A Tale of Two Rivers: The Niger and Mississippi Deltas from Enslavement to Petroviolence

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URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10900/137614
Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2023-03-07
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Anglistik, Amerikanistik
Advisor: West-Pavlov, Russell (Prof. Dr. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2022-12-06
License: http://tobias-lib.uni-tuebingen.de/doku/lic_ohne_pod.php?la=de http://tobias-lib.uni-tuebingen.de/doku/lic_ohne_pod.php?la=en
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This dissertation explores the entanglement between the Niger and the Mississippi delta regions of Nigeria and America from the savagery of enslavement to the environmental ruins of petrocapitalism. It challenges the extant conception of these temporalities and spaces as sequestered entities in scholarship and social imagination. Scholars have venerated crude oil as a replacement of the labour of enslaved Africans in America (some of whom were deported from the Niger Delta) and a compliment to abolitionism. This dissertation demonstrates how the oil industry across these spaces took off and functions under the matrix of enslavement. Moreover, the Niger Delta has remained a viable extraction frontier for the some of the crude refined across the Cancer Alley of Louisiana comparable to the defunct deportation of its people into the plantations of the Mississippi Delta. This study contributes to the evolving environmentalism of the Black Atlantic world, participates in the effort to embolden our inclusivity in the global web, and promotes an interdisciplinary nexus between postcolonialism and American Studies. Following the scholarly interventions of Haraway, Nuttall, and Tsing on entanglement and interspecies relation, the first chapter fleshes out the entanglement between Niger and the Mississippi rivers as historical infrastructures of this nexus reinforced by the Atlantic Ocean. It also examines the efforts of the political establishments of Nigeria and America to corporeally remodel the Niger river to the Mississippi river in the twentieth century for comparable economic benefits across the Atlantic. In the second chapter, I prop up this non- human nexus with the exploration of the deportation project of enslavement from the Bight of Biafra in the Niger Delta into the plantations of the Mississippi from the eighteenth century. Furthermore, the chapter lays bare the imbrication of the temporalities of enslavement, colonialism, and petrocapitalism. Time in this context is not accounted for in its linearity because while enslavement from the fifteenth century served as a preface to colonialism in the Niger Delta, settler colonialism in the Mississippi Delta became the preface to enslavement. In the third Chapter, I explore the surviving cultural heritage between these regions emblazoned upon the corpus of delta blues of which scholars, such as Gioia, agree the roots are African and the natural environment that gave them birth. I engage a close-reading of Ojaide’s Delta Blues & Home Songs (1998) and Langston Hughes’ The Weary Blues (1926, 2020) to unearth the transatlantic leaning of the blues tradition to the environment. Building upon Thakur’s concept of “necroecology” as a territory of death and destruction, the fourth chapter critiques the contemporary ecosystems of these regions as industrial sites of the destruction of Black bodies. Through a close-reading of Ifowodo’s The Oil Lamp (2005) and Smith’s Blood Dazzler (2008), I unveil how the necropolitics and biopolitics of the political hegemonies industrialized the destruction of these genealogically connected people in the Odi massacre and the devastation of hurricane Katrina. The final chapter visually examines the quotidian outlook of these landscapes heavily transformed from agricultural landscapes into global frontiers of the oil industry. Evoking Sontag’s On Photography (1977, 2002), I critique the photodocumentaries of George Osodi and Richard Misrach: Delta Nigeria: The Rape of Paradise (2011) and Petrochemical America (2014) respectively. Through these materials, I foreground the visible scars of enslavement across these spaces that the oil industry re-violates through environmental pollution. I further amplify the importance of photography in holding the oil industry to account.

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