African Ethnicity as Mirage? Historicizing the Essence of the Igbo in Africa and the Atlantic Diaspora
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The enslavement of Africans, which gave birth to the African Diaspora in the Atlantic world, scattered people who shared the same cultural and linguistic affinity but often lumped them together in identifiable regional patterns. A significant consequence of the pattern of trade was the emergence of identifiable “ethnic” and cultural patterns in the diaspora. Attention, therefore, has for a long time focused on the pattern of dispersion and the impact of the Atlantic slave trade on the emergence of New World cultures. This paper addresses what I call the “question of Igbo history, ethnicity and identity,” with a view to presenting a synthesis and a framework for understanding the essence of ndiIgbo as flexible in both Africa and the Atlantic Diaspora. The case of the Igbo suggests that identities are multi-layered, self imposed, as well as ascribed by others and as such require a critical analysis to avoid the essentialism that have bedeviled much of the discourse on African identity in the diaspora.