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Professor Karin Barber: Confessions of a courtesan

BRIHC Spring Lecture #4

Watson Building, University of Birmingham

The Yoruba-language print culture of 1920s Lagos was a scene of innovation and experiment, with a flurry of new weekly Yoruba-language newspapers appearing in the course of Lagosian political struggles with the British colonial government.  

In this lecture, Professor Karin Barber explores a series of letters purporting to be from a repentant prostitute which appeared in one of these papers in 1929. Lagos was mesmerised by the letters, and a new popular readership was drawn in. The serial format and the openness of the paper to contributions by readers allows us to trace the incremental emergence of a Yoruba text of a kind that had not been seen before. Thus, we gain leverage on a fundamental anthropological and historical question: how do new cultural things come into being, and how do prevailing social/cultural circumstances make particular innovations possible at particular moments?

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