This week we meet Dr Michael Odijie, who is currently working on the EU-funded AFRAB project involving the study of African abolitionism. Here, he chats to us about his love of literature and shares his most recent read.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am a Research Fellow at the Department of History. The role involves working on a particular research project.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined UCL in October 2020. Before joining UCL, I was a Research Fellow at the Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
During my time at the University of Sheffield, I was extensively involved in activities relating to the promotion of Africa studies. For example, I collaborated with Gbenga Akinlolu Shadare to establish the university’s All-African Postgraduate Research Group (AAPoRG). The AAPoRG is a multidisciplinary postgraduate research network comprising all PhD students of African origin. The activities of the AAPoRG include networking, mentoring and supporting African postgraduate students. AAPoRG had its first conference on 22 June 2017 with the title ’Africa in the Era of Sustainable Development Goals’; the keynote speakers were Professor Graham Harrison and Dr Admos Chimhowu from the University of Manchester. Since then, AAPoRG has had yearly conferences and periodic seminars bringing together African students from other UK universities.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
I am currently part of the EU-funded AFRAB project headed by Benedetta Rossi. The project involves studying African abolitionism. The history of the abolition of domestic slavery in Africa is deeply Eurocentric. The AFRAB project is the first attempt to correct this by researching abolitionist ideas and anti-slavery movements that emanated from Africans. The project involves studying how Africans began to challenge the legitimacy of slavery mainly in their own societies but also as a practice.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
I use music every day. Fela Kuti is one of my favourite artists. His combination of highlife with jazz and chanted vocals is a thing of beauty. I also like Miles Davis, Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur.
My favourite movie is Goodfellas.
My favourite novel has to be The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
Christopher Hitchens tells the story of a governor of Texas (I think it was Miriam Ferguson), who, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas."
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Aminu Kano.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take it easy.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
That I am a lover of literature and the last novel I read was The Stranger by Albert Camus. I loved it.
What is your favourite place?
Anywhere I can be at peace with my thoughts.