Why do Igbo nationalists subscribe to the view that Igbos are one of the Lost Tribes of Israel and thus descend from Jewish people despite evidence against such genealogical and cultural ties? This problematic is largely underexplored in the copious literature on ethnonationalist agitations in Nigeria. Drawing on ontological security theory, I contend that Igbo nationalists employ the analogy of Jewishness to posit the Igbo as a unique ethnoreligious and ethnoracial group whose identity is under existential threat in postcolonial Nigeria and to draw global attention to their separatist cause. Further, I argue that although belief in the similarities between Jews and Igbos predates postcolonial Igbo nationalism – there are scores of racialist writings advanced by European colonizers in precolonial times to undermine African cultures (the so-called Hamitic hypothesis) – it was particularly invoked by Igbo nationalists during the gory Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970), a defining moment in the social construction of Igbo identity. Igbo nationalists appropriated the Jewish experience of persecution in Central and Eastern Europe to make their case for the ontological security of Igbos. Whilst this political strategy was partially successful, it did not halt the Nigerian state from extirpating Biafra. Despite the reincorporation of Biafran territory into Nigeria, Igbo nationalists still see themselves as Jews and Jewishness has mutated into something of a pristine Igbo identity in postcolonial Nigeria.
The event will take place via Zoom. You can join using this link or the the following Zoom details:
Meeting ID: 916 0683 8506