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Street stories: orality, media, popular culture and the postcolonial condition in Nigeria Open Access


Other title
Orality, popular culture, media, film, postcolonial, Nigeria, democracy, music
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Otiono, Nduka
Supervisor and department
Zwicker, Heather (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Barber, Karin (Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham)
White, Jerry (English and Film Studies)
Kelly, Gary (English and Film Studies)
Simpson, Mark (English and Film Studies)
True, Micah (Modern Languages and Comparative Literature)
Department of English and Film Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This study unravels the curious politicization of everyday life in Nigeria. It tracks and redefines a seemingly simple and commonplace but peripheralized genre of everyday life, “street stories,” that is taken for granted as rumours, gossip, and myths, and examines its interrelation to contemporary postcolonial politics and culture in Nigeria. The term “street stories” is used specifically to refer to mythopoeic oral texts produced and circulated as weapons of political resistance or compromise in multiple cultural formations within the postcolonial state— especially in the metropolis with its complex demographics. This research thus demonstrates how these texts assumed heightened critical value, especially during the brutish years of military dictatorships (1985 and 1997), and the unfolding democratic order since 1999, with emphasis on President Umaru Yar’Adua’s short-lived regime (2007-2010). Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, is my paradigmatic research setting. This work analyzes how the “unofficial” narratives (street stories) open up alternative expressions of civic responsibilities and the pursuit of justice and human rights in the context of government’s abdication of its social contract in the postcolonial state in Africa. The study addresses questions such as: What forms of empowerment and social justice emerge when ordinary citizens gather in pubs, mass transit stations, around urban newsstands, and other arenas of socialization in the “public sphere,” and conduct impromptu “mock trials” of rulers and traducers of human rights in the context of postcolonial tyranny? How do street stories mediate, and are mediated by the critical press, Nollywood films, popular musical works and their producers? The significance of these street stories can be gleaned from the state's vicious censorship of their transmission channels, and its issuance of regular public statements and billboards discouraging rumour mongering, as well as administering oaths of secrecy on public servants. My primary texts comprise “street stories” already published in Nigeria’s press, or/and captured in Nollywood video films and popular music. I complement these with texts associated with limited ethnomethodological fieldwork. I examine these texts using theories of Oral Literature, Media Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Cultural Studies, and Anthropology against the backdrop of my nearly fifteen years field experience as a journalist and activist in Nigeria. I argue that besides their aesthetic appeal, “street stories” function powerfully as “hidden/public transcripts,” that offer important insights into popular culture’s role in participatory democracy, political oppression, and in narrating/performing the nation.
License granted by Nduka Otiono ( on 2011-09-27T22:14:05Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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