Seminar by Dr Maria Martin, Visiting Fulbright Scholar

Dr Maria Martin, Visiting Fulbright Scholar at our Institute, gave a seminar this morning to a capacity audience drawn from across the University community and beyond at Drapers Hall. She spoke on the topic ‘Gender, Cosmology, and Non-Political Nationalism: Recognizing the Intellectual Contribution of Women to African Nationalism’.

Dr Irene Pogoson of the Department of Political Science, Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Ibadan, chaired the seminar, coordinated by Dr Seunfunmi Olutayo of our Gender Studies programme.

Maria’s presentation
The chair of the seminar, Dr Irene Pogoson, introducing Dr Maria Martin

It was an engaging occasion, with Dr Martin starting her presentation by unravelling her own position and identity as an African American academic with an active interest in blending students’ autonomous knowledge into her pedagogy in an approach that emphasizes the benefits of edutainment. She grounded her talk in an interdisciplinary purview, ranging over African Studies, African American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as History; and covering such diverse research projects as feminist theory, the intellectual history of women in the developing world, and transnational Black consciousness.

Dr Martin analysed women’s contributions to Nigerian nationalism under the aegis of the Federation of Nigerian Women’s Organisations (FNWO) within the period 1947-1967. She situated the development of the women’s movement in Nigeria in the context of the confluence of a number of factors, including the emergence of African nationalism, changing gender roles in the aftermath of WWII, and the growth of international women’s organizations with a global network. Her specific objectives related to the particular ways Nigerian women contributed to African nationalism through collective efforts on the propagation of a philosophy and worldview, participation in an activist agenda, and espousal of a gender ideology. Mapping a trajectory through the literature on the larger African plane, Dr Martin drew attention to the examples of women’s contributions in the Mau Mau Rebellion, Bibi Titi Mohamed’s leadership of women in the Tanganyikan African National Union (TANU), and the role of women in the Somali nationalist movement. However, beyond the literature on ‘women in nationalism’, Dr Martin deployed findings from her research to underscore the fact that she was more concerned with the question of ‘women’s nationalism’, conceiving of women as ‘active agents who create and interpret their own discourse within their context’. She drew on the concept of ‘Legbeism’, synthesized from the Yoruba worldview, to demonstrate how FNWO positioned itself as a strategic movement that worked for the emancipation of women and the consolidation of women’s solidarity on common issues of societal development without becoming an organ of any partisan political group or ideology, and without seeking control of the power structure.

Maria’s presentation

The ensuing Q&A saw the audience engage Dr Martin on some of the issues dealt with in her presentation, especially the dichotomy she tried to draw between ‘non-political nationalism’ and ‘political nationalism’. In her clarification, she highlighted the fact that members of the FNWO actually stamped their approach in the self-same terms she deployed in her presentation. In ideation and in practice, they maintained the integrity of an organization whose institutional principle of non-political nationalism did not preclude its members from belonging to political platforms of their respective individual choices in their private lives beyond their activities within the FNWO.

Maria’s presentation

After the seminar, the African Studies Students’ Association (ASSA) presented a documentary on Dr Maria Maria’s time in Ibadan, followed by a faculty get-together at the IAS Coffee Room.