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Reviewed by:
  • Africa and Europe: En/Countering Myths
  • Karen Haire Hoenig
Africa and Europe: En/Countering Myths Ed. Carlotta von MaltzanLiterary and Cultural Theory 15. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2003. ISBN 3-631-51216-3 paper. 288 pp.

In her introduction, Carlotta von Maltzan provides a summary sentence or two for each contribution to this anthology, which comprises four short creative pieces and twenty-one critical pieces. This review represents one European reader's en/counter with/to the anthology. While the critical papers in this collection represent high standards of scholarship and academic research, this reader finds, in much of the criticism of European texts what amounts to a partial denial of the wrongs of colonialism, masked as a tendency to focus on European ambivalence in the textual detail. In other words, this anthology appears to bear out Mawuena Logan's critique regarding the continued mis-measurement of Africa by Europe in that it subtly understates or overlooks the local and global structures of inequality the encounter introduced and sadly, perpetuates.

For the most part, African critics and African texts considered in the anthology attest to an identity crisis, induced by the Africa/Europe encounter historically and up to the present—see Violet B. Lunga's sound theoretical explanation of postcolonialism, identity construction and uneven north-south global flows. Kennedy C. Chinyowa, on the double-consciousness of writers of Shona language literature, torn between the desire to return to their African roots and the desire to be Westernized, Lunga, on contemporary advertisements for hair products in Zimbabwe, ambivalently reflecting aspirations towards globalization alongside pride in a distinctly African cultural identity, as well as Raylene Ramsay, on Bâ's views about Muslim women and polygamy in Senegal, and Karen Bouwer's article on Liking all take up, in one way or another, the effects of European/Western cultural imperialism and the constant struggle of Africans to renegotiate cultural identity in the present.

Only one article, on the play Moor Harlequin (Alida Poeti), deals with the Africa/Europe encounter in the metropole, and the survival culture of the Third World migrant in Europe. If, as Homi Bhabha (1994) maintains, culture is being redefined [End Page 161] at the margins, and if the plight of the African in the European city has been recorded at least since the time of the Negritudist writers in the 1930s, and if, as immigrant populations attest, Europe has been transformed by the colonial encounter, then this anthology might be well served by including such stories.

Creative pieces aside, the "balance of stories" (Achebe 79) weighs more heavily on the side of European critics and texts. The number of articles which analyze texts dealing with European appropriation of the African natural environment in the past is considerable: settlers and travelers alike visit their fantasies, their ennui, their malaise, their indifference, their violent and self-destructive impulses (authors and their fictional characters) on the African lansdscape (Gunther Pakendorf, Catherine du Toit, Lynda Morgan, Pamela S. Saur, Joachim Garbe, Nadja D. Krämer, Ingrid Laurien).

Women are well represented in the anthology, both in terms of texts and critics—in fact, women's critical voices overwhelmingly dominate. Ingrid Laurien's article makes the insightful observation that female liberation being human liberation, it was not possible for women to free themselves from patriarchal structures in the colonial setting without simultaneously challenging imperialist structures. In like manner, we have a long way to go in upturning the structures that might further contribute to decolonizing the academic mind and the literary imagination.

Karen Haire Hoenig
North-West University,South Africa

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Home and Exile. New York: Anchor, 2001.
Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.


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pp. 161-162
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