Dr Insa Nolte


Senior Lecturer in African Studies

Department of African Studies and Anthropology


Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


My work is based on two decades of engagement with Nigeria, and I am particularly interested in Yoruba history, culture and politics.

I am currently the Principal Investigator (PI) of a European Research Council Starting Researcher Grant with the title 'Knowing Each Other: everyday religious encounters, social identities and tolerance in southwest Nigeria.' The project is based both at the University of Birmingham in the UK, and at Osun State University (UNIOSUN) and employs an international and multidisciplinary research team. My research explores the relationships between Yoruba Muslims, Christians and traditionalists, and it investigates how the encounter with religious difference - rather than religion alone - shapes pepoles' social identities and attitudes towards each other.

I also work on a British Academy Small Grant on 'Ethnography and Intelligence: The Wartime Career of Jack Sargent Harris in West and Southern Africa, 1940-1945' with Dr Keith Shear (PI), also based at DASA.  


  • Diplomvolkswirtin FUBerlin
  • PhD Birmingham


After a first degree at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, I joined the Centre of West African Studies (now DASA) as a PhD student to work on the history and politics of Remo under the supervision of Paulo de Moraes Farias and Karin Barber. After my graduation, I held the Kirk-Greene Junior Research Fellowship at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and I returned to DASA to take up a lectureship in 2001. In 2009 I was promoted to Senior Lecturer.

In 2012 I also joined the Department of History and International Studies at Osun State University, Nigeria, where the Nigerian part of my 'Knowing Each Other' project is based, as a Visiting Research Professor.


I am currently offering some teaching on a graduate module entitled 'Advanced Perspectives on Africa', which is co-ordinated by Dr Keith Shear. 

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise students on African and Nigerian history, politics and development. I currently supervise these PhD students:

  • Plangsat Dayil: Etho-religious conflict and Women in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria

Past PhD students include

  • Dr Leena Hoffmann: Big men and the big pot at the centre: Patronage politics and democracy in Nigeria
  • Dr Nozomi Sawada: The Educated Elite and associational life in Early Lagos Newspapers: In Search of Unity for the Progress of Society
  • Dr Obinna Okwelume: The Effects of the Mass Media on Attitudes to the Osu Caste System in Eastern Nigeria
  • Dr Beatrice Duncan: Land use, gender and cocoa farming in Ghana
  • Dr Juliana Mafwil: Women’s empowerment in the Nigerian agricultural sector
  • Sulaiman Yusef Balarabe Kura: Political parties and democratisation in Nigeria
  • Dr Comfort Davis: Igala women traders and micro-credit enterprise in Jos, Nigeria
  • Dr Afua Twum-Danso: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the economic, social and historical dimensions of childhood in Africa, and
  • Dr Justina Dugbazah:Gender, migration and rural livelihoods in Ghana: a Case study of the Ho District).

I am delighted that many of my former PhD students have moved on to work in British and African universities as well as national and international organizations, including the UN.


Most of my research focuses on the culture, history and politics of the Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria, and on Nigeria more genreally. My recent book, entitled Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo: The local politics of a Nigerian Nationalist examines the intellecual, social and political history of a distinctive region of Southwest Nigeria, which produced Nigeria’s most important Yoruba politician.

I am currently the PI of an European Research Council Starting Researcher Grant with the title 'Knowing Each Other: everyday religious encounters, social identities and tolerance in southwest Nigeria,' which began in February 2012 and will run until January 2017. The project centres on the everyday lives of Yoruba Muslims, Christians and traditionalists, and it explores the way in which religious differences and encounters structure peoples' lives.

The 'Knowing Each Other' project has allowed me to build up an international and multidisciplinary research team based both at the University of Birmingham in the UK, and at Osun State University (UNIOSUN), in Nigeria, and led by myself and Dr Olukoya Ogen, who is the Nigerian co-ordinator. Drawing on a large-scale ethnographic survey on the everyday lives of Muslims, Christians and traditionalists as well as field and archival work carried out over five years, the research plans to investigate the importance of religious difference for the constitution of important social identities as well as the establishment of everyday practices of tolerance. More information on the project will be available on the project website soon.

I also work on a British Academy Small Grant on 'Ethnography and Intelligence: The Wartime Career of Jack Sargent Harris in West and Southern Africa, 1940-1945' with my colleague Dr Keith Shear (PI). Focusing on Harris’s wartime dispatches from and activities in these two theatres, we want to explore the relationship between ethnography and intelligence-reporting, not as a problem of academic ethics or complicity with empire, but as modes of (self-)perception and apprehension, and social description and analysis.

In the past, my work has been funded by the ESRC (2003-5) and the British Academy (2006, 2009), and I particpated in a collaborative research project on Religion and Development which was funded by DfID (2005-10) with work foccusing on religion, governance and corruption in Nigeria.

Other activities

I provide regular advice as a Nigeria country expert to organisations offering help to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, USA and Canada. Before the Nigerian General Election in 2011, I was invited to lecture about Nigeria to the European Union Election Observation Mission.

Since 2010, I have acted as the external examiner for undergraduate modules in African and North American history in the Department of History and Politics at the University of Stirling, Scotland.



  • 2009. Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo: The Local Politics of a Nigerian Nationalist, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press for the International Africa Institute, 296 pp., ISBN 9780748638956. Also published as:
  • 2010a (USA edition). Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo: The Local Politics of a Nigerian Nationalist, Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 296 pp., ISBN 1-59221-756-7.
  • 2010b (Nigeria edition). Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo. The Local Politics of a Nigerian Nationalist,Ibadan: Bookbuilders and Safuran Publishers, 421 pp., ISBN 978-978-50022-1-8.

The book was launched in the UK (2009) and Nigeria (2011), and apart from academic reviews, it was discussed in a four-part article by Jide Osuntokun in The Nation, and also reviewed in other newspapers including The Vanguard, the Nigerian Compass and The Nigerian Tribune.

Articles in Scholarly Journals

  • 2011, with Nathaniel Danjibo and Oladeji Abubakar. “The Nexus Between Religion and Political Development in Nigeria: A Theoretical Discourse”, Research for Development: Journal of the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) 24 (1 & 2), 179-204.
  • 2008, “‘Without Women, Nothing Can Succeed’: Yoruba women in the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Nigeria”, Africa 78 (1), 84-106.
  • 2007, “Ethnic Vigilantes and the State: The Oodua People’s Congress in southwestern Nigeria”, International Relations 21 (2), 217-235.
  • 2005, “Identidade e violência: a política de juventude em Ijebu-Remo, Nigéria” in Revista Imaginário (Brazil) XI (11), 47-90. (Expanded translation of the 2004 article, with added images.)
  • 2004,  “Identity and Violence: The Politics of Youth in Ijebu-Remo, Nigeria” in The Journal of Modern African Studies, 42 (1), 61-89.
  • 2002, “Chieftaincy and the State in Abacha’s Nigeria: Kingship, Political Rivalry and Competing Histories in Abeokuta during the 1990s”, in Africa 72 (3), 46-89
  • 2002, “Federalism and Communal Conflict in Nigeria”, in Journal of Regional and Federal Studies 12 (1), 171-192.
  • 2001, “Traditionelle Herrscher im modernen afrikanischen Staat: Das Beispiel Ijebu Remo in Nigerien” (“Traditional Rulers in the Modern African State: A Case Study of Ijebu Remo, Nigeria”) in Zeitschrift für Weltgeschichte (Germany) 2 (2), 109-133.

Contributions to Edited Books

  • forthcoming 2013a (with Leena Hoffmann). “The roots of neopatrimonialism: Opposition politics and popular consent in Southwest Nigeria”, in Adebanwi, Wale and Ebenezer Obadare (eds), Continuities and Discontinuities: Democracy and Prebendal Politics Reconsidered,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • forthcoming 2013b “Religion, Development and Politics in Nigeria: Religious groups between shared concern and competition” in Matthew Clarke (ed.), Handbook of Research on Development and Religion, Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • 2007. “Chieftainships” in John Middleton (ed.), New Encyclopedia of Africa, Detroit Charles Scribner’s Sons, 173-176.
  • 2005. “Cultural Politics and Nationalist History: A Background to Wole Soyinka’s Ìsarà” in T. Falola (ed.), Christianity and Social Change in Africa: Essays In Honor of John Peel, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 209-232.
  • 2005. with K. N. Amherd, “Religions (West Africa)” in D. Johnson et al. (eds), Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 422-428.
  • 2003. “Obas and Party Politics: The Emergence of a Postcolonial Political Identity in Ijebu-Remo, 1948-1966” in O. Vaughan (ed.), Indigenous Structures & Governance in Nigeria, Ibadan, Nigeria: Bookcraft Press, 131-167.
  • 2003. “Negotiating Party Politics and Traditional Authority: Obafemi Awolowo in Ijebu-Remo, Nigeria, 1949-1955” in W. van Binsbergen (ed.), The Dynamics of Power and the Rule of Law, Münster, Germany: LIT Verlag, 51-67.


Working Papers


Policy Briefs


Book Reviews

  • 2010. Journal of African History. “An Exploration of Nigeria’s Violent Colonial Past”. Review of Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria by Toyin Falola.
  • 2010. Bulletin of SOAS. Review of Yoruba Women, Work, and Social Change by Marjorie Keniston McIntosh.
  • 2010. H-Africa, H-Net Reviews. “No Innocent Detail: Exploring the Man-Leopard Murders of Southeast Nigeria”. Review of The Man-Leopard Murders: History and Society in Colonial Nigeria by David Pratten.  
  • 2010 Journal of Human Development and Capabilities. Review of Religion in Development by Severine Deneulin with Masooda Bano.
  • 2009. Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. Review of The King of Drinks. Schnapps Gin from Modernity to Tradition by Dmitri van den Bersselaar.
  • 2008. Social Anthropology/ Anthropologie Sociale. Review of A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria, by Dan J Smith.
  • 2008. Africa. Review of Yoruba Identity and Power Politics by Toyin Falola and Ann Genova (eds).
  • 2006, African Affairs. Review of The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the spectacle of culture in Nigeria, by Andrew Apter.
  • 2003, African Studies Quarterly. Review of Money Struggles and City Life: Devaluation in Ibadan and Other Urban Centers in Southern Nigeria, 1986-1996 by Jane Guyer, LaRay Denzer and Adigun Agbaje (eds).
  • 2002, Journal of Commonwealth History. Review of Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria by Rotimi T. Suberu


Nigerian history and politics, religion and corruption; Muslim-Christian relations; Yoruba history, historiography and ethno-national politics; Obafemi Awolowo

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office

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