Grave Reservations: Nigerian Literature and Histories of 'European Reservations' during Decolonization

Tim Livsey*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article considers how Nigerians experienced decolonization through encounters with “European reservations.” It argues that Nigerian literature offers an “alternative archive” for histories of the built environment and decolonization. British colonialists established reservations as distinct areas, typified by low-density arrangements of bungalows, to house officials and other white expatriates. Reservations’ depiction in the work of writers including Chinua Achebe, T. M. Aluko, Chukwuemeka Ike, Wole Soyinka, and more recently Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, offers important evidence of how Nigerians experienced decolonization. During decolonization the colonial civil service was “Africanized,” and Nigerian civil servants took up residence at reservations in increasing numbers. This represented a triumph, but literary representations suggest that living in reservations, and in the similar spaces of new Nigerian universities, was often an ambivalent experience. These built environments helped to structure Nigerians’ experience of decolonization, but Nigerians also invested reservations with new meanings through their use and representation of these spaces. Reservations’ shifting meanings reflected changing perceptions of decolonization in postcolonial Nigeria. They proved to be significant imaginative locations through which the changes of decolonization were experienced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of West African History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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