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Finding Fredrick O’Shea*

Feldman A. 2018. 'Re/Entangling Irish and Nigerian Diasporas: Colonial Amnesias, Decolonial Aesthetics

and Archive-Assemblage Praxis'. Cultural Dynamics

Vol 30(3) 173-198

Link to article

This project focuses on the ways social and political 'amnesias' obscure the connections between the histories of Anglo-European colonialism and the 'necropolitics' (or politics of death) that underpin the crisification of contemporary migrations. It is a project of re-membering longstanding, yet in Ireland, persistently 'un-known' histories of Irish diasporic encounters in/with Nigeria, and the Nigerian people currently living in Ireland. At the centre of this is a decolonial method of 'genealogical re/entanglement' developed to excavate the inheritances of these previous IrishNigerian diasporic encounters. 

This work arises in the ‘disobedient’ knowledges and aesthetics generated in recent work on the African diaspora, Black Europe and Black Studies [1], that challenges the dominant western accounts that erase such histories, thereby obscuring the legacies of colonialism that give rise to the question, 'why are you here?'. It also takes shape in the increasing confluences of the ‘social turn’ in art and the ‘arts turn’ in qualitative research [2]. Working through modes of archival and assemblage art practices, the method I developed for this work operates as a generative, affective and interventionist research practice of decolonial 'knowledge creation and mobilisation' [3]. At the time I was writing about the ways this form of 'method-il-logical inquiry' can disrupt and imagine beyond the western, colonial, Enlightenment frames and the 'methodological nationalisms' (meaning research that begins from the assumption that the nation-state is the natural and inevitable structure of human society - and, for example, as a result, constructs refugees - and even migration - as 'deviant', outside the 'norm').  In this way, it is possible to intervene in what Sabine Broeck refers to as the endless reproduction of the ‘repertoires of thinking Blackness in the white European mind’ and the structures of governmentality that and sustain ‘the humiliate-abililty, the enslave-ability, the rape-ability, the abuse-ability, and the ship-ability of Black people’ (2014: 109).

* The story of Frederick O'Shea that galvanised this project as told by Edwin Igbinosum during a heritage discussion session at the Dublin  Multicultural Resource Centre as part of the project, Placing Voices, Voicing Places:

When I came here I met a lot of people – and ... sometimes they ask you – ‘You are a black man and the Irish and the black man have no connections. I do tell them, yes, we’ve got some connections…We’ve all been colonized by the British empire... If you go back to Bini history, like the British massacre of the Binis in 1897, it was Frederick O’Shea who controlled the Bini king. We thought all these men were British, but at the end of the day, when I came to Ireland, I began to see O’Shea as an Irish name!


** This work draws from research funded by the Irish Research Council of Ireland, the Heritage Council of Ireland and the UCD Seed Funding Programme



[1] See for example, Broeck & Carsten (2014); Crichlow (2009); Grosfoguel (2011); Hine et. al., (2009); Lockward (2013); Mignolo (2011); Shilliam (2015); Walcott (2017).

[2] See Feldman (2015a), (2015b), (2015c); Feldman and McLoughlin (2015). 

[3] This is my revision of ‘the term, knowledge production’. Here I seek to transform the terms – languages and power structures – of Western/colonial knowledge regimes, to include not just people recognised as 'experts' or 'professionals' but the practices and sites of all  who engage in creative, radical praxes of thinking, being, doing ‘otherwise’ (Escobar 2007). It was inspired by Haiven’s (2013) work on social movements and the radical imagination while teaching my masters course Art, Knowledge and the Politics of Social Change, and draws on work relating to arts-based/informed qualitative research and to socially engaged arts practice, (see Knowles & Cole 2008;  Smith & Dean 2008), and to Springgay’s notion of ‘research-creation’ (Springgay & Rotas 2015).

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