Policing Local Histories: The Nigerian History Machine and the Production of Middle Belt Historiography


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Department of History


The proposed book project advances a new reading of the making of history in postcolonial Nigeria – conceived as a complex knowledge-policy regime encompassing the National Archives, National Universities Commission and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments. I see this as a “history machine” through which the Nigerian state regulates the discursive parameters of local histories outside the exclusive control of professional historians. Deploying archival and museum ethnography and in-depth interviews with policymakers, historians, archivists, archaeologists and publishers, the publication will reveal how the Nigerian history machine, initially designed to produce a national meta-narrative, broke down into a multitude of ethnic and regional counterdiscourses, animated by politics of marginality and resentment. The project focuses on the Middle Belt region where a group of local intelligentsia produces "dissident histories" to reassert the significance of ethnic minorities and reclaim their discursive agency against the hegemony of the Nigerian history machine.