Dr Rebecca Jones

Dr Rebecca Jones

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Lecturer in African Studies

Contact details

I am a scholar of Nigerian print, literary and popular cultures in the Yoruba and English languages, with an emphasis on archival research and on literary and popular texts that are published and circulating mainly within Nigeria. My research sits on the intersection between literary studies and cultural anthropology; I am interested in how literary print cultures, genres, readers and writers emerge and develop, while also keeping what texts themselves say at the heart of my research.

A central part of my research is concerned with Nigerian travel writing in Yoruba and English. I am fascinated by the way that Nigerians have represented their encounters with difference within Nigeria, through travel writing. As African travel writers are becoming increasingly visible and are seeking to represent the continent through their own voices, my research documents the rise of the travel writing genre in Nigeria. But my research – the first study of the history of Nigerian travel writing – shows how Nigerian writers have in fact been publishing travel writing for over a century, in both Yoruba and English. Through reading their travel writing we gain an important insight into how Nigerians have represented Nigeria to itself and to the world, and also into how literary and print genres emerge and develop. My research also revises the well-worn narrative that travel writing is necessarily always the West representing the rest of the world to itself. 

Qualifications

  • BA Hons English, University of Cambridge
  • MA African Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • PhD African Studies, University of Birmingham

Biography

After a first degree in English at New Hall (now Murray Edwards College), University of Cambridge, I studied for an MA in African Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where I first learnt Yoruba.

I began my PhD at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology in 2009. During the course of my PhD I spent several months in Nigeria, principally at Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Ibadan, where I undertook archival research and interviewed writers, as well as further improving my Yoruba. I was awarded my PhD in 2014. 

In 2012, I joined the 'Knowing Each Other' team as a Research Fellow, a position that allowed me to build on my knowledge of Yoruba-speaking Nigeria and the ways Nigerians understand Nigeria’s internal diversity.  

In January 2017, I joined the Department of African Studies and Anthropology as a Lecturer. 

Teaching

  • Introduction to African Culture
  • Cultures of Contemporary Africa
  • New African Writing
  • African Popular Culture
  • Perspectives on Africa
  • Research Skills and Methods in African Studies
  • African Fiction and its Critics

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise postgraduate students on aspects of African literature, popular culture and cultural anthropology, focusing particularly on Yoruba, Nigeria and West Africa, and on textual forms in the broadest sense.

I currently supervise the following PhD students:

  • Pernille Nailor, 'Narratives of Belonging in the Textual Space of Afropolitanism: Nigeria, Ghana and their UK/US diasporas'
  • Kiranpreet Kaur, 'Construction of African Identity: Politics of Memory and Cruelty in British and African Travel Narratives about Central Africa (1800-2015)'
  • Edorodion Osa, 'Pentecostalism in Nigeria in the Age of Nollywood: The Case of the Edo Language Video Films'

Research

I am presently writing a monograph on the history of Nigerian travel writing, in Yoruba and English. This book, based on my doctoral research, is the first history of Nigerian-authored travel writing. It explores the ways that Nigerians have represented Nigeria to themselves and others, from 1914-2014, and it approaches ‘travel writing’ across genres, from newspaper serials to blogs, novels to historical writing. This book will be published by James Currey.   Along with Dr Insa Nolte and Prof Olukoya Ogen, I co-edited a book called Beyond Religious Tolerance which examines the people of the town of Ede, in southwestern Nigeria, negotiate religious difference in their everyday lives. 

I am also interested in African-authored travel writing more broadly, and in 2016 I organised the ‘African Travel Writing Encounters’ conference here in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology. This conference brought together scholars from Africa and Europe, along with travel writers from Nigeria, Zambia and Sweden, to discuss the past, present and futures of African-authored travel writing.

My other research interests include print culture, Yoruba language, the anthropology of texts, cosmopolitanism, and the relationship between texts and knowledge. My publications explore the ways Nigerians have represented the heterogeneity of Nigeria to themselves and to the world, and particularly discuss the relationship between travel and local cosmopolitanisms, narrative, knowledge, texts, genre, translation, migration and the growth of a local Yoruba-English print culture across the twentieth century.

Other activities

I am an Editor of Africa in Words, a blog that focuses on cultural production and Africa. The blog covers books, art, film, history, music, theatre, ideas and people and the ways they interact, through their publication and circulation, with societies, economies and space.

Some of the pieces I’ve published on Africa in Words include interviews with Nigeria’s most well-known travel writer Pẹlu Awofẹsọ, Caine Prize shortlisted author Pede Hollist, and emerging novelist Fred Soneka. I’ve also published pieces on new fields of research: African-authored travel writing, writing about Nigeria’s National Youth Service, the future of Yoruba oral performance, and Yoruba-language resources online

I am a member of the African Studies Association of the UK Council.

Publications

Edited volumes

The book will be published in Nigeria as:

  • 2017. ‘Ede is one Room’: Encounters between Muslims, Christians and Traditionalists in a Yoruba Town, Ondo: Adeyemi College Academic Publishers Ltd, 309 pp., ISBN 978-978-904-802-1.

Articles and chapters

  • Forthcoming 2018 (with Insa Nolte and Clyde Ancarno). “Using corpus methods to explore a survey on inter-religious relations in Yorubaland, southwestern Nigeria”, Corpora 13(1), pages tbc.
  • Forthcoming: 'African Travel Writing' in Tim Youngs and Nandini Das, (eds)The Cambridge History of Travel Writing, Cambridge UP.
  • Forthcoming: 'How to Be a Writer in Your 30s in Lagos: self-help literature and the creation of authority in Africa' in Moradewun Adejunmobi and Carli Coetzee (eds) Routledge Handbook of African Literature, Routledge. 
  • 2017 (with Insa Nolte). “Everyday Inter-Religious Encounters and Attitudes”, in Nolte, Ogen and Jones (eds), Beyond Religious Tolerance: Muslims, Christians and Traditionalists in an African Town, Rochester, NY: James Currey Publishers/ Boydell and Brewer, 227-256.
  • ‘The Sociability of Print: 1920s and 30s Lagos Newspaper Travel Writing’, African Print Cultures, ed. by Derek Peterson, Stephanie Newell and Emma Hunter, University of Michigan Press, 2016.
  • ‘Nigeria is my Playground: Pẹlu Awofẹsọ’s Nigerian Travel Writing’, African Research and Documentation, 125, 2015.
  • ‘Translation and transformation: travel and intra-national encounter in the Yoruba novel.’ Journal of African Cultural Studies, 27 (3), 2015: 98-113.
  • ‘Journeys to the Hinterland: Twentieth-Century Nigerian Travel Writing and Local Heterogeneity in Lagos and Beyond.’ Postcolonial Text, 9 (4), 2014.
  • 'The Benefits of Travel: Travel Writing in the Lagos Newspapers, 1912-1931', Journal of History and Cultures 2, 2013
  • ‘Lineages and Locations: Nigerian Third Generation Writers and the Idea of Home in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl and Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come’ African Renaissance, 8 (2), 2011.

Reviews

  • Stephanie Newell, The Power to Name. Africa, 85 (3), August 2015, 549-551. 
  • Akinwumi Iṣola, Efunsetan Aniwura, Iyalode Ibadan and Tinuubu, Iyalode Egba: Two Yoruba Historical Dramas translated by Pamela J. Olubunmi Smith’ African Theatre, June 2011.
  • Brenda Cooper, A New Generation of African WritersBulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, March 2010.