Abstract

This essay analyzes automobility in three postcolonial urban Nigerian novels: the fantasy of self-propulsion that subtends a colonial modernity materialized through the erection of urban infrastructure. Tracing the disjuncture between automobility and infrastructure—the “problem of locomotion” (Achebe)—reveals the inextricability of mobility, modernity, urbanism, and colonial violence even into Nigeria’s formally postcolonial period. By exploring how characters both invest in and move beyond inherited colonial narratives, these novels challenge top-down images of Lagos, instead depicting it as a city “otherwise fashioned” (Abani) from their characters’ perspectives on what it feels like to dwell and sell on the streets.

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