Viral Messaging, Satire, and Spaces of Resistance in Nigeria

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Certain nation groups within Nigeria have a rich and long oral history, using satire to comment on or intervene in political discourse. Although these more “traditional” means of intervention appear to be waning, there has been a proliferation of satiric expression via electronic media. Acts of civil disobedience are captured by new digital technologies and then propelled through the worldwide web. The substance and intent of the original events are evaluated at a remove of space and time, where they can be reinterpreted as ironic. These images swing back into the national context loaded with new significations that can then attract renewed (positive or negative) attention. This chapter explores how and why this happens, with specific reference to the unique role of humor in Nigeria, the relationship between ridicule and the bureaucratic absurd, and the greater agency offered by decentralized technology networks such as mobile telephony. Finally, I examine the degree to which satire can be considered to be agentic, through a focus on exchanges that impact urban spaces using information and communication technologies (ICT). I argue that humor, which frequently offers viral momentum to such interactions, is loaded with the energy to facilitate change since it is embedded within nodal networks of information and therefore cannot be studied in separation from such enmeshment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Civil Society in Africa
EditorsEbenezer Obadare
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4614-8262-8
ISBN (Print)978-1461482611
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Sept 2013


  • Satire
  • Nigeria
  • Bureaucracy

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