Halimat Somotan is a social historian, researching how urban dwellers influenced the politics of decolonization and the transformation of municipal institutions in Nigeria. She is completed her doctoral degree in African History from Columbia University in 2020.
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 was made possible by the Princeton African Humanities Colloquium and the Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies.