Halimat Somotan

Halimat Somotan, Princeton Mellon / Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies Fellow  

Halimat Somotan is a social historian, researching how urban dwellers influenced the politics of decolonization and the transformation of municipal institutions in Nigeria. She recently completed her doctoral degree in African History from Columbia University. In the Spring semester, Halimat will teach "Making Home in African Cities: History of Housing,1800 to the Present," inviting students to explore the struggles for housing in African cities from the nineteenth century to the contemporary period. 

Her dissertation “In the Wider Interests of Nigeria: Lagos and the Making of Federal Nigeria, 1941-76” examines how landlords, tenants, and female traders’ organizations contested planning policies in Lagos during and after Nigeria’s transition from colonial to independent rule. Drawing from letters to newspaper editors, petitions, municipal and planners’ correspondences, novels, Yoruba songs, and oral interviews, “In the Wider Interests of Nigeria” excavates the intellectual perspectives and political campaigns mounted by ordinary Lagosians to alter the state’s rent control, ‘slum clearance’ and anti-street trading laws. It argues that Lagosians’ competing interests influenced their decisions to support, reject, and request the amendment of the town planners’ policies. Lagosians’ participation in the remodeling of the city challenged and entrenched the state’s interests at the same time.

Somotan’s work has been supported by the CLIR-Mellon Fellowships for Dissertation Research in Original Sources and the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson Institute for African and African-American Studies Predoctoral Fellowship, among others.

Halimat’s fellowship is made possible by the Princeton African Humanities Colloquium and the Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies.