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Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa

Dominic Thomas

Publication Year: 2002

What characterizes the relationship between literature and the state? Should literature serve the needs of the state by constructing national consciousness, espousing state propaganda, and molding good citizens? Or should it be dedicated to a different kind of creative social endeavor? In this important book about literature and the politics of nation-building, Dominic Thomas assesses the contributions of Francophone African writers whose works have played a key role in the recent transition to democracy in the Congo. Exploring the works of Sony Labou Tansi, Henri Lopes, and Emmanuel Dongala, among others, Thomas highlights writers intimately involved with government and politics -- whether in support of the state's vision or with the intention of articulating a more open view of citizens and society. Focusing on themes such as collaboration, reconciliation, identity, history, and memory, Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa elaborates a broader understanding of the circumstances of African colonization, modern African nation-state formation, and the complex cultural dynamics at work in Africa since independence.

Published by: Indiana University Press

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xv

I was born in Berlin to a Welsh father and an English mother. My family moved to France when I was two years old and I was raised there until my teenage years when I was transplanted into a boarding school in England. I was eager to maintain a strong connection with France and to keep that component of my identity alive. It was thus with tremendous excitement...

Note on Translations

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pp. xvii

Abbreviations and Acronyms

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pp. xix

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1. Introduction: Engineering History and Engineering Literature

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pp. 1-17

State involvement in the production and dissemination of ideology has been investigated with specific reference to the ex-Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, China, and Latin America, but it has been ignored in the francophone sub-Saharan African context.

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2. Official Writers: The Engineers of the Congolese Soul

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pp. 18-51

The relationship between cultural practitioners and the authorities is determined by a multitude of complex phenomena, and governments have been willing to undertake extreme measures to silence resistant authors and other dissenting voices. The execution of the Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa on November 10, 1995, was a disquieting reminder...

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3. Sony Labou Tansi: Commitment, Oppositionality, and Resistance

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pp. 52-89

While Congolese authors are informed by similar sociological circumstances, they have nevertheless succeeded in developing radically different approaches to literature. Sony Labou Tansi’s attempts at dismantling traditional narrative linearity, his lexical and syntactical creativity, and his concern with the dissipated civil authority characteristic of disintegrating postcolonial states...

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4. Henri Lopes: Collaboration, Confession, and Testimony

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pp. 90-121

Henri Lopes’s position is especially intriguing and problematic because, while establishing himself as one of francophone sub-Saharan Africa’s most critically acclaimed authors, he has simultaneously occupied influential diplomatic and governmental positions as a representative of the Republic of the Congo. This presents somewhat of a contradiction, given the inevitable...

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5. Emmanuel Dongala: History, Memory, and Reconciliation

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pp. 122-159

Emmanuel Boundzéki Dongala’s work is concerned with establishing a narrative that challenges official history and questions the intolerance for multiple versions of history. Whether the focus is provided by a discussion of the relationship between Africa and France, Africa and the transplanted people in the Americas, or more recent concerns relating to the complicated...

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6. National Conferences and Media Decentralization in Francophone Africa

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pp. 160-191

Africa was not, of course, unaffected by the realignment of global powers that took place during the last decade or so of the twentieth century. Indeed, these events served to further underline the singularity of the francophone sub-Saharan African context as countries underwent remarkable cultural and political transitions. Although this concluding chapter does not offer an...


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pp. 193-227


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pp. 229-254


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pp. 255-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780253109545
E-ISBN-10: 025310954X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253341570

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 8 figures, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2002