Dr Insa Nolte

Dr Insa Nolte

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Reader in African Studies

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My research focuses on Nigeria and especially Yoruba history, culture and politics. I am currently the Principal Investigator (PI) of an ERC Grant with the title 'Knowing Each Other: everyday religious encounters, social identities and tolerance in southwest Nigeria,' based both at the University of Birmingham in the UK, and at Osun State University (UNIOSUN) in Nigeria. 

Feedback and office hours

I am available to students interested in Nigeria and on religious encounter on request.


  • 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 2015 I was promoted to Reader.

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 the graduate module ‘Research and Methods in African Studies’, which is coordinated by Dr Benedetta Rossi

Postgraduate supervision

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

  • John Ubani: Peer groups in the Nigerian military, 1970-date

Past PhD students include

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


My research emphasises the importance of everyday encounters and interpersonal relationships for wider social and political processes West African, Nigerian and especially Yoruba history, culture and politics. My recent book, entitled Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo: The local politics of a Nigerian Nationalist examines the intellectual, social and political history of a distinctive region of Southwest Nigeria, which produced Nigeria’s most important Yoruba politician. 

I am currently the Principal Investigator (PI) of an ERC Grant with the title 'Knowing Each Other: everyday religious encounters, social identities and tolerance in southwest Nigeria,' based both at the University of Birmingham in the UK, and at Osun State University (UNIOSUN) in Nigeria. This research explores the relationships between Yoruba Muslims, Christians and traditionalists The project centres on the everyday lives of Yoruba Muslims, Christians and traditionalists, and it explores the way in which religious differences and encounters inform social identities shaped by gender, generation, education etc. (for more information, see our project website and blog  and follow us on facebook  and on twitter (link: @KEONigeria,). 

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.

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 focusing on religion, governance and corruption in Nigeria.

Other activities

I am currently the Vice President (2014-16) of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK), which represents all Africanists in the UK and holds Writing Workshops for early careers Africanist researchers. I am also the Vice Chair (2013-16) of the United Kingdom Council for Area Studies Associations (UKCASA), where I represent African Studies. I also work as the Projects Officer (2012-14) of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK), where I represent African Studies.

In 2012 I became the Reviews Editor of Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute.



Articles in Scholarly Journals

  • 2016. Insa Nolte, Rebecca Jones, Khadijeh Taiyari and Giovanni Ochhiali. ‘Research Note. Exploring the survey data for historical and anthropological research: Muslim-Christian relations in south-west Nigeria.’, African Affairs, 115 (460), 2016:541-561. 
  • 2013a. “Colonial politics and precolonial history: Everyday knowledge, genre, and truth in a Yoruba town,” History in Africa 40(1), 1-40.
  • 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 2016. “Transformations of the customary: Christianity, Islam and traditional rulers in Yorubaland, Nigeria” in Comaroff, Jean and Comaroff, John (eds), Chiefship and the Customary in Contemporary Africa, Indiana University Press, pages t.b.c..
  • Forthcoming 2015. “Spirit: Histories of Religion and the Word”, in Casely-Hayford, Gus; Janet Topp Fargion and Marion Wallace (eds), West Africa: Cultures of the Word, London: British Library, pages t.b.c.
  • 2013b (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.
  • 2013c “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

  • 2012. “Re-examining the Yoruba Nation”. Review of A History of the Yoruba People by Steven Adebanji Akintoye in The Journal of African History, Vol. 52 (1), 419-421.
  • 2011. Review of A History of Nigeria by Toyin Falola and Matthew Heaton in Africa, Vol. 81 (4), 666-668.2010. 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

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