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About the project

Liz Bird and Fraser Ottanelli attending the
October 7th, 2011 commemoration in Asaba

The Asaba Memorial Project is a collaboration between USF researchers in Anthropology and History, together with the people of Asaba, to document and memorialize a mass killing of civilians that took place in 1967, during the Nigerian Civil War. The goal of this initiative is to “reclaim” the history of the event, in a spirit of reconciliation, allowing previously-unheard stories to be told and valued.

The project directors are Dr. Elizabeth Bird (Anthropology) and Dr. Fraser Ottanelli (History); their goal is to reconstruct the history of the event, primarily from witness accounts. They have visited Nigeria three times since 2009, and have conducted over 50 videotaped interviews. An article drawn from their research is forthcoming in African Studies Review.

Research shows that communities in which there is formal commemoration of atrocities appear more resilient than those in which silence prevails. The Asaba Memorial Project seeks to provide a scholarly assessment of this historical event, to break the silence, and acknowledge and honor the dead and their descendents.

The project began following a visit to Asaba by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology, in connection with a forensic training project being carried out with colleagues in the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), under the direction of Dr. John Obafunwa. For more details of Dr. Kimmerle’s work, please see At this point, no forensic exhumation is planned in Asaba.

An article drawn from their research is published in African Studies Review; to read the article, click here.