- West Africa
- Transnational history
- Urban landscapes
- Everyday life
My research focuses on culture and cities to offer new perspectives on histories of development and decolonisation. In recent years, my research has centred on Nigerian universities. Palgrave Macmillan will soon publish my first monograph, Nigeria’s University Age: Reframing Development and Decolonisation. The book explores how Nigerian nationalist politicians, British colonial officials, and American aid experts alike saw Nigerian universities as vital. They believed that universities would drive national development, and produce the future leaders of the independent nation. The book draws on research in Nigeria, the United States, and Britain, to explore this history from multiple perspectives. It examines the impact of Nigerian campaigns for development during colonial rule; the significance of university buildings, students’ everyday life, and Cold War politics in development and decolonisation; and the place of universities in postcolonial Nigeria.
I am currently working a new project on housing and state-building across Anglophone West Africa from 1920 to 1980. This research investigates how housing planned by states was a powerful symbol of development. Housing formed an important nexus between the state and the individual, between plans and practice, and between the locality and the wider world. Focusing on housing for non-elite subjects and citizens, and for chiefs and state officials, the research ranges from ‘slum’ clearance to ‘Government Reservations’. It explores how housing was a central element of state-building across colonial, decolonising, and postcolonial West Africa. Work from this ongoing project is forthcoming in the edited volume Forms of Freedom: Legacies of African Modernism.
In addition, I have worked on relationships between decolonisation and built environments in Britain. I led a collaborative project that involved the film maker James Price, the Pepys Community Library, and residents of the Pepys Estate in Deptford, south London. Together, we made ‘Reading Pepys’, a short film about the area. The site of a naval yard founded by Henry VIII, the Pepys Estate was constructed as a showpiece of social housing after the yard closed in the early 1960s. The film reflects on the tangled relationships between echoes of empire, the welfare state, and British urban landscapes.
Pepys Estate Project