Power in University Archives: Imperialism and Disparities in Nigeria and the United States


  • Robert Cermak University of Louisville




archives, general studies, imperialism, Nigeria, power


This article examines the structural disparities between the archives at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and Michigan State University (MSU). While Nigerian archivists work to preserve their institutions’ local content, they must contend with cultural and infrastructural constraints foreign to their American counterparts. To elucidate these differences, this analysis builds upon Stoler’s ‘archival turn’ framework which shifts the gaze on archives to consider them as subjects of inquiry rather than mere sources of data. Reflecting on my own experience working with physical archives at UNN and MSU, along with digital artifacts from these institutions’ websites, I analyze the contents and accessibility of hardcopy and digital collections at both universities. In conclusion, I argue that the ongoing and uneven footprint of imperialism, both socio-cultural and infrastructural, results in an unequal distribution of Trouillot's ‘archival power’ amongst global institutions like UNN and MSU. Additionally, I highlight means by which some Nigerian scholars have contested imperialism to reclaim ownership over their own archival contents and narratives.


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How to Cite

Cermak, R. (2023). Power in University Archives: Imperialism and Disparities in Nigeria and the United States. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 15(4), 47–56. https://doi.org/10.32674/jcihe.v15i4.5126



Empirical Article