Yoruba Hometowns: Community, Identity, and Development in Nigeria

Yoruba Hometowns: Community, Identity, and Development in Nigeria

Yoruba Hometowns: Community, Identity, and Development in Nigeria

Yoruba Hometowns: Community, Identity, and Development in Nigeria

Synopsis

Lillian Trager is professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Excerpt

It was 8:30 in the morning on Saturday, May 22, 1993. I stood in the parking lot of the Diganga Hotel in Ife, Nigeria, waiting for my assistants who would drive with me to Iloko, a town about twenty miles to the east, where we planned to attend the Iloko Day festivities. I had arrived from the United States two days before, having changed the date of my trip to be here in time to attend the second annual Iloko Day. An hour later I was still waiting, then about ten cars with sirens sounding passed on the main road outside the hotel, and I guessed that this was the entourage of the state governor en route to Iloko. I had heard an announcement on Osun State television the night before that the governor, recently elected in the first gubernatorial election in many years, planned to attend Iloko Day. Although I had a car to use it had no gas, and there was a fuel shortage, so none of the gas stations in Ife had any gas available. I had visions of traveling 6,000 miles to end up twenty miles from my destination and being unable to get there on time. A few minutes later my assistants arrived (delayed by having to charge the battery on the video camera we were to use), and we set out for Iloko, arriving after the governor and a few other dignitaries but long before the day's events officially began at 11 A. M.

The events of that morning symbolize the vagaries of my ethnographic research in the Ijesa area of Yorubaland—a combination of drama and routine, uncertainty and serendipity. In many ways, the events of that morning reflected on the broader situation in Nigeria during the research period, which ranged from the relative optimism of 1991–1992, when a transition to civilian rule was in progress, to the disappointment and depression many felt after the cancellation of the June 1993 presidential elections; this situation continued into 1998. At the same time that events in the larger polity have been traumatic, many Nigerians have sought in many ways to contin-

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