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Nigerian non-elite women's everyday survival and resistance during and after the Second World War

Title data

Edeagu, Ngozi:
Nigerian non-elite women's everyday survival and resistance during and after the Second World War.
Event: Recasting Subjects and Subjectivities in the Writing of History , June 22-24, 2022 , Scuola Superiore Meridionale - Università di Napoli Federico II, Naples.
(Conference item: Workshop , Paper )

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Project's official title
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Writing Back to Empire: Newspaper, Non-Elites and Decolonisation in the Global Public Sphere 1937-1957
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Project financing: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst

Abstract in another language

There has been a long tradition of women resisting colonial rule to defend their economic interest. While the 1929 Women’s War is the most well-known coordinated women movement in colonial Nigeria, non-elite women such as market women, traders and hawkers, were engaged in “small acts of day to day non-compliance, which frustrated colonial administrators” (Bush 1999, 16). These commonplace acts of resistance showcase what colonial women in Nigeria have historically done to defend their interests against the colonial state.

Women’s resistance against price controls and other economic strangulations become particularly visible during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath. Originating in 1941, the price control scheme controlled not only the price of foodstuffs but their actual sale. The price controls forced women to make sacrifices and so in order to survive they had to test the boundaries of colonial power. With husbands or other male breadwinners conscripted into the imperial army, many women had to survive in constrained economic conditions. They did so through non-compliance and evasion of the law, through smuggling, black marketing and profiteering. These acts of resistance and survival of women had an impact on how the Nigerian colonial state could imagine its power during the period.

Resistance and survival can be seen and understood through the West African Pilot (hereafter Pilot) newspaper which had a predominantly male readership but also constituted a channel of communication for women. It was an unreliable ally of the women due to a conflict of interest. On one hand, women were seen as an important base for anti-colonial mobilisation and so the newspaper had to show understanding of their plight. On the other hand, the paper had to sympathise with its male readership which partly comprised of privileged government workers with fixed salaries who relied on price controls. In the balance, women were largely scapegoated by the Pilot.

Nevertheless, through their representations in the Pilot non-elite women were able to speak for themselves. So, despite being a literate enterprise, I return to newspapers as an important source where resistance was reported. Newspapers can recover women’s voices, presence and actions during the colonial period to bypass the male gaze, avoid androcentrism, elisions or epistemic silencing. Thus, this paper aims to “write back” female actors into the history of decolonisation through newspaper sources, in particular the Pilot.

Further data

Item Type: Conference item (Paper)
Refereed: No
Additional notes: Attendance at the conference was supported by the Equal Opportunities Department, University of Bayreuth and the Scuola Superiore Meridionale - Università di Napoli Federico II, Naples, Italy.
Keywords: women; anticolonialism; newspaper; representation; Nigeria
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies > Professor History of Africa > Professor History of Africa - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Joël Glasman
Graduate Schools > BIGSAS
Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies
Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies > Professor History of Africa
Graduate Schools
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 000 Computer Science, information, general works > 070 News media, journalism and publishing
900 History and geography > 900 History
900 History and geography > 960 History of Africa
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2022 10:03
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2022 10:03