Ndubueze Leonard Mbah
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationNew York, Buffalo, State U. of
Grant numberGr. 10268
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleMbah, Ndubueze (New York, Buffalo, State U. of) "Rebellious Migrants: Forging Abolition, Cosmopolitan Identities, and Postcolonial Spaces in West Africa, 1840s-1960s"
This project uses “forgery” to explain European colonial policies designed to police African peoples as subjects and impose alien hierarchies of racial and gender difference upon them, contrary to dynamic practices and discourses that enabled Africans to evade colonial surveillance and control. Scholars of Africa know the need for research on intra-African migration, especially the structural and social dimensions of migrants’ experiences. The legacies of slavery, abolitionism, colonialism, and neo-liberal policies are evident in how mobility has characterized Afropolitanism – social articulations of African identity and world-consciousness. I examine how eastern Nigerians voluntarily and involuntarily migrated across British Sierra Leone, German Cameroon, Spanish Equatorial Guinea, and French Gabon between the 1840s and 1960s, and engendered trans-imperial forced labor regimes, in pursuit of socio-economic uplift, autonomy, and other “myths of modernization.” Migrants appropriated discourses of British subjecthood and abolitionism, including performances of embodied Anglo-cosmopolitanism to justify mobilities that challenged colonial borders, and to mask their illicit economies, including deceptive recruitment and kidnapping of laborers, child trafficking, contraband smuggling, sex work, and documentary and social forgeries. Through these practices, African trans-colonial migrants fostered and negotiated new dependency regimes, neo-slavery practices, mobility networks, and heteropatriarchal systems of production and kinship across West Africa.