Chosen Trauma, Emotions and Memory in Movements: The Ogoni and Ijaw in the Niger Delta

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Zainab L. Mai-Bornu
Fidelis Allen


This paper presents a critical analysis of ‘Chosen Trauma’ theory and its applicability to social movement responses to oil resource extractive activities in Nigeria. Volkan’s (1985, 1997, 2005) formulations on ‘collective calamity of groups’ ancestors, defined in terms of shared pains suffered at the hands of an enemy is explored using the case of Ogoni and Ijaw movement activities against the Federal Government and oil companies operating in the Niger Delta. The framing of traumas focuses on the role played by leaders of both groups in their protests against calamitous environmental problems resulting from the activities of oil companies in the region. For the Ogoni, the memory of trauma is adaptive to non-violence while, for the Ijaw it is a fluid construction between non-violence and violence. Volkan’s theory is analytically helpful, but at the same time demands refinement to better explain the nuances in these cases.

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biographies

Zainab L. Mai-Bornu, University of Leicester

Dr Zainab Mai-Bornu is a Lecturer in International Politics in the School of History, Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester, UK.

Fidelis Allen, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.