Hardback
August 6, 2024
9780253070357
English
584
4 color photos, 198 b&w illus., 2 charts
9.25 Inches (US)
6.13 Inches (US)
$95.00 USD, £74.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Paperback / softback
August 6, 2024
9780253070364
English
584
4 color photos, 198 b&w illus., 2 charts
9.25 Inches (US)
6.13 Inches (US)
$49.00 USD, £38.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

How to Become a Big Man in Africa

Subalternity, Elites, and Ethnic Politics in Contemporary Nigeria

Can subalterns transform themselves into members of the elite, and what does it take to do so? And how do those efforts reveal the nature of ethnic politics in postcolonial Africa? 

How to Become a Big Man in Africa: Subalternity, Elites, and Ethnic Politics in Contemporary Nigeria examines these questions by revealing how, through ethno-regional conflict, violence and cultural activities, an artisan, Gani Adams, transformed himself into the holder of the most prestigious chieftaincy title among the Yoruba. Addressing persistent gaps in anthropological studies of the subaltern and of "big men" in politics through in-depth biography and rich social history, Wale Adebanwi follows Adams and other major figures in Nigeria's Oodua People's Congress (OPC) over two decades of ethnographic study and visual representations. Challenging existing models of African political mobility by leveraging his initial lack of formal education into a position of power, Adams moved from a "radical lumpen" and "area boy" to a "big man" who continues to struggle—and reflect—over the significance of his role as a cultural subject. Blurring the lines between tradition and modernity, Adams and his group have used Yoruba rituals to simultaneously claim authenticity and champion new movements for democracy and self-determination.

How to Become a Big Man in Africa encourages us to understand the full complexity of Adams's political trajectory and how it reflects the structural and personal realities of becoming a "Big Man" in the contemporary postcolony.

About the Author

Wale Adebanwi is the Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Africana Studies with secondary appointment in the Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania. He is a Research Associate at the African Studies Center, Oxford University and author of Yorùbá Elites and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria: báfemi Awólówò and Corporate Agency, and editor of Everyday State and Democracy in Africa: Ethnographic Encounters.

Reviews

"Adam's biography makes for a compelling way to think through the question of where power comes from in Yorubaland/Nigeria and how it's obtained that builds on these existing theoretical interventions."—Brandon Kendhammer - Ohio University

"Exemplary. A brilliant work of very substantial scholarship and a monumental account of a movement's development. Given the intensely sustained mediation (and mediatization) that the book engages with, the ethnography is itself a work of art in critical iconography as well as in visual anthropology. A tour de force."—Richard Werbner - University of Manchester

"Adam's biography makes for a compelling way to think through the question of where power comes from in Yorubaland/Nigeria and how it's obtained that builds on these existing theoretical interventions. Magisterial in scope and ambition, and a vigorous reflection on the nature of power and elite status. The use of a deep biographical study interwoven with theory makes for a compelling way of approaching the question of how one becomes a "big man." This book is an absolutely original work that doesn't simply tread well-known grounds."—Brandon Kendhammer – Ohio University

"The notorious figure of the 'Big Man' in Africa typecasts those social actors who rise to great heights through guile, cunning, and a preternatural ability to transgressively self-aggrandize with impunity. In what is the first intensive ethnography of an African Big Man, Wale Adebanwi focuses on the extraordinary career of Gani Adams in Nigeria as he rose from wanted fugitive to become one of the nation's preeminent power brokers. This path-breaking study of agency and 'self-actualization,' based on more than two decades of research, locates Adams' remarkable story within the liminal pathways and festive arenas which he negotiated to gain access to the Nigerian state. How to Become a Big Man in Africa is a must-read for all students of Nigerian cultural politics and African political economy."—Andrew Apter, Professor of Anthropology and History, UCLA, author of Black Critics and Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society

"A magnificent exploration of how one becomes a man of consequence in employment-challenged Nigeria. With considerable acuity and empathy, Adebanwi traces the—anomalous yet also exemplary—trajectory of a high school dropout who "seizes history" to become a key political actor and a celebrated "big man." How to Become a Big Man in Africa is a must read for anyone interested in youth culture, subalternity, elites, and African politics."—Adeline Masquelier, Tulane University, author of Fada: Boredom and Belonging in Niger

"Adebanwi's unparalleled skills as a scholar, researcher and social commentator are on full display in this book. How To Become a Big Man in Africa is a remarkable and eye-opening study on the concept and practices of the Big Man in Africa. Adebanwi weaves together robust scholarship and lucid prose to explore the intersections of ethnicity, youth development, and political elites in Nigeria. The book is also a thoughtful and intelligent assessment of class mobility and political strategy in Nigeria. Through groundbreaking archival and ethnographic research and magnificent social and cultural analysis, How To Become a Big Man in Africa offers a tour de force in African Studies. The author closely and intimately examines and reimagines the categories of subalternity and political elitism to construct what I believe is to become one of the most critically acclaimed and cited political biographies in African Studies. How To Become a Big Man in Africa is a seminal contribution to anthropology, political science and ethnic studies in Africa."—Jacob K. Olupona, Harvard University, author of City of 201 Gods: Ilé-Ifè in Time, Space, and the Imagination

"How to Become a Big Man in Africa: Subalternity, Elites, and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria is an authoritative book in African political studies. Drawing on theoretical works across the humanistic social sciences, extensive primary research, and firmly anchored on Africanist scholarship, this path-breaking book animates critical issues in African politics — neo-patrimonialism, statism, communalism, military despotism, democratic transition, underdevelopment, youth culture, elite aspiration, demographic shifts, neoliberalism. This impressive book on the charismatic Gani Adams and Yoruba populist politics in the context of the exigencies of Nigerian state formation will have an enduring impact on Nigerian political studies for many years to come. This is the most engaging and compelling book in African politics I have read in the last decade."—Olufemi Vaughan, Alfred Sargent Lee '41 & Mary Ames Lee Professor, Amherst College, author of Letters, Kinship, and Social Mobility in Nigeria

"This is an amazing study of the rise of a Nigerian Big Man.  The author, a distinguished scholar, has followed the ascent for more than twenty years, from his subject's humble beginnings to the present.  Rarely are we privy to the personal rivalries and friendships among the nation's political elites in such detail, such authenticity.  The author adds to the richness of the story a large and compelling collection of photographs showing from start to finish how one of the country's most famous leaders, a man with initial three years of high school, has orchestrated his career.  The book is filled with marvelous insights of wide political and human interests."—Sandra T. Barnes, Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania, author of Patrons and Power: Creating a Political Community in Metropolitan Lagos

 

9780253070357 : how-to-become-a-big-man-in-africa-adebanwi
Hardback
August 6, 2024
$95.00 USD
9780253070364 : how-to-become-a-big-man-in-africa-adebanwi
Paperback / softback
August 6, 2024
$49.00 USD