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Areas of Research:

Ethnic Identity in the Diaspora and the Nigerian Hinterland

The focus for this area of research is on specific language groups that were common in the diaspora: Aja/Fon, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, and Kanuri (Borno). As is now widely known, enslaved Africans were often concentrated in specific places in the diaspora. Enslaved individuals from the Nigerian hinterland are know to have gone to Bahia (Yoruba, Hausa, Nupe), Jamaica (Igbo), St. Domique/Haiti (Aja/Fon, Yoruba, Igbo), Cuba (Yoruba, Aja/Fon), and the USA (Igbo). In the Maghreb and the larger Islamic world, Hausa and Kanuri (Borno) were common. This project examines the significance of sub-ethnicities, especially among the Yoruba, and the ways in which Islam overrode ethnic identities, as in Bahia, Brazil. We will consider Muslims as a category, including Hausa, Nupe and Yoruba; and we will examine the importance of conversion in the diaspora. Our concern is to establish the extent to which the movement of enslaved Africans into diaspora was similar to other population migrations. In what ways did slaves, even though they were involuntary immigrants, behave like other immigrants? In considering the assimilation model of "creolization", should we not also allow for the possibility that African cultural traditions intensified, despite the oppression to which the enslaved were subjugated? The debate over ethnicity and other ways in which slaves asserted their identities in the face of oppression, is such a fundamental issue in the study of slavery and the development of "creole" culture(s) that this focus of our research program will permeate all of our endeavours. Thus, the search for new data and the exchange of information is directed at creating an atmosphere for international exchange that will be useful in uncovering the nuanced meanings of ethnicity.


Department of History, York University,  Toronto, Canada
Email: nigerian@yorku.ca
Fax: (416) 650-8173