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Framing the Nigerian Transnational Family: New Formations in Ireland

Iroh Anaele Diala

External Examiner: Professor Les Back, Goldsmiths, University of London
Date Awarded: 2009
Iroh Anaele Diala SEPR graduated thesis 2009


Beginning in the late 1990s, Ireland witnessed a significant growth in the number of immigrants arriving in the country including people of Nigerian origin. The increased presence of Nigerians in Ireland is part of an ongoing process of international migration from Nigeria that started in the colonial and early postcolonial periods. By demonstrating a strong familial characteristic, this current migration trend in Ireland contrasts with previous patterns of predominantly male or single persons migration from Nigeria. Responding to this development, ‘Framing the Nigerian Transnational Family: New Formations in Ireland’ utilises ethnography, social and cultural theory and art practice to interrogate the subject of Nigerian transnational family life in Ireland, starting from the material terrain of the migrant domestic archive as a repository of cultural and familial memory. This thesis is composed of four chapters in addition to an introduction, conclusion and art installation. Chapter one engages with the relationship between personal memory and family photographs to question how the domestic archive’s intimate connection to memory can enable ethnographic fieldwork and analysis while also articulating the deployment of affect in this study. Chapter two marks an ethnographic departure into the sites of Nigerian transnational communality, foregrounding the work of Nwannedinamba, an Igbo community organization. Chapter three focuses on the lives of four settled Nigerian families situated in the wider context of mainstream Irish society, two of whom arrived in Ireland as asylum seekers and two as health workers on work visas. Chapter four explores familial formations and transformations in the regimented and regulated spaces of Direct Provision. It is in response to the marginal social contexts of this inquiry that the family photographic image, through which much of the narratives in this study are acquired and around which the subsequent analysis revolves, is subjected to an ethnographically strategic, artistically conceptual and consensual reconstruction and defacement. The art installation draws from and is shaped by the lived experiences and material conditions revealed by this study. The textual and visual representations in this inquiry offer a critique on notions of citizenship and belonging, transnationalism and transition, social class, gender, and everyday life in Nigerian migrant family formations in Ireland. These provide a tangible and materialised manifestation of a change in traditional Nigerian family structures, allied to the ongoing consequences of Nigerian modernity and the contingencies of transnational migration.