Armed Resistance: Masculinities, Egbesu Spirits, and Violence in the Niger Delta of Nigeria


Golden, Rebecca Lynne. 2012. “Armed Resistance: Masculinities, Egbesu Spirits, and Violence in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.” PhD diss., Tulane University.

Author: Rebecca Lynne Golden



This dissertation addresses the Ijaw/Ijo armed resistance movement for self-determination waged by young men against multinational oil companies and the Federal Government of Nigeria in the Niger Delta. I investigated the reciprocity of violence, the transgression of social order, and the search for legitimacy. The processes of defining Ijaw masculinities as responses to the everyday militarization and of this riverine, polluted environment and the increasing marginalization of Ijaw youth encompassed three dimensions of warriorhood, cosmology, and reciprocal, brutal disorder. This struggle was not one of disengagement but of diverse involvement, where a generation of men, were torn together by poverty, despair, and revolt. Complex notions of agency, (dis)connection, and belonging provide outlets for a youth-based political hierarchy that hurls young men over the gerontocracy and into the mainstream of Ijaw petrol politics. Armed with Egbesu (powerful Ijaw god of justice and war) warriors intensified their violent resistance, infused with renewed vigor from historical, ethno-spiritual identities. I demonstrated, through a progression of violent professionalization and a new democracy, that indigenous cosmology shaped and legitimized the struggle against the Nigerian Government; Egbesu orders daily lives in a world of disorder. The war god offers a counter-balance to tradition and modernity, and yet he is the manifestation of both. I revealed that the modern Ijaw warrior believes that well-organized, fighting organizations are capable of propelling the Delta out of her problems while socially promoting young men to senior status, as condoned by their elders. The new Ijaw warrior dreams of returning to his village or town as a hero to supplant older forms of rule, yet he is no longer in control of his lands and trading routes. Instead, oil lifting, pipeline sabotage, and burning cash have become the new order. The armed rebellion wove a web of betrayals and disillusionment. The contradictory reverberations of failures and successes of Ijaw warriors continues to anchor everyday meanings on historical transgressions, warrior obligations, and future aspirations for social inclusion, while sequestering the emergent Ijaw warrior in perpetual battle. He is the unseen additive in the Nigerian oil, on which the world depends.

Topics: Age, Youth, Armed Conflict, Democracy / Democratization, Economies, Environment, Extractive Industries, Gender, Boys, Masculinity/ies, Men, Indigenous, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Multi-National Corporations, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Nigeria

Year: 2012

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