n African Renaissance - Nigerian Igbos in Switzerland : the new 'old' Jews

Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


In this paper I will focus on the migration of some thousands of Igbos from Southeaster Nigeria into Switzerland over the last two decades and on questions concerning their Jewish identity.

The image of 'the Jew' has for more than a millennium figured prominently in European discourses of 'otherness.' The Jews' confinement to certain occupations during the Middle Ages - like money lending - inspired William Shakespeare to write his play where Shylock the Jewish moneylender took centre stage.
While Jews became considered as a 'swarthy race' during the 19th and first half of the 20th century, many groups in colonial Africa were portrayed as of Jewish, Israelite or Hebrew origin. The comparison of the customs of the Igbos to Old-Testament rituals first occurred in written sources in the 18th century and found its continuation in the 19th and 20th century. With the British colonisation of Nigeria, Igbos became increasingly confronted with imported anti-Semitic imaginary. During the mid-20th century these discourses about Igbos started to spread to other West African societies. With the recent migration of West Africans to Europe - among whom the Igbos are a major group - it seems that Igbos are again confronted with a discourse about themselves that they may have thought to have left behind.

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