Landscape memories of land struggles in plateaus of two Nsukka villages in Nigeria
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Human Geography. 2022;15(2):176-189. doi:10.1177/19427786211039296
The memories of landscapes that people hold can stabilize histories and traditions in rural areas, are entwined with everyday lives and have several meanings. The paper explores the memories that people hold about plateaus in two adjoining villages (Alor-Uno and Edem-Ani) in the Nsukka area of Enugu State, Southeastern Nigeria. This area is an exciting and essential area of the world, distinctly underrepresented in landscape memory scholarship. The paper shows that the plateaus separating Alor-Uno and Edem-Ani are landscapes of political memory of the ancient wars between the two communities and more contemporary disputes regarding territorial extent of the communities and use of the land behind the plateaus if you are in Alor-Uno. Alor-Uno claims that wars waged against it by several kingdoms displaced the community, permitting occupation of parts of the community’s land, and they seek to reclaim it from Edem-Ani. However, extant narratives often recognize the disputed area as part of Edem-Ani because of the use of the plateaus as a boundary by colonial administrators. The presence of the plateaus helps the people recollect these ancient wars’ memories, and they use it to seek legitimation of their claim over the land. The paper argues that the memory of past land use reinforces the legitimacy of current land tenure configurations and shapes sensitivity to territoriality leading to exclusion. This can sustain group identities across generations translating into a ground for future fighting. It calls for more attention to the non-human agency and in connection to landscapes’ political memory, which speaks to the current post-human thinking in human geography. It suggests that resource conflicts analysis should take social meanings, memories and identities connected to the physical landscape seriously, as they contain ideological and symbolic elements foregrounding conflict environments.