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

  • Author / Creator
    Otiono, Nduka
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2011-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3HB1B
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Zwicker, Heather (English and Film Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Barber, Karin (Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham)
    • Simpson, Mark (English and Film Studies)
    • True, Micah (Modern Languages and Comparative Literature)
    • White, Jerry (English and Film Studies)
    • Kelly, Gary (English and Film Studies)