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Animals as Diasporic Bodies in African Studies

March 3, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

This is a past event. You can view the recording here.

Date/Time: March 3, 2021 – 12pm CT (6pm UTC)

Speaker: Saheed Aderinto


Mary and Loja at the London Zoo (July 1925)

In July 1925, two lion cubs, named Mary and Loja, presented to the Prince of Wales during his visit to Nigeria, arrived at the London Zoo. A film footage of the animals’ arrival features children who were fascinated to see an uncommon creature. A media announcement of the animals’ arrival reads, “Baby lion cubs—newly arrived from Nigeria—thoroughly enjoy their freedom in the sunshine.” The Nigerian wildlife in metropolitan zoos were fed with special meals (quite unlike what they would taste while living free), exposed to new routine of life, given new names, and became part of the spectacle of imperial objectification of colonial bodies. The life history of colonial subjects like Mary and Loja did not end at death; rather it would enter a new phase as embalmed species, exhibited in perpetuity at the Natural History Museum. Africanist scholars have focused entirely on humans as subjects of diasporic discourse, history, and experience. In this presentation, I argue that animals were also important subjects in the circulation of ideologies and practices of movement, migration, and diaspora. They should be considered as diasporic bodies within and outside Africa. Through the biographies dogs, cattle, lions, and gorillas, I engage how nonhuman creatures transformed human-animal relations in their new homes. This lecture concludes by offering some theoretical and methodological frameworks for inserting animals into the discourse of African diaspora—beyond the practice of analogizing animals with Africans.

BIOPhoto of Saheed Aderinto

Saheed Aderinto has authored or edited eight books, including Animality and Colonial Subjecthood in Africa: The Human and Nonhuman Creatures of Nigeria (Ohio University Press/New African Histories Series, 2021); Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria: Firearms, Culture, and Public Order (Indiana University Press, January 2018) and When Sex Threatened the State: Illicit Sexuality, Nationalism, and Politics in Colonial Nigeria, 1900-1958 (University of Illinois Press, 2015)–Winner of the 2016 Nigerian Studies Association’s Book Award Prize for the “most important scholarly book/work on Nigeria published in English language.”


March 3, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm