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Becoming Nigerian: African Seamen, Decolonisation, and the Nationalisation of Consciousness


  • Lynn Schler

    1. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
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    • * Lynn Schler is a lecturer in the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. She has recently published The Strangers of New Bell: Immigration, Public Space and Community in Colonial Douala, 1914–1960 (Unisa, South Africa). Her current research is focused on the history of Nigerian seamen in the transition from colonialism to independence.


This article examines the process of nationalisation in the lives of African seamen in the era of decolonisation in order to understand why some Africans were drawn to nationalist identities at this time, and what they hoped to gain from this identification. It will be seen that in becoming Nigerian, seamen had to forfeit transnational sources of solidarity, and ultimately had to contend with new forms of exclusion and discrimination based on ethnicity and class within the Nigerian national context. The study thus follows the journey of everyday Africans as they sought out and engaged with ideological and political opportunities on the eve of independence, and the consequences of their aspirations and choices.