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Deviants and Outcasts: Power and Politics in Hausa Bori Performances

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2008


The jihad of Uthman dan Fodio in the early ninteenth century had by 1806 established Islamic cultural and religious hegemony over the Hausa territory of present-day Northern Nigeria. In the process, Islam had succeeded in pushing indigenous religious and cultural practices such as Bori to the margins or underground. However, while most of the other indigenous forms died or became inactive and ineffectual, Bori has managed to hold its own against the persecution and cultural war waged against it by Islam, mainly because the belief in the power and ability of the spirits to influence human life which is at the centre of Bori practice was never lost. In this article, Osita Okagbue argues that marginalization has made Bori attractive to groups and individuals in Hausa society who feel themselves similarly marginalized and oppressed for articulating alternative identities and viewpoints to those of the mainstream society. He also examines how the possession performances of the Bori cult enable members to subvert and occasionally to use moments of trance and possession to invert the power relationships between oppressed groups and their oppressors. Osita Okagbue teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is the author of African Theatres and Performances (Routledge, 2007). He is President of the African Theatre Association (AfTA) and editor of African Performance Review.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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