The Pan-African Nation Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria
by Andrew Apter
University of Chicago Press, 2005
Cloth: 978-0-226-02354-0 | Paper: 978-0-226-02355-7 | Electronic: 978-0-226-02356-4
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

When Nigeria hosted the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977, it celebrated a global vision of black nationhood and citizenship animated by the exuberance of its recent oil boom. Andrew Apter's The Pan-African Nation tells the full story of this cultural extravaganza, from Nigeria's spectacular rebirth as a rapidly developing petro-state to its dramatic demise when the boom went bust.

According to Apter, FESTAC expanded the horizons of blackness in Nigeria to mirror the global circuits of its economy. By showcasing masks, dances, images, and souvenirs from its many diverse ethnic groups, Nigeria forged a new national culture. In the grandeur of this oil-fed confidence, the nation subsumed all black and African cultures within its empire of cultural signs and erased its colonial legacies from collective memory. As the oil economy collapsed, however, cultural signs became unstable, contributing to rampant violence and dissimulation.

The Pan-African Nation unpacks FESTAC as a historically situated mirror of production in Nigeria. More broadly, it points towards a critique of the political economy of the sign in postcolonial Africa.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Andrew Apter is professor of history and anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and chair of the interdepartmental program in African studies. His previous book, Black Critics and Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society, was published by the University of Chicago Press.

REVIEWS

“Andrew Apter’s splendid historical ethnography examines how Nigeria’s oil-rich state utilized its petroleum revenues in an extravaganza of cultural production that attempted to transform oil money into national identity. The Pan-African Nation offers an engaging and intellectually provocative account of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, which Nigeria hosted in 1977, an event better known as FESTAC ’77. Nigeria spent hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps even several billions dollars, of its oil wealth to organize FESTAC, a spectacle that displayed Nigeria’s newfound riches, repackaged its many diverse cultural traditions so as to try to create a Nigerian national culture that would at once bind the nation and establish Nigeria as the center of the black world. Apter’s brilliance, and the enduring contribution of the book, is in showing not only the complex history and ethnography that situate and explain the Nigerian state’s invention of tradition and culture, but also the ways in which the manipulation of signs and symbols in FESTAC both obscured and reflected the contradictions inherent in Nigeria’s oil economy. . . . The Pan-African Nation offers a compelling account of the relationship between culture and power. The book weaves together an artful tapestry of the material and cultural transformations wrought by the influence of oil wealth. It demonstrates the centrality of cultural production in statecraft, providing what Apter describes as ‘a political economy of the sign in postcolonial Nigeria.’ . . . The Pan-African Nation . . . is a splendid book written in a clear and sophisticated style with provocative and persuasive arguments backed up by superb scholarship.”
— Daniel Jordan Smith, Anthropological Quarterly

“Building its analysis on an art project that ordinarily might be considered unrelated to oil studies, the book explains how sudden oil wealth in the 1970s brought Nigeria great possibilities and grand illusions, and how these were projected through a pan-African arts extravaganza.”
— Wilson Akpan, Journal of Contemporary African Studies

"Apter's expertise on Nigeria is on full display. . . . The book is a powerful statement on the emergence of a post-colonial national identity; Apter is quite sklled in balancing political economic and cultural spheres. . . . A rewarding read and I recommend it to Africanists and others interested in nationalism, political culture, diaspora studies, and Nigeria."
— Brennan Kraxberger, Journal of Modern African Studies

"For those interested in issues of culture and nationalism in Africa, this book will serve as one of the very best on the subject."
— Toyin Falola, Nations and Nationalism

"The great value of this book is that from its focus on the production of culture, it is able to suggest connections between diverse spheres at various locations and at various points in time. . . . It encourages the reader to examine familiar interpretations in a new light, drawing attention to many interesting parallels."
— Dmitri van den Bersselaar, Journal of African History

"This is a penetrating if scathing critique of unfulfilled expectations and lost opportunities in the wake of Nigeria's march toward a modern nation-state. . . . In his brilliant analysis of the political, economic, and social dynamics of Nigeria, Andrew Apter turns to FESTAC as an appropriate metaphor for a critical review of the prodigious problems, challenges, and ills facing Africa's most populous country."
— Bolaji Campbell, African Studies Review

"Apter's splendid historical ethnography examines how Nigeria's oil-rich state utilized its petroleum revenues in an extravaganza of cultural production that attempted to transform money into national identity. . . . Apter's brilliance, and the enduring contribution of the book, is in showing not only the complex history and ethnography that situate and explain the Nigerian state's invention of tradition and culture, but also the ways in which the manipulation of signs and symbols . . . both obscured and reflected the contradictions inherent in Nigeria's oil economy. . . . For anyone interested in corruption as a cultural phenomenon, or more generally in the role of signs and symbols in political and economic processes, this is gripping and convincing material."
— Daniel Jordan Smith, Anthropological Quarterly

"The approach leads to rich and thoughtful explorations of Nigeria's most crucial problem: creating a national culture. . . . Richly rewarding and highly recommended, both for those interested in Nigeria and also as an addition to the growing number of reexaminations and interpretations of the great world fairs and exhibitions of the past."
— Paul A. Beckett, The Historian

"This book deserves a wide readership, and I expect that it will get it. Apter has provided us with an account of a postcolonial African political culture that is both theoretically and empirically compelling."
— Jonathan Sadowsky, American Historical Review

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Introduction

La mise en scene

1 Rebirth of a Nation

2 Nigeria at Large

The Spectacle of Culture

3 Producing the People

4 War Canoes and Their Magic

5 A Genealogy of the Durbar

6 The Mirror of Cultural Production

La mise en abime

7 The Politics of Illusion

8 Death and the King’s Henchmen

Conclusion

Notes

References

Index