Emirs in London
Subaltern Travel and Nigeria's Modernity
Published by: Indiana University Press
Emirs in London recounts how Northern Nigerian Muslim aristocrats who traveled to Britain between 1920 and Nigerian independence in 1960 relayed that experience to the Northern Nigerian people.
Moses E. Ochonu shows how rather than simply serving as puppets and mouthpieces of the British Empire, these aristocrats leveraged their travel to the heart of the empire to reinforce their positions as imperial cultural brokers, and to translate and domesticate imperial modernity in a predominantly Muslim society.
Emirs in London explores how, through their experiences visiting the heart of the British Empire, Northern Nigerian aristocrats were enabled to define themselves within the framework of the empire. In doing so, the book reveals a unique colonial sensibility that complements rather than contradicts the traditional perspectives of less privileged Africans toward colonialism.
Emirs in London was named in the Brittle Paper 100 Notable African Books of 2022 list.
Introduction: Traveling and Writing the Metropole in the Age of Modernity
1. Literacy, Narrative, and the Colonial Ideational Space
2. Emir Dikko's Metropolitan Adventures
3. Emirs in Britain
4. The Dikko-Nagogo British Connection
5. Metropolitan Travel and Utilitarian Literacy
6. Deepening Imperial Exploration, Imagining the Postcolony
Epilogue: The Persistent, Evolving Fraternities of Empire
"I am extremely excited about Emirs in London: Subaltern Travel and Nigeria's Modernity. We do not have a robust literature on colonial Nigerian travelers to Britain even though many Nigerians studied in the metropole beginning in the nineteenth century. Moreover, many of the students and traditional rulers who visited Britain were from the southern part of the country, so it is especially significant that this study focuses on visitors from Northern Nigeria. Emirs in London enriches our appreciation of the cultural capital that travel secured for these elites as they navigated the colonial landscape and the contradictory affective relationships that sometimes evolved. This very engaging text that brings together Hausa literary traditions, colonialism, modernity, travel writing, and Fanon will attract intellectual, social, and cultural historians, anthropologists as well as literary scholars. I welcome the conversations this book will spark as we revisit the travel accounts of Nigerian visitors to Britain that are buried in libraries and archives. "~Judith A. Byfield, Cornell University
"Brilliantly researched and full of archival discoveries, this original book deepens and extends the historiography of imperial travel. Ochonu focuses on a hitherto neglected group of travellers and travel-writers, the emirs and aristocrats of Northern Nigeria who undertook tours of Britain with their entourages, noting and narrating their experiences for audiences back home. Curious explorers and avid ethnographers, they produced lectures and travel narratives in Hausa and English through which they made sense of metropolitan institutions from a comparative aristocratic perspective. Through his careful account of forty years of such narratives, Ochonu reveals the complexities of Muslim aristocrats' relationships with British power, attending to the ambiguity–and occasional contradictoriness–of Northern Nigerian elites as they repurposed colonial relationships into strategic assertions of authority for the postcolonial era. "~Stephanie Newell, Professor of English, Yale University
"Ochonu's exceedingly fascinating account of becoming (post)colonial approaches the institution of British colonial rule from the consciously crafted political cohabitation maneuvers that lurk in the always self-interest driven reports that Northern Nigerian emirs, deftly named "subaltern aristocrats" by Ochonu, wrote about their travels to London. The analysis uncovers a lot that is new about colonization and colonialism. Emirs in London braids archival gems into a seamless account. Ochonu's distillation of insights in literature, literacy studies, religion, gender studies and even psychology incites new historical thinking about African states. Do not be deceived into thinking that this book is a study of colonial travels. "~Adélékè Adéèkó, Humanities Distinguished Professor, Ohio State University.
"Emirs in London enriches our appreciation of the cultural capital that travel secured for Northern Nigerian elites as they navigated the colonial landscape and the contradictory affective relationships that sometimes evolved. This very engaging text that brings together Hausa literary traditions, colonialism, modernity, travel writing and Fanon will attract intellectual, social and cultural historians, anthropologists as well as literary scholars. I welcome the conversations this book will spark as we revisit the travel accounts of Nigerian visitors to Britain that are buried in libraries and archives. "~Judith A. Byfield, Cornell University
"In this beautifully written and conceived book, Moses Ochonu has reversed the traditional imperial lens to reveal a significant new panorama. In a thought-provoking analysis, Ochonu shows how the experiences and writings of the emirs of Northern Nigeria in imperial Britain offer an exploration of 'the other' on the same terms as traditional imperial travel writing. These colonial Nigerian travel writings reveal mutually constituted identities of imperialism, and a strange logic of emotional affect whose resonance endures into the 21st century. "~Toby Green, King's College London
"How did Africans experience and make sense of colonialism? In Northern Nigeria, regional elites served as crucial intermediaries for British administrators. What convinced them to do so, and how did they persuade others? As this erudite and perceptive study shows, sponsored travel to Britain helped to solidify the personal relations between Northern Nigerian elites and colonial administrators that were at the heart of indirect rule in this "model" African colony. Historians know fairly well how administrators intended for these relationships to function, but we understand far less how they looked through Nigerian eyes. Though the emirs' travels in the UK included events that were highly scripted by their British hosts—tea with dignitaries, photo opportunities, pomp and circumstance—it was the emirs themselves who presented their observations to ordinary Nigerians, in the process imparting lessons for living under British colonialism and its immediate aftermath. How does one sell an unequal political arrangement? This snapshot from many decades ago enriches our understanding of British colonialism as well as our own world of conquest and unequal relations of power. "~Lisa A. Lindsay, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
"Drawing on extensive primary sources and authoritative command of secondary scholarship across several humanities and social science disciplines, Ochonu has written a brilliant book on an intriguing subject in Nigerian studies. With exceptional analysis contained in six riveting chapters—along with an engaging introduction and epilogue—this elegantly written book is pathbreaking. Emirs in London is very well-conceived, insightful, and innovative. It is impressive in its erudition and analytical lucidity. Along with many outstanding scholarly works in Nigerian historical studies, this exceptional book has certainly confirmed Ochonu's reputation as a foremost African historian."~Olufemi Vaughan, Alfred Sargent Lee & Mary Ames Lee Professor of African Studies, Amherst College
"Emirs in London is an impressive, informative, and important book that will stimulate anyone who is seriously engaged in the fields of colonial studies, Atlantic world studies, Nigerian studies, and world history. Ochonu's findings indicate that while Northern Nigeria is popularly perceived as a site of Islamic conservatism resistant to modernist schemes, in actuality, its aristocrats were enthusiastic participants in colonial modernization initiatives. The findings also enrich our understanding of black Muslim's mobility and life in imperial and Atlantic spaces, African representations of the imperial metropole, the politics of imperial courtship, colonial mediation, gender relations, and the observational and narrative methodologies of Northern Nigerian metropolitan travel writers. "~Mohammed Bashir Salau, The University of Mississippi
"This is an exciting work, which deals with the ruling and educated elites in the Muslim north and catalogues their visits to Britain."~Robert L. Tignore, International Journal of African Historical Studies
"One of the most original academic studies of empires in years."~Barnaby Crowcraft, Literary Review
"Emirs in London: Subaltern Travel and Nigeria's Modernity by Moses Ochonu looks at a fascination but under-explored part of Nigeria's colonial history. Its gives an intimate account of an intriguing facet of northern Nigerian life."~Brittle Paper
"Emirs in London represents a major intervention in the cultural history of colonial Africa, with implications far beyond northern Nigeria."~Oliver Coates, University of Cambridge, Research in AFRICAN LITERATURES