In 2021 Dr Evelyn Urama was awarded a fellowship in the LUCAS/LAHRI Virtual Research Fellowship Scheme about African Knowledges for Global Challenges. On completion of her Fellowship we interviewed Evelyn about her research on ‘Injustice Begets Insecurity: African Writers’ Exposition of Oppression, Brutality and Violent Killings'.
Please briefly introduce yourself.
My name is Dr. Evelyn N. Urama, a lecturer in the Department of English and Literary Studies, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State, Nigeria and LUCAS/LAHRI Visiting Research Fellow, University of Leeds.
My area of specialization is Comparative Literature and I am comparing African, African American and Caribbean literature. I earned my PhD degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I am also a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)/African Humanities Program (AHP) and have published in my research area on both local and international reputable journals.
What project have you worked on during your fellowship period?
My LUCAS/LAHRI Fellowship Period was from June 15, 2021 through September 15, 2021. I researched on the project entitled: “Injustice Begets Insecurity: African Writers Exposition of Oppression, Brutality and Violent Killings.”
In my proposal, I argued that Africans must go back to African cultural values of peace with one another for a collective combat against corruption and neo-colonialism in agreement with the theme of “African Knowledge for Global Challenges”. This proposed work was motivated by African writers’ representation of cultural values and indigenous knowledge of pre-colonial Africa which were tools used for successful struggles against colonialism. This raised my curiosity to undertake an in-depth study on how African indigenous knowledge can be used to fight corruption, terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, abduction, violent killings and hunger for western values effectively. My objective was to develop at least two articles from the research project.
I visited the Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria Nsukka and University of Nigeria Nsukka Libraries for data collection on African Indigenous Knowledge. The research is carried out in collaboration with my mentor, Dr Brendon Nicholls, from the Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS) and the School of English. I had the opportunity to utilize the research facilities of the University of Leeds to enable me to carry out additional research to update my readings from literary texts and materials I collected from University of Nigeria Nsukka. That is what prepared ground for the development of the research articles. The Director of the Leeds Centre for African Studies was impressed by our writings and the contract was extended by two months to enable me to continue to have access to the University of Leeds Library and ICT till November 15, 2021. We (Brendon Nicholls and I) presented a seminar entitled: “African Knowledges of Customary Justice: Chinua Achebe’s Works” on the project on Thursday, 7th October 2021.
What are the findings of your project so far?
We were able to get the following research findings:
- Pre-colonial Africa is characterized by organized cultural and leadership system that promoted communal life where everyone was his brother’s keeper, and this was possible through customary justice.
- Colonialism destroyed the egalitarian African society and it is also the origin of civilian leadership and corruption in Africa.
- Postcolonial African leaders have emulated the ways of the colonial administrators in exploiting and oppressing their people and there has been increase in acts of oppression, corruption, violence and terrorism.
- There is need for Africans to go back to their heritage and cultural values in combating the prevalent insecurity in Africa.
How does the project speak to the overall theme of “African knowledges for global challenges”?
Knowledge is power and the knowledge of one’s past heals fragmented life as well as gives one back one’s energy and wisdom to fight crime. We wrote two draft journal articles on Chinua Achebe’s works. These will be sent out to journals for consideration, after further drafting, editing and proofing. A third article on Ngugi wa Thiongo will be published longer term.
- Colonialism and the Political Leaders’ Exploitations: Leadership Failure in Chinua Achebe’s Novels: This paper examines how colonialism brought tremendous misery, how arbitrary power of the colonial administrators was bestowed on warrant chiefs they appointed, and it destroyed the egalitarian African society. It also examines postcolonial leadership failure and increasing insecurity due to corruption, oppression and exploitation of leaders who learnt from the colonial administrator they took over from. It aims at validating the assertion that only a re-visitation of the past through history can the desired positive change be brought about in Africa. Literature and Source: Chinua Achebe’s No Longer at Ease (1965), A Man of the People (1966) Anthills of the Savannah (1988) The Trouble With Nigeria (1983) and There was a Country (2012).
- Literature and Society: Customary Justice in Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God: This study critically explores the organized cultural and leadership systems of pre-colonial Africa in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) and Arrow of God (1964); the communal life, peaceful and harmonious co-existence where everyone is his brother’s keeper as opposed to insecurity and violent killings for which Africa is currently known. We advocate going back to African historical and cultural values through indigenous knowledge would provide effective tools for combating insecurity in Africa.
We are still developing:
- Land Appropriations, Economic Hardship, Political Instability and Insecurity in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa: This paper examines Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s representation of the economic hardships and political crises suffered by the people of Kenya due to the appropriation of the lands by the colonialists in Weep Not, Child and The River Between. It would highlight how the situation leads to increase in insecurity in A Grain of Wheat (1967), Homecoming (1972), Petals of Blood (1977), The Devil on the Cross (1982) and Wizard of the Crow (2006). The paper would also highlight the problems of insecurity, violence and other social vices that have continued to stare Africa in the face. It would argue that Africa has to fall back on her literary novelists to learn lessons from the past and bring those lessons to bear on the prevailing situations of the present.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I thank LUCAS/LAHRI, University of Leeds for awarding me the Research Fellowship that enabled me to achieve this research.