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Book Cover for: Letters, Kinship, and Social Mobility in Nigeria, Olufemi Vaughan

Letters, Kinship, and Social Mobility in Nigeria

Olufemi Vaughan

In 2003, Olufemi Vaughan received from his ninety-five-year-old father, Abiodun, a trove of more than three thousand letters written by four generations of his family in Ibadan, Nigeria, between 1926 and 1994. The people who wrote these letters had emerged from the religious, social, and educational institutions established by the Church Missionary Society, the preeminent Anglican mission in the Atlantic Nigerian region following the imposition of British colonial rule. Abiodun, recruited to be a civil servant in the colonial Department of Agriculture, became a leader of a prominent family in Ibadan, the dominant Yorùbá city in southern Nigeria. Reading deeply in these letters, Vaughan realized he had a unique set of sources to illuminate everyday life.

Letter writing was a dominant form of communication for Western-educated elites in colonial Africa, especially in Nigeria. Exposure to the modern world and a growing sense of nationalism were among the factors that led people to begin exchanging letters, particularly in their interactions with British colonial authorities. Vaughan reconstructs dominant storylines, including themes such as kinship, social mobility, Western education, modernity, and elite consolidation in colonial and postcolonial Nigeria. He brings to life a portrait, at once intimate and expansive, of a community during a transformative period in African history.

Book Details

  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publish Date: Dec 17th, 2024
  • Pages: 282
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.00in - 6.00in - 0.80in - 1.00lb
  • EAN: 9780299344542
  • Categories: Africa - WestSociology - GeneralSocial Classes & Economic Disparity

About the Author

Olufemi Vaughan, the Alfred Sargent Lee '41 and Mary Farley Ames Lee Professor and Chair of Black Studies at Amherst College, is the author of Religion and the Making of Nigeria, among other works.

Praise for this book

"[An] illuminating historical text. . . . The letters indeed offer an empirical window onto class relations, British colonial social engineering, assimilation, eminent domain, coloniality, Indigenous filial responsibilities and expectations, and the deployment of new forms of education-based discrimination within a changing society."--Choice
"A remarkable trove of letters; a true family archive of 3,000 missives written between 1926 and 1994. Vaughan uses these letters to examine themes of modernity, elite self-fashioning, and enduring kinship obligations during the period when Nigeria was transitioning from British colonial rule to independence."--International Journal of African Historical Studies
"Reading this was a joy. It is precisely the kind of book that will command attention not only among Africanists but in adjunct and cross-fertilizing disciplines and cultural contexts where tensions and contestations around kinship, filiation, and familism--moral and otherwise--persevere, giving modernist claims of isolated individuality a run for their affective money."--Ebenezer Obadare, author of Humor, Silence, and Civil Society in Nigeria
"By synthesizing a vast number of letters, Olufemi Vaughan reconstructs the trajectory of a class of Nigerians who were part of the colonial bureaucracy and sociopolitical system but were conscious of their filial responsibility not to allow the ties that bound them to break. . . . Innovative in its content and easily relatable for anyone interested in the development of modern literacy in Africa."--Toyin Falola, author of A Mouth Sweeter than Salt: An African Memoir