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Legacies of Biafra: Marriage, ‘Home People’ and Reproduction Among the Igbo of Nigeria

  • Daniel Jordan Smith

This article examines the ways in which the legacies and collective memories of Biafra, the secessionist state established at the time of Nigeria's civil war from 1967 to1970, shape contemporary Igbo practices and experiences of marriage, rural–urban ties and reproduction. The importance of appropriate and permanent marriage and the perceived necessity of dependable affinal relations for contemporary Igbos are analysed in relation to recollections of marriage during the war. The intense identification of migrant Igbos with place of origin and the importance of ‘home’ and ‘home people’ are situated in the context of the legacy of Biafra. The importance of kinship relationships for access to patron–client networks is linked to the Igbo perception of marginalization in the wake of Biafra. Igbo ideas about the significance of reproduction and the vital importance of ‘having people’ are reinforced through collective memories of Biafra. Igbo people's conceptions of Nigerian politics, their understandings of the social and economic importance of kinship and community in contemporary Nigeria, and even their reproductive decisions can be better explained by taking into account the legacies of Biafra.

Cet article examine la manière dont les séquelles et les mémoires collectives du' Biafra, l'état sécessioniste formé au moment de la guerre civile au Nigeria entre 1967 et 1970, ont façonné les pratiques et expériences contemporaines igbo en matière de mariage, de liens ruraux-urbains et de reproduction. L'importance de la convenance et de la permanence du mariage, ainsi que la nécessité perçue de relations affines sûres pour les contemporains igbo sont analysées par rapport aux souvenirs de mariage pendant la guerre. L'article situe dans le contexte de l'héritage du Biafra la vive identification des migrants igbo à leur lieu d'origine et l'importance du «pays natal» et du «peuple natal». L'importance des relations de parenté dans l'accès aux réseaux patron-client est liée à la marginalization perçue par les Igbo dans le sillage du Biafra. La place donnée à la reproduction et l'importance vitale d'«avoir des siens» sont renforcées chez les Igbo à travers les mémoires collectives du Biafra. La conception que se font les Igbo de la politique nigériane, leur interprétation de l'importance sociale et économique de la parenté et de la communauté dans le Nigeria actuel, voire même leurs décisions en matière de reproduction s'expliquent plus facilement à la lumière de l'héritage du Biafra.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
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