Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Policy Impact of This Blog

By Biko Agozino

Sometimes the authorities listen to good ideas but the implementation often skews the ideas away from success. Finally, President Buhari has bought the idea that I blogged in April calling for ranches to be set up as a way of modernizing beef and dairy productions while avoiding clashes between herders and farmers. The retired General Buhari has just announced that soldiers would be sent to Argentina to learn ranching and return to set up ranches in Nigeria. Why only soldiers when the army of unemployed youth could be mobilized and empowered by being funded to be trained and enabled to run ranches as cooperatives across the country. Here is my original blog on the issue:

Friday, November 25, 2016

Decolonizing Criminology

By Biko Agozino

Do not let the smiles fool you. Yesterday and today, I have been privileged to see grown men and women shed tears profusely at the University of Wollongong, Australia, during the symposium on Indigenous Perspectives on Decolonising Criminology and Criminal Justice organized by Dr. Juan Tauri and colleagues in the Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence. It is rare to see such raw emotions at a scholarly symposium but this one was not just scholarly, it was a scholar-activism symposium with participants from the community who shared their survival of the dehumanizing effects of imperialistic social control, reflecting my methodology of committed objectivity. 

I am honored to see my own work being affirmed and being extended by colleagues from around the world. I am hopeful that the work we all are doing will result in the deepening of democracy through the pushing back of the legacies of colonialism and the control-freak state to allow more diversity, equality, fraternity, and liberty to the majority of the people suffering the consequences of race-class-gender authoritarian populism. I also shared my own experience as a survivor of genocide in Biafra, a fact that the world was reminded of by Amnesty International on 24 November in a report on the killing of 150 nonviolent Biafra commemorators in Nigeria in 3 months since August 2016. Coincidentally, the AI report was released as I was presenting my plenary on the 'withering away of the law thesis' in which I wondered why the postcolonial states have tended to cling to the genocidal and other repressive fetishes imposed by colonialism rather than continue the push for decolonization to its historic conclusions. But more importantly, why are even critical criminologists and community organizers afraid to demand the further decolonization of civil society for the benefit of all?

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Birth of a (Killing) Nation

Reviewed by Biko Agozino (Only my thoughts, not a spoiler; go and see it for yourself)

This critically acclaimed and multi award-winning debut by Nate Parker was a moving movie to watch. The film goes to support the claim of bell hooks that people of African descent rarely go to the movies to have fun, unlike white people who enjoy more positive representations. The huge film theater in rural Virginia, not far from the Southampton County setting of the film, was almost completely empty except for an old white man and his grandson (too young for the 17 certification if you ask me, hence his giggles at harrowing scenes), an elderly white couple eating bags of pop corn (how could they have an appetite?), a middle aged black couple who sometimes moaned audibly and yours truly (I had to leave briefly to use the rest room during the whipping scene). The theater security walked around several times with a blinking neon sign, perhaps to check and make sure that there was no troublemaker; for it was rumored that some people were scared of possible retaliations by others who may be angered by the brutality in the film. The violence in the film was not all that unusual in the genre that Andre Seewood dubbed ‘slave cinema’. African Americans had seen worse depictions of violence against their ancestors without resorting to violent ‘revenge’, the battle cry of Nat Turner and his fellow rebels during the bloody battle scene towards the end of the film.  

In other words, there is no need for what Du Bois dubbed  ‘the souls of white folk’ to fear retaliation from ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ for the evil of slavery given that people of African descent have tended to rely more on nonviolence as a protest strategy than on terrorism, making the uprising of Nat Turner and his fellow rebels the minority tendency that was relatively rare during the 400 years of slavery and yet fear of rebellions led to furtive legislative attempts to make the slave trade illegal,  a la Du Bois in his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade.

The fear of vengeance may be a sign of the current times of terrorism when people who bear a comparatively less serious grudge have resorted to murderous violence whereas people of African descent appear to have forgiven the unforgivable past wrongs and even seem to love their enemies in line with the initial theology of Nat Turner and brother Jesus before the kick ass Revelations and in other Holy Books of the Abrahamic religions, according to Jacques Derrida. It is fellow black people who should be scared of black violence, just as hell fire preaching was directed at the choir, because people of African descent seem unforgiving and more vicious against fellow people of African descent over relatively minor slights. Europeans have also waged genocidal wars against fellow Europeans but Africans differ in the sense that they do not kill others at the rates that they kill fellow Africans. The only violent actions by African women in the film occurred when the newly bought future bride of Nat Turner jumped him like a wild animal and indirectly when she was given to Nat's mother to be 'broken'. Nat Turner's grandmother grovelled before the slave catcher who was after Nat's father for killing a white man but it was a device to allow her to conceal the stolen tin food.

Nat Turner did not appear to hate his ‘master’ who was really his childhood playmate, even if the games were hierarchical with the white boy playing the predator while young Nat played the prey in their games of hide and seek. The racism that was being ingrained by such ‘child’s play’ was dramatized in the scene where a little white girl played with a little enslaved girl by tying a noose around her neck and prancing across the porch with the black girl prancing along behind her knowing that her life literally depended on playing along. I suspect that Nat may not have hated his 'master' because his white mother was the one who took Nat into the great house and taught him to read the ‘good book’ even if she also warned him to stay away from big books, that were supposedly only for white folks, which he instinctively wanted to learn first. Initially when Nat's mother was told that he knew how to read letters (he had swiped a book from the porch to teach himself by candle light), his mother was scared for it was illegal to teach the enslaved how to read and write and she promised to whip him good. But the white woman said that it was a good thing and that she would teach him better. When Nat was hanged for killing her son and others, she witnessed it with tears in her eyes.

It was later that Nat was forced by the young master to go and work in the fields picking cotton with bleeding fingers after he inherited the plantation following the death of his father and the increase in the indebtedness of the estate. I suspect that Nat did not really hate him because he bore his father’s name, Turner, despite the prophecy of the African priest who prophesied that he was born to be a leader of his people based on the birthmarks on his belly. As a boy, he watched his father kill a slave catcher who had tried to arrest him for stealing food to feed the hungry Nat because Nat could not hustle some of the mashed potatoes that the other enslaved kids gobbled up like farm animals. I did not see hatred in Nat for the ‘master’ as he encouraged him to continue preaching to the enslaved, took him to other plantations to preach and pacify the enslaved with verses like that of Paul’s letter to the Romans: ‘Slaves should be obedient to their masters, and even to those that are cruel’.

It is true that the master pimped his preaching in order to collect donations from the other plantations to offset some of his debts and it is true that he never gave any of the donations to preacher Nat. Yet, when a white man came to attempt to beat Nat for having the audacity to baptize a white man, his master stood up for him. Also when a white man wanted to beat Nat for speaking to his wife after picking up a doll that her child had dropped and handing it to the child, his master again stood up for him by asking the white man to lower his threatening cane or he would give him something to complain about when the police arrived. Nat was not punished for the rapping duel with a white drunken preacher who quoted pro-slavery verses while Nat replied with angry verses about the God of wrath, demonstrating that he was already radicalized by the brutality that he witnessed on his visits to preach at other plantations. He now sounded like Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright rolled into one voice.

Nat and his ‘master’ rode together in a horse drawn carriage with Nat as the well-dressed driver. When they went to an auction for enslaved people, he took the advice of Nat to buy a young black girl that Nat fancied and whom he later married; though she was given to the master’s sister as a present and so had to live miles away from him. But the young master appeared to remain single, raising doubts about the nature of his relationship with Nat and why he appeared annoyed when Nat woke him up at night to ask for a pass so that he could go and see his wife who had been gang raped by four white men who also beat her nearly to the point of death. Nat assured him of his gratitude.

The first sign of conflict between Nat and the master (apart from being ejected from the big house and being ordered to join those who worked in the fields) was when the master threw a dinner party just as his father used to do and he asked Nat to join all the enslaved to serve at the great table. Preacher Nat was visibly alarmed to see one of the guests grabbing the private parts of one of the enslaved women in front of her enslaved husband. Later that night, the light-skinned enslaved house Negro went round to the shack of the enslaved family to demand that the woman should leave her husband and go and sleep with the guest. The husband screamed that he would rather be lynched first. This drew the attention of preacher Nat who tried to go and reason with the master. But the drunk master was angry that Nat questioned his order and he matched the enslaved woman to be raped by the guest in the big house before letting her return to her husband’s embrace, both in tears, and the man asked Nat; ‘where is God now?’ Then the 'master' had Nat tied to a post and whipped all night to teach him his lessons for opposing his orders. The other enslaved Africans lit up lamps and left them in a silent tribute to Nat and or to ward off snakes as he remained chained and bleeding all night. When he admitted that he had learned his lessons in the morning, he was unchained and the women, including his mother and his grandmother tended to the open wounds across his back.

This may explain why the ‘master’ was the first white man that Nat chopped off his head when the revolt started. But he was disgusted by the killing and he physically threw up afterwards. Similarly, the other enslaved rebels opted to be the ones that would chop off the heads of their own ‘masters’. When the man whose wife was used to entertain a guest chopped off the head of the white overseer who had whipped Nat, he picked up his young daughter, a child, who was forced to sleep with the pedophile overseer.

The enslaved young African boy whom Nat had allowed to participate in the conspiracy against the objections of  some of the men may have been the one who leaked the conspiracy to the light-skinned house slave who tried to talk them out of the plan with the warning that if they went through with it, the all would die. The young enslaved boy later fled from the killings and may have raised the alarm that rallied the poor whites who never enslaved Africans themselves but who relished the roles of helping to maintain slavery. They armed themselves with guns in ambush against the rebels who went to the armory only to find that the guns were gone. The closing scenes saw the carnival atmosphere when Nat was hanged with children, men and women, gathered and with the national colors of the flag draping the stands and with the surviving enslaved forced to watch. The young enslaved boy had tears in his eyes at the hanging of the dignified Nat and the shot faded into him as a grown bearded man in uniform fighting for the Union during the Civil War about 30 years later.

Given the centrality of enslaved African women in the grievances that led to the uprising, the film may have failed by not including the women in the planning and execution of the insurrection the way that Harriet Tubman, for instance, fought to liberate so many. Nat went to his mother to get her blessings and then to his bed-ridden wife to hear her tell him to ‘go and fight for us’. But the fact that one of the enslaved who was hanged when the uprising was defeated was a woman demands that the revolutionary role of enslaved Maroon women should not have been limited to having them bless the patriarchal warriors. By having the wife of Nat deny that she was talking to Nat who was on the run and who secretly came to have a last word before giving himself up, the film was obviously trying to highlight the agency of enslaved women. However, given what is known about the raping of enslaved African children and women by Thomas Jefferson, the film should not have opened with a quotation from Jefferson confessing that God was surely going to punish the wicked. A quote from Frederick Douglas about power conceding nothing without a demand could have been a better epigraph.

The soulful rendition of ‘Strange Fruits’ by Nina Simone as one of the soundtracks, along with some of the songs of sorrow spirituals, sounded very appropriate especially during the mass hanging scene but Nate Parker, the writer-director-producer should have gone beyond the US (nationalism) to bring in some of the (internationalist) songs of Bob Marley and the Wailers such as ‘Catch A Fire’, ‘War’, ‘Buffalo Soldiers’, or ‘400 Years’ by Peter Tosh, ‘Slavery Days’ by Burning Spear, or ‘Slave’ by MightySparrow and another by Lucky Dube. Strange Fruit was written by a white dude, no offense, but there appears to be too much subconscious deference to white supremacy in this supposedly black rebellion movie. My colleague has just reminded me that the alliance between Nat Turner and American Indian Natives was also erased by the film.

I wonder why the great Spike Lee, one of the consultants, did not persuade Nate Parker to avoid glorifying the founding father of racist films by naming his own exactly the same gutter title since he could have been more innovative in his own choice of titles. As I sat watching the long credits roll across the big screen, I wondered if most of the names behind the camera were white people or if they were African Americans and if so, why people of African descent would make such a movie about our peculiar history of undeserved suffering and still proudly answer to the slave names imposed by the wicked hundreds of years earlier. Nat Turner may not have had a choice about his name but how about the Nate Parker and the present generation of African Americans?

Only two names sounded like Igbo African names, Chike Okonkwo who played the role of ‘Willie’ and the skillful Director of Still Photography whose last name, Chikwendiu, sounded Igbo too, though the spelling appeared Anglicized, but the misspelling could be the devil’s apprentice in the editing suite. Douglas Chambers states that the majority of the Africans enslaved in Virginia were of Igbo descent and he recounts how some of them were executed or sold after being suspected of poisoning the grandfather of president Madison in Montpelier. I understand that there is a street called Hanging Tree Street in the area today and I was expecting that many more bodies were going to be hanging from that tree than the handful shown in The Birth of a Nation; plus, it would have been more effective to show a shot of the street sign being removed and replaced with ‘Nat Turner Street’ in the film, at least in recognition of the token reparation of the return of the trophy pieces of his body collected by men, women and children who celebrated his hanging as if it was a World Series victory by a local team accompanied by the flag and by the anthem that Colin Kapernick and others refuse to stand up for. Why not adopt Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ as the new national anthem of the US (perhaps because with racism-sexism-imperialism, it is still not such a wonderful world)?

I suggest that the retention of slave names by people of African descent is no longer done out of fear of repression against those like Kunta Kinte who insisted on retaining African names or Nat Turner who endured the assault of the slave name. I hypothesize that this naming of children after people who despised Africans may be an act of love for the enemy whose religious affiliations are also preferred by the descendants of the enslaved, given that the naming of children after someone is an absolute act of honor and given that those children today are exposed to a preferred  predominantly white educational institutions that are craved more than Historically Black Colleges and Universities by the descendants of the enslaved today, as was the case with Nat Turner who did not have any choice in who his teacher was.

We straighten our hair (including dreadlocks) or shave it off completely and wear European garbs just like Nat Turner and his fellow rebels and yet white people say that they are scared of black people. Some even called for a boycott of the film because the co-directors were acquitted of the charge of raping a white female student in college and she later committed suicide (Perhaps Nate Parker has already made donations from his huge revenues to rape crisis centers and or to suicide prevention programs to acknowledge the love he shared with the woman as his date before the alleged rape, acquittal, and suicide). Black people do not appear to hate white people and they are not obsessed about getting a revenge for the hundreds of years of slavery. They are more interested in the reparative justice so much that the UN recently agreed that the US owes reparations to African Americans, a cause that Caribbean nations are seeking from the UK and which African countries should seek from their colonizers.

It is true that the authors of Freakonomics, following research by an African American professor at Harvard University, rationalized the preference for slave names on the basis that employers tend to discriminate against African-sounding names on the assumption that it is mainly the poor parents in the inner cities who give such names to their children under the influence of the Afrocentricity of Molefi Asante and Maulana Karenga. Yet a black man with an exotic name ended up as the greatest heavyweight boxing champion after dropping his slave name and another became the first elected black president of the US with a message of racial reconciliation despite the demeaning comments and hatred towards him. Is this love, stupidity, or cowardice? I say that it is love and if only the people of African descent could extend more of their love for white people to fellow African Americans, there would be more progress in the African American community no matter the violence directed at them by modern day slave catchers and lynch mobs who remain reluctant to accept that Black Lives Matter; otherwise all lives do not matter.

Part of the reasons why people of African descent survived the holocaust of slavery, The Birth of a Nation seems to suggest, was because of the love the ancestors had for one another despite sexism, colorism, betrayals and envy among them and terrorist repression against them. Much more will be achieved through the Beloved Community of brother Martin, by any means necessary as brother Malcolm advocated with a preference for the ballot over the bullet when voting is possible and effective in a democratic society. The film could be seen as indirectly trying to teach the importance of loving one another even after some of the people have been defiled, destroyed, and discarded; they remained the Beloved of Toni Morrison with whom we will need to give birth to the new nation without resentment; for Mandela advised that resentment is like taking poison and hoping that it would kill your enemy. Who wants to die, other than Jesus, asked Peter Tosh?

As Du Bois pointed out in BlackReconstruction in America, if the poor ‘white proletariat’ had seen that they had more in common with the enslaved ‘black proletariat’ and united with them rather than be the storm troopers to burn black schools, exclude black workers from racist trade unions, segregate places of worship and entertainment and intimidate black voters from voting, the poor people could have united to vote in more progressive governments that would continue to expand access to publicly funded education, make healthcare and housing more affordable, promote international peace, offer reparations for slavery, protect the environment, and create more jobs with living wages for men and women through massive funding for infrastructures and childcare. It was only after slavery was abolished that the Americas started leaping forward economically as millions of people who were forced to work to death without pay got the chance to earn income that they saved, invested or spent in the economy to boost wealth creation while all workers finally got the right not to work more than 40 hours a week without overtime payment if they are forced to choose to work longer.

Dr. Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Virginia Tech, 540-231-7699; or

Monday, September 19, 2016

'Uninvited' by Kenyetta A.C. Hinckle

By Biko Agozino

On Sunday, 09/19/16, I heard an artist, Kenyetta Hinckle, open her exhibition on Virginia Tech campus with a talk about her reworking of colonial photographs of topless African women in sexualized poses. She gave them suggestive titles like 'Vendetta', 'Reprisal', 'Witness', 'The Sower' and called the entire series, ‘Uninvited’. These titles remind us of the fact dramatized by Fanon in critique of Freud when he suggested that some women invite rape by fantasizing about it whereas rape is by definition, uninvited or non-consensual, just as there is no such thing as colonization by invitation, despite assumptions that we asked for it. She wondered why people called her little African but scratcher as a child.

Kenyetta Hinckle also exhibited paintings of Tituba, the African Caribbean woman who was accused of being responsible for inducting Salem Massachusetts girls into witchcraft. For some reason, her work was displayed along the ‘Corridor Gallery’ and people kept streaming past during her engaging talk, making it look like a street arts performance.

Her work reminded me of attempts to justify the unjustifiable records of the postcolonial genocidal state. Interestingly, she said that when she was in Nigeria as a visiting professor at the University of Lagos, some of her colleagues told her that the topless photographs came from a time before 'civilization'. I told her how apt that was given that Sigmund Freud saw civilization as a violent exercise in the repression of the instinct for love and death, pleasure and pain. She spoke again to my Africana Philosophy of Nonviolence class on 09/19/2016

When I shared the story of her initial talk on Facebook, an art historian and visual artist challenged my Freudian interpretation as follows: ‘You know, of course, that the Nigerians she spoke to had something entirely different in mind. I hope you also pointed out that they are wrong, and they cannot be wrong and right all at once. As an aside, Biko, have you noticed how the vast majority of younger Nigerians who graduate from Nigerian universities have little grasp of grammar in any language?’ I responded as follows:

‘They are obviously wrong as Cheikh Anta Diop proved long ago with Civilization or Barbarism, with Precolonial Black Africa, and with The African Origin of Civilization. But at the unconscious level, they are also right as Freud would argue. The artist understood that they were suggesting barbarism and she said that she was shocked because as an African American woman, she could be seen in the role of neo-Tarzanism given her effort to cover up the innocence or Dadaism of the women with her African fractal patterns of drawings that looked like thin veils. She also reported that on her trips across Europe, white men were frequently flashing their genitals at her under the assumption that she must be a sex worker and when she complained to her white male professor, he asked what she was wearing as if it was her fault. She said that she was appalled to hear in Nigeria that the police routinely shoot non-violent protesters to death but she was told to hush it because that was the order of things under neocolonialism.

‘Regarding the murder of the English language by Nigerian graduates, I will agree with Martin Luther King Jr. that they can serve even if their grammar is ungrammatical. So like Fela Kuti, Naija musicians, and Chief Zeburudaya, let the creative ones go on adding value with the ginger in the swagger of their grammar. The artist noticed the peculiar grammar of our broken English because everyone kept telling her, 'welcome back', when it was only her first visit. Freud also argued that the repressed keeps returning to futilely challenge the patriarchal authority with infantile dreams of killing the father to marry the mother, trying to repress his own instinct to love and death, and seeking to exploit nature. Fanon said that such Oedipal neurosis was not known in the Caribbean, perhaps because female-headed families were more common, but also maybe because the instinct for imperialism is peculiarly European. Thanks for your usual provocation. You should offer VT an exhibition.’

Then, one of my former students from Trinidad and Tobago and now a Lecturer commented as follows: ‘Oh my how I wish I was at VT right now’. I replied as follows: ‘Thanks, I will report on the discussions for the benefit of your … class. But note that Chief LeRoy Clarke and Shawn Peters, among others, have been offering similar 'pain things' (paintings) about the Caribbean crisis of control-freak societies. I hope that your class is watching them and not only the TV.’

Another Facebook friend also commented saying: ‘Interesting perspectives on "civilization" - I was unaware of Freud's comments on the subject. It reminds me of the day, when I was teaching at Ascension High School in Eleme, Nigeria, that one of my students asked about "civilized" countries, making it clear he felt that European countries were civilized and African ones, including Nigeria, of course, were not. I was not terribly surprised by his comments, but disturbed by them, nonetheless. The other students, (5th formers, I believe they were) obviously agreed with him. I began my rebuttal by pointing out the horrors inflicted on others by such Europeans as Hitler and Stalin, people from two of the countries this student thought were civilized. I said that Nigeria was indeed "civilized," that it contained some of the finest (and civilized - in the most positive use of that word) people in the world, and that we have to be careful not to denigrate countries due to a perceived lack of "civilization" nor feel inferior to countries that had no superiority over any African nation.’

And I responded, saying: ‘Thanks for sharing your critical thinking with your Nigerian students. Dr. Assata Zerai also reported that when she was a visiting professor at the University of Ife, undergraduate students kept telling her that we were wicked sinners until the missionaries came to save us. Freud presented his unusual hypotheses in Civilization and its Discontents and also in Moses and Monotheism. But the hypotheses run through his body of work. He believes that the Id is the wild one bent on gratifying all pleasure instincts. But soon the Ego emerges through socialization to check the selfishness of the Id by teaching the little motherfucker that the mother was not accessible to his Eros. Frustrated, the brothers leave home to found their own families where they repress their own sons while still battling with their despotic father with the childish dream of liberation in the form of patricide. Finally the Superego comes in to regulate the instinct for pleasure by imposing the work ethic that makes people sweat for their living when they would rather avoid all work and simply enjoy erotic pleasure (with the exception of the privileged few such as artists and intellectuals who may truly enjoy their work). The trick is to let people believe that by working, they are simply battling with nature and conquering it in order to exploit it.

Thus civilization is an endless exercise in repression of natural instincts of Eros and Nirvana. Herbert Marcuse (Eros and Civilization) subjected Freud to a detailed critique in which he demonstrated that this idea that repression equals civilization runs through Western Philosophy from Plato and Aristotle to Hegel before Nietzsche dissented with his queer sense of morality as immorality. Marx, Lenin, Mao, Du Bois, Diop, Nkrumah, Fanon, Rodney, Cabral, Toyo, Achebe, Davis, hooks, Amadiume, Nzegwu, Collins, Ekwe-Ekwe, and Hall are my model critics of Freud because they revealed that what was mistaken as Eros was mainly the profit motive of greedy capitalists who would not hesitate to kill their fathers or sons to maximize profits. Freud speculated that some of my model critics did not really end repression but actually founded repressive regimes that they brazenly called the dictatorship of the proletariat in their efforts to refuse the 'reality principle' that civilization progresses through repression. Marcuse disagreed with this speculation by Freud and insisted that a non-repressive civilization is possible when we allow our imagination to roam free in the arts and sciences without being bogged down by the 'performance principle' that is prone to aggression in the psychology of Freud. I have critiqued Freud elsewhere on his view that Africans, Aboriginal Australians and Maoris were extremely neurotic for their stringent maintenance of incest taboos compared to Europeans who had no qualms about marrying their first cousins. Today, science has proved that those 'natives' that Freud called barbaric in this context knew what they were doing because inbreeding weakens the genetic pool.

During her presentation to my class, Kenyetta introduced the land of Kentifica which she discovered and mapped as the intersection of globalized Africana homeland and Diaspora with its own handmade musical instruments (as is the norm in Africa), with food shared publicly as performance (common in Africa), with colorful hair designs and textiles covered in African fractal patterns (also common in Africa). She said that she resented being called Oyibo (European) in Nigeria and retorted to her seamstress that she spoke the way she did because some of our people sold others into slavery. I intervened to remind the class that one of the books we were reading for the Introduction to African Studies class was How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney. That book proved that it was not really a slave trade but a class war in which a few African chiefs collaborated with their European class allies to wage war and capture Africans to be enslaved. The rest of our ancestors fought hard to prevent our beloved from being captured and enslaved and the struggle continued through the middle passage to the plantations. We are all survivors meeting one another against the odds.

About the artist…

Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle is an interdisciplinary visual artist, writer and performer. Her practice fluctuates between collaborations and participatory projects with alternative gallery spaces within various communities to projects that are intimate and based upon her private experiences in relationship to historical events and contexts. A term that has become a mantra for her practice is the "Historical Present," as she examines the residue of history and how it affects our contemporary world perspective. Hinkle received her MFA in Art & Critical Studies Creative Writing from CalArts and BFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Her work and experimental writing has been exhibited and performed Fore at The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, Project Row Houses in Houston, TX, The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, CA and The Museum of Art at The University of New Hampshire. Hinkle was the youngest artist to participate in the multi-generational biennial Made in LA 2012. Hinkle’s work has been reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Artforum, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Hinkle was listed on The Huffington Post’s Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know. She is also the recipient of several fellowships and grants including: The Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Award, The Cultural Center for Innovation’s Investing in Artists Grant, Social Practice in Art (SPart-LA), and The Jacob K. Javits Full Fellowship for Graduate Study. Hinkle is a recent alumna of the US Fulbright Program in which she conducted research at the University of Lagos in Lagos, Nigeria.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

‘Objective’ History and Genocide Denialism

-->   By Biko Agozino

Writing The Nigeria-Biafra War, edited by Toyin Falola and his doctoral student at the University of Texas, Austin, Ogechukwu Ezekwem (2016, Woodbridge, James Currey), is a highly anticipated volume about a country in which authoritarian dictators banned the teaching of history apparently out of fear that such an academic discipline would sooner or later excavate the atrocities that they engineered in a genocidal war for opportunistic selfish gains in the guise of national interest. The book is timely now as the masses agitate for the actualization of Biafra, although the book is silent on this raging mass agitation and ongoing extra judicial killings and detentions of nonviolent protesters sometimes for waving the banned flag of Biafra which could have been permitted as a tourist attraction and as homage to the dead.

The chunky book caries the trademark James Currey polished finishing with glossy hardcover. However, the choice of an abstract painting, Niger Delta Militancy II’, by ‘dele jegede’, for the cover illustration is questionably ahistorical and trivialistic given the theme of Biafra that is better illustrated with genocidal images of kwashiorkor babies or with the bullet-ridden paintings or sculptures (‘Seeds’) of memories from the war by the scholar-activist artist, Olu Oguibe, for instance. I strongly recommend that the publishers should replace the cover illustration with more appropriate powerful paintings about Biafra by Obiora Udechukwu or Uche Okeke. See also the analysis of Demas Nwoko's paintings and terracotta sculpture about the crisis by Uche Okeke-Agulu

I could not wait to delve into the 491-page tome as soon as my review copy arrived from the publishers. I was impressed to see the high caliber and timber of intellectuals assembled in the book with essays from the eminent historian, Godwin Uzoigwe, and the Marxist literary theorist, Biodun Jeyifo, promising mouth-watering mussels of knowledge waiting to be carefully digested. The book also ambitiously included chapters on fictional narratives (analyzing fiction written by women such as Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) alongside chapters on ‘objective history’ to attempt a more ‘comprehensive’ coverage of the grammatology of the war.

Sadly, the intellectual cowardice that forced many into silence in the face of tyranny as condemned by Wole Soyinka in his detention memoir, The Man Died, was too evident in the book about a country where scholarship on the war was apparently censored and official archives were sanitized to erase much of the evidence while the prolific documentation of the war in novels, memoirs and biographies by the Igbo survivors (such as Victor and Arthur Nwankwo with their legendary Fourth Dimension Publishing Company) is relatively ignored in this book. These were suspected by some authors in the book of being ‘biased’ even when backed by newspaper reports that some dismissed as ‘propaganda’ by Biafran and foreign journalists who witnessed the war.

I have always wanted to read accounts of the Nigeria-Biafra war from the perspectives of Nigerian intellectuals on the side of Nigeria during the genocidal war but this book will not quench that thirst. There is no contributor from the Northern part of Nigeria where the genocide against the Igbo started and claimed an estimated 100,000 lives, leading to the secession, and then followed by the genocidal war in which another three million people were killed mainly through what Obafemi Awolowo unapologetically tried to justify with the assertion that ‘starvation is a legitimate weapon of war’. Anthony Enahoro also bragged that Nigeria had only two choices; either to starve the Igbo into surrendering or to kill them in the battlefield, as narrated by Achebe in There Was a Country and by Ekwe-Ekwe in Biafra Revisited.

For some reason, the word genocide was not even mentioned in the index of the book perhaps because the editors were searching for ‘objective’ archeology of the sort that Soyinka mocked in Season of Anomy: Poke-poke, a drybone here, poke-poke, another ancient fossil there; meanwhile rivers of fresh blood were flowing across the country while the so-called intellectuals indulged in the ‘rabid’ historian’s ‘professional disease of tidiness’, according to Uzoigwe (p.17). What sort of intellectuals would write a book about a genocidal war in which more than three million lives of their own brothers and sisters were wasted without even acknowledging in the index that the word ‘genocidal’ was used in the text by some authors to objectively describe the atrocities?

The chapters in the book can be grouped into three categories – 1). The chapters by Igbo intellectuals (Uzoigwe, for instance) painstakingly identified the avoidable causes of the war and the regrettable genocidal consequences (p. 34). Akachi Odoemena also detailed the genocidist boasts of Nigerian officials (pp186-192). Furthermore, Francoise Ugochukwu in chapter 17 defended the objectivity of the gendered historical fiction of Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra, condemning the ‘pogrom’. Ogechi Anyanwu reviewed the sociological, economic and psychological conditions that led to the war against those that Ojukwu called ‘the foremost champions of unity in Nigeria’ before they were forced to secede due to state-sponsored genocidal killings in the North (p.49). Raphael Njoku and Austine Okwu both focused their chapters on the Ahiara Declaration of June 1969 and suggest that it was too little too late and that it may have discouraged western superpowers from intervening to save Biafra, despite the support of the Soviet Union for Nigeria, because of the ideological borrowing of ‘African socialism’ from the Arusha Declaration of Julius Nyerere one year earlier. Christian Opata compared the memoirs of Alex Madiebo, a commanding general in the Biafra Army, with that of Robert Collis, an obscure Irish medical doctor in Lagos who left the country after the war started and who saw Nigeria as an ‘artificial’ creation that the Igbo were planning to dominate. Opata dismissed the allegation of Igbo domination plans and concluded that all writings, including history, are reflexive of vested interests. Though all writers may lay claim to degrees of objectivity, Madiebo was obviously more objective than Collis. Makes me wonder why Opata chose to glorify the propaganda of Collis by comparing it with the eye-witness account of Madiebo rather than compare the latter with Obasanjo's self-incriminating memoir, My Command. Egodi Uchendu found that Nigerian authors reflected the impact of the genocidal war on women more than foreign ones. She quoted N.U. Akpan as reporting that Igbo women demanded revenge for the killings in the North. However, the remarkable thing is that the Igbo were not seeking revenge for the genocide; they were seeking justice.

2) The chapters by Yoruba intellectuals displayed intellectual dishonesty in vain attempts to mitigate the course of the war. Bukola Oyeniyi, for example, parroting rational choice or game theory, represented the state-sponsored genocide against the Igbo in the North before the war as ‘the spate of violence that erupted between Hausa and Igbos in Northern Nigeria following the first military coup of 1966’ (p. 111). He went on to childishly accuse Azikiwe of ‘sowing the seed of disunity in Nigeria’ just because Zik chose to selflessly form a government as a junior partner with the Northern Peoples Congress rather than with Awolowo’s Action Group which allegedly offered him the office of the Prime Minister (p.120). Also, Olukunle Ojeleye dismissed ‘local authors’ as lacking in objectivity or historical ‘positivism’ supposedly due to their ‘commitment to ethnic sentiments’. Adetayo Alabi reviewed The Trial of Christopher Okigbo by Ali Mazrui and superficially concluded that it was an example of magical realism or science fiction. Unlike the dramatic chastisement of Mazrui by Ekwe-Ekwe at a Harvard University symposium on his irresponsible condemnation of a fellow intellectual for his scholar-activism, Alabi failed to offer a word of dissent against the ideological condemnation of the heroism of Okigbo, in giving his life to stop a genocidal war, as a crime against poetry, according to Mazrui.

3) The chapters by non-Nigerian intellectuals appear more sympathetic to the plight of the Igbo who managed to survive genocide in Biafra. Fiona Bateman’s chapter, for instance, highlighted the solidarity of Irish fiction writers who shared with the Igbo, the oppressive experience of being colonized and exposed to artificial famine. Hugh Hodges focused on the fictionalized childhood of Chris Abani in post-Biafra Graceland characterized by lawlessness reminiscent of Spaghetti Western films that children enjoyed watching in Nigeria without realizing that they were based on the subtext of the genocide against American Indian Natives. Meredith Coffey looked at the representation of ethnic minorities in Biafra in the works of Chukwuemeka Ike and Chimamanda Adichie in a way similar to the chapter by Cyril Obi on the neglected ‘blind spot’ of minorities in the history of the war, showing that they were seen as being more likely to support Nigeria. Jane Bryce and Ofure Aito focus on the historical narratives of the ‘pogrom’ from the perspective of the survivors in Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra. These chapters were more compassionate than those from most fellow Nigerian authors, especially those from Western Nigeria. 

Amazingly even the self-professed Marxist, Jeyifo, condescended to use his verbose, self-opinionated, five-part serialized, newspaper book review of There Was A Country to describe that damning witness against genocide by Achebe as the work of a ‘propagandist, media apparatchik, and ideological zealot’, (p.246). Biodun Jeyifo went on to unfairly abuse Achebe as an 'Igbo supremacist' simply because Achebe reported the consensual fact that although the Igbo poor came relatively late to modern education, they quickly took the lead and have maintained that lead in the achievement of academic merit in Nigeria. Incredibly, Jeyifo neurotically attempted to deny the genocide against the Igbo masses by repeating 3.1 million times that the evidence only suggested 'alleged attempted genocide'. Lenin would have dismissed such a reactionary chauvinism as petty bourgeois 'national defencism' since he called for the right to self determination by oppressed nationalities with the right to secession inscribed in the constitution of the USSR, allowing Finland to secede without firing a shot and allowing the USSR to dissolve peacefully when the people demanded it.

The shortcoming of this promising book lies in the futile search for ‘objectivity’ when it has been established that ‘committed objectivity’ is the best that scholars can approximate either in their cowardly support of tyranny or in their heroic challenge to genocide wherever it may rear its ugly head. There is no such thing as a point-of-viewless history of genocide (see my book Counter-Colonial Criminology). Nigerian intellectuals need to live up to the expectations of history by challenging the government of Nigeria to reintroduce the teaching of history in schools and also by supporting the teaching of the history of the Nigeria-Biafra war lest we repeat our tragedies. A book like this should include scholar-activism against injustice by calling for reparations to be paid by Nigeria and by the foreign allies for the genocide against Ndi-Igbo so that we can finally say, never again.

African intellectuals should renounce their shameless denial of the Igbo genocide and join courageous intellectuals like Soyinka in denouncing the evil that has been done to fellow Africans by greedy rulers of the neocolonial genocidal state, otherwise the culture of genocidal violence would continue to haunt the continent. We need to hear the perspectives of historians form the Northern part of Nigeria on the unjustifiable atrocities visited on their Eastern brothers and sisters before, during and continuing after the Nigeria-Biafra war. What sort of intellectuals are you if you choose to keep silent in the face of tyranny? This is the question posed by Soyinka to progressive African intellectuals, a question made more scandalous because the so-called pseudo intellectuals were not just silent, they were the cheerleaders of genocide while hiding behind the mask of ‘objectivity’ to deny the crimes against humanity. Africans should outlaw genocide denialism as hate speech.

Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Virginia Tech.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Recent Affirmations

By Biko Agozino

I have just received international affirmations of my work from respected colleagues and I can’t wait to share and to thank the colleagues before ordering copies for my library. First, I received a printout of a chapter on ‘Criminological Imagination’ by Stephen Pfohl of Boston College, an eminent theorist in Sociology and Criminology. He had written a powerful preface to my book, Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason published by Pluto Press in 2003. That book was partly inspired by his own indispensable book, Images of Deviance and Social Control: A Sociological History.

In his chapter, ’The Criminological Imagination in an Age of Global Cybernetic Power’ in C. Wright Mills and the Criminological Imagination: Prospects for Creative Enquiry, edited by Jon Frauley of the University of Ottawa, Canada, and published by Ashagate in 2015, Pfohl offered a subtle critique of Mills while retaining his implicit call for scholar-activism in the original formulation of the equation between public issues and private biographies as the essence of sociology. Although Mills was among the first sociologists to recognize that industrialized countries had become ‘overdeveloped’ and ‘postmodern’, Pfohl says that he prefers the term, ‘ultramodern’, to describe the still all-too-modernist societies in which simulation and the simulacra have replaced the reality principle as Jean Baudrillard theorized.

The joy for me is that Pfohl devoted more than one page in his chapter to the review of my contributions in Counter-Colonial Criminology as a good example of criminological imagination that transcended what he called the ‘blindness’ of C.W. Mills’ sociological imagination on race and gender oppression. According to Pfohl, conventional criminologists may sometimes find ‘unnerving’ my conclusion in Counter-Colonial Criminology that the discipline remains complicit in the colonial legacy of imperialist reason. I chuckled after reading that and said to myself, well if they are unnerved, then they must have had the nerve to try to impose what Stan Cohen once called the ‘made for export criminology’ on those who were enslaved and colonized by their countries for so long when such repressive technologies had failed in their own crisis-ridden countries.

The second affirmation in one week came in the form of a new book just published by the Policy Press of Bristol University’s New Horizons in Criminology Series. The book, Indigenous Criminology, by Chris Cunneen and Juan Tauri, both based in Australian universities, acknowledged my work and that of the legendary Aotearoa New Zealand legal scholar, Moana Jackson, for providing the ‘theoretical and methodological nourishment’ for decades that led to the new book. The first thing I noticed in the book is that I was quoted on the jacket, praising the monograph thus: ‘A welcome contribution to the decolonization paradigm in Criminology, a discipline that is complicit in the enslavement, colonization, genocidization, and criminalization of Others with repressive fetishes of western modernity’.

On reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised to find my work cited on almost every page of the opening two chapters as the theoretical framework for the emerging field of Indigenous Criminology. Moreover, my methodological innovation of ‘Committed Objectivity’ was hailed as the suitable methodology for scholar-activists hoping to make a contribution to the field of Indigenous Criminology. By some coincidence, Stephen Pfohl reached a similar conclusion in his chapter on criminological imagination by recognizing committed objectivity as a better approach to that of C.W. Mills who tended to portray the masses as powerless ‘inactivationary’ victims being manipulated by the all-powerful media.

Juan Tauri and Antje Deckert had earlier in 2014 guest edited a special issue of the African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies (of which I remain the founding Editor-In-Chief since 2005) to honor the 10th anniversary of the publication of Counter-Colonial Criminology with a focus on how the book contributed to the development of Indigenous Criminology. Juan Tauri has also invited me to be a keynote speaker at a conference on the Decolonization of Criminology and Indigenous Studies in Australia in 2016.

I am pleased to note that Shuan Gabbidon, Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice at Penn State University, also concluded the third edition of his Criminological Perspectives on Race and Crime published by Sage in 2015 with the following moving affirmation:

‘…Agozino’s work on counter-colonial criminology must become a standard in criminology and criminal justice texts and degree-granting institutions. Its importance is two-fold. First it has critically assessed the role of Western Criminology in imperialism around the globe (see Godfrey and Dunstall, 2013). This contention alone warrants additional inquiry by criminologists. Second, for those Third World Countries seeking to get into the criminology arena, Agozino’a thesis suggests they should take a close look at the "classics" of Western criminology and proceed with caution. Given the limited success of Western Criminology on issues pertaining to racial and ethnic minorities in the cities and countries around the world, his thesis puts them on notice to construct a liberating criminology – not imitate one that, he believes, has been a partner in imperialism. ‘

Many thanks to these and many more colleagues around the world for affirming my modest contributions to knowledge. Keep up the good work for I look forward to learning more from your own work. As Bob Marley said, ‘There’s work to be done, so let’s do it little by little.’

Friday, May 20, 2016

Symposium on the Igbo of the Southeast Nigeria

Symposium  on the 50th Anniversary of the publication of The Igbo of Southeast Nigeria by Professor V.C. Uchendu, held in Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, May 2, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Details of My New Book on Arthur Nwankwo


ISBN: 978-2904-53-8 (Paper); 978-2904-54-6 (Hard Cover) First Edition (C) Agozino 2016

This book situates the socio-political thought of Agwuncha Arthur Nwankwo within the paradigm of Africana Studies as a way of encouraging more scholars in the field to pay more attention to contributions from scholars based in Africa. At the same time, scholars in African Studies should radicalize the field by embracing the revolutionary field of Africana Studies to make all the respected African Studies Institute in the world to evolve into Africana Studies Institutes. Nwankwo’s revolutionary theory and praxis are challenging to academic scholars in Africa who appear to be satisfied with quoting theorists from Europe without adequate originality in the development of indigenous knowledge systems for the explanation and transformation of the enduring conditions in Africa. This book differs from the previous tributes to Nwankwo by his admirers in the sense that this is not a tribute but a constructive critique and also because this book goes beyond the theoretical and historical texts of Nwankwo to read his creative writings inter-textually.

Praise for the book:
… critically incisive study of outstanding intellectuel engagé Agwuncha Arthur Nwankwo by Biko Agozino, one of the most prolific and accomplished scholars of his generation.”  - Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Visiting Professor in Graduate Programme of Constitutional Law, Universidade de Fortaleza, Brazil.

"The book is very informative, lucid and analytical. It provides a rigorous analysis of one of Nigeria's and Africa's foremost activist and revolutionary (Arthur Nwankwo) who challenged the oppressive and unjust rule of military and civilian regimes in Nigeria. Furthermore, the book elucidates the complexity of the Nigerian state and the position of the Igbo Nation. The book is compulsory reading for all those interested in both the Nigerian and African project." Professor Akpan Hogan Ekpo, Director General, West African Institute For Financial And Economic Management (WAIFEM), Central Bank of Nigeria Learning Centre and Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

‘This is the first systematic study of the ideas and praxis of Arthur Nwankwo. Biko took a studied and methodical approach to Nwankwo's worldview and political practice in a critical and yet fair minded way. It is an inspiring work in the realm of African political thought which scholars and activists will find useful.’ Professor Abubakar Momoh, Director of the National Electoral Institute, Abuja, and Professor of Political Science, Lagos State University, Lagos.

‘The book Critical, Creative and Centered Scholar-Activism: The Fourth Dimensionalism of Agwuncha Arthur Nwankwo by Professor Agozino presents a brilliant, refreshingly in-depth understanding of the works of the great African intellectual, Arthur Nwankwo. The book provides uncommon insight into the possible motivations and reasoning behind certain beliefs of Dr. Arthur Nwankwo as espoused through some of his published works. Reading through Professor Agozino's work should remind the present and future generation of Africans, that life, to be well lived must be founded on values, principles and moral convictions. Writing the book must clearly have been a sacrificial exercise embarked upon for the sole purpose of bringing what should come to light, to light. Generations to come owe a mountain of debt to professor Agozino for this selfless act.’ Dr. Chika Ezeanya, Assistant Professor of African Business Studies, University of Rwanda, Kigali.

‘It seems safe to say that  CRITICAL, CREATIVE AND CENTRED SCHOLAR ACTIVISM: THE FOURTH DIMENSIONALISM OF AGWUNCHA ARTHUR NWANKWO will be one of the best social science books of the year in Nigeria and may be of the decade. Biko, arguably one of the worlds leading experts on sociology and Africana Studies, made a powerful case for Afrocentricity: "AFROCENTRICITY … DOES NOT START FROM THE PREMISE THAT EUROCENTRICISM IS ALWAYS WRONG BUT FROM THE FACT THAT WHATEVER IS THE FOCUS OF ANY SCHOLARSHIP SHOULD BE PLACED AT THE CENTRE OF SUCH SCHOLARSHIP". By this, Afrocentricity as an approach, is elevated to a global principle with broader human implications.’ Dr. Augustine Obelagu Agu, Retired Senior Social Policy Officer, UNICEF, Independent Policy Consultant, Texas, USA.

I enjoyed reading every single line of your work; and I’m quite surprised that you had to produce this solid work in 2 months. That’s an incredible turn out time for an incisive scholarly work of this nature. It’s a big lesson for me who has been playing around endlessly with two manuscripts for years. … Your big brain is, therefore, also partly responsible for the global warming.’ Dr. Ifeanyi Ezeonu, Professor of Sociology, Brock University, Canada. 

About the Author:
Biko Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. He is the author of the following books - Today Na Today (Poetry), 2013; The Debt Penalty (Play), 2010; ADAM: Africana Drug-Free Alternative Medicine, 2006; Counter-Colonial Criminology, 2003; Pan African Issues in Crime and Justice (co-edited), 2004; Nigeria: Democratising a Militarised Civil Society, (co-authored) 2001; Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Migration Research (edited), 2000; and Black Women and the Criminal Justice System, 1997. Also Director-Producer-Editor of Reparative Justice, 30 minutes, color, African Independent Television, Lagos, Nigeria, 2002; Director-Producer of CLR James: The Black Jacobins Sociology Series, 2008; Director-Producer, 'Shouters and the Control Freak Empire', Winner of the Best International Short Documentary, Columbia Gorge Film Festival, USA, 2011. Editor-In-Chief of the African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies, and Series Editor, Ashgate Publishers Interdisciplinary Research Series in Ethnic, Gender and Class Relations. Ph.D. (Edinburgh); MPhil. (Cambridge); B.Sc. First Class Hons (Calabar).

Book Review Editors of Journals who wish to receive review copies and those who wish to order copies and or arrange readings should contact the publishers or the author directly:

Publishers Contact: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co. Ltd, House 8, First Avenue, City Layout, New Haven, Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria. Phone: +2348035511487; +2348055790009; email: or
Author Contact: Dr. Biko Agozino, Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, 225 Stanger Street, 562 McBryde Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24073; Phone: 1-540-231-7699 (Office); Fax: 1-540-231-3860. Email: or blogsite: