop into the cities daily and push the urban population to the brink of explosion. Population explosion inevitably places overwhelming pressures on the already saturated but inefficient social amenities and infrastructure. More important for this study, population explosion engenders contest for “living spaces”; however, it is not often realized that there is a struggle for “living spaces” for the dead in urban cemeteries as well. Relying on archival records, interviews, and observation, this study examines the struggle for “living spaces” for dead urbanites in urban cemeteries and how local beliefs about death and burial rites mediate this struggle.