This article uses M. G. Vassanji's first novel, The Gunny Sack, to consider the compatibility of postcolonial theory and academic treatments of globalization. The first section of the essay suggests that recent accounts of globalization do not employ a sufficiently complex historical narrative of international exchange, especially with respect to East Africa and nineteenth-century Indian Ocean trade. As a reading of The Gunny Sack reveals, European imperialism and North Atlantic capitalism were not the only, not even the primary, means of facilitating a transcontinental cultural milieu in East Africa. Postcolonial theory's attention to historical nuance and narrative ambivalence may offer tangible benefits to accounts of globalization. The second part of the essay turns the tables, arguing that globalization theory may help postcolonial literary studies better understand its position as an academic enterprise with transnational affiliations. In particular, postcolonial theorists need a greater awareness of how we produce and circulate knowledge in a global academic context. The Gunny Sack's clear marking as a text about a marginal community speaks to some of the contradictions embedded in the field of postcolonial studies, conditions that are directly related to the emergence of a global publishing industry.
I examine the relationships between language and time from the standpoint of postcolonial experience. While focusing materially on language, I explore, on one hand, the concept of time from the point of view of experiences usually characterized as postcolonial. On the other hand, I think through what the expression "postcolonial" could mean from the perspective of a general concept of time. These approaches lead one to understand in what ways we could reasonably argue that, more that in any other modes of consciousness in any disciplines, both the times and the experiences of postcolonialism in continental Africa can be most insightfully traced in the histories of what has been called the African experience in literature.
Although most critics chart Senegalese literary history from the 1930s and the rise of Negritude, there also exist a small number of texts from the 1850s-1020s that are usually classified as a sort of proto-Senegalese literature. This article focuses on Abbé David Boilat's Esquisses sénégalaises (1853) and Bakary Diallo's Force-bonté (1926), both of which occupy a deeply ambiguous position within the national literary canon because of their open support for French colonialism. The article contends that the status of these texts as key works in the Senegalese national canon rests on a specific vision of their Franco-African "hybridity." By questioning the value and the limitations of the notion of "hybridity" in relation to colonialism and nationalism in Senegal, the article aims to discover whether these texts by Boilat and Diallo might be deemed to signal the birth of a nation or the birth of a colony.
The totalitarian ideology of apartheid proposed an absolute binarism in terms primarily of race, but also in terms of ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. However, novels such as Mark Behr's The Smell of Apples reveal the taboo, interstitial ground which belies the absolute divides of binarism. Examples of the interstitial in the text include representations of adolescence, bisexuality, and "colored" (mixed-race) identity. The bisexual character embodies deep-rooted cultural anxieties. I employ the notion of the double agent, and explore the implications of techniques used by Behr to expose from within the horrors of the interlinked systems of racial oppression, gender oppression, sexual violence, family violence, fascism, and religious bigotry. These systems are shown to dehumanize both victims and perpetrators. I argue that Behr's representation of the bisexual Afrikaner patriarch reveals the fissures within apartheid's "Eden," the inevitability of its demise, and more hopeful means of reading the future of South Africa, through the lenses of hybridity, the feminine, and the resilience of the natural world.
Recent articles have called for postcolonial and ecology-minded criticism to engage with each other, suggesting, too, some of the points of difficulty they might encounter when they do. One point of difficulty lies in how these two forms of criticism develop differing evaluations of discourse and its relation to what counts as real. This essay proposes resolving this difficulty with a materialist apprehension of discourse and suggests that a postcolonial ecocriticism enacted this way might have value generally for African studies. The essay then examines J. M. Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K, a novel that has been explored as exemplar of postcolonial ecological thinking, and argues that while Michael K may indeed be shaped by attitudes typical of postcolonial thinking at its inception, it is not a novel with much interest in ecology. The issue for an African ecocriticism, then, is how to grasp the novel's writing of nature. I argue that its historical juncture provides an interpretive context for how the novel subordinates its writing of nature to its postcolonial suspicion of the modern nation state.
This essay explores the implosion of racial and religious harmony in the postapartheid fiction of South African Indian writer Ahmed Essop, who problematizes the accommodation of the Indo-Islamic community within the contours of a secular nation in The King of Hearts (1997) and The Third Prophecy (2004). The minority disaffection described in these texts raises important questions about citizenship in the "new" South Africa. Indian-Muslim alienation from the national norm casts doubts on democratic South Africa's success in the projects of community building, inter-cultural reconciliation, and racial healing thus compelling us to question its very legitimacy as a truly postcolonial nation.
This essay explores the South African author P. J. Philander's epic Zimbabwe (1968), an Afrikaans poem of 307 alternate quatrains largely based on the disproved notion that the Phoenicians built the ancient complex of Great Zimbabwe and established a religion of phallic or fertility worship. The essay initially traces the longstanding debate on the "mystery" of Great Zimbabwe and arrives at the conclusion that the poet made a deliberate choice for the Semitic or Phoenician thesis. In the second phase of the discussion, Zimbabwe is read with Frantz Fanon's classic text Les damnés de la terre, especially with regard to the complex but key binary relationship between settlers and aboriginals. In conclusion, the essay discusses the author's political ambivalence and his attempts at making the rise and decline of Great Zimbabwe applicable to apartheid South Africa.
This article examines the relationship between race, memory and apartheid constructions in Achmat Dangor's novels Kafka's Curse (1997) and Bitter Fruit (2001). Questions of history, identity, sexual transgression, and transformation emerge in both texts' treatment of ambiguity. Kafka's Curse, dealing with the inconsistencies of identity during South Africa's transition to a democracy, highlights the janus-faced nature of race where representation, physicality, and history form a tenuous relationship. What occurs to this uncertainty in a postapartheid context is traced by Dangor in Bitter Fruit where history, memory, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are of central concern. Dangor narrates a complex alternative to a bifurcated logic where South Africa is characterized by black and white, good and bad, past and present. In highlighting the intermixture and ambiguity of cultural formations, he reveals a radical heterogeneity that apartheid failed to destroy. I argue that racial identities in South Africa are complex cultural sites that lie at the interstices between apartheid taxonomies, nonracialism, Black Consciousness, and on-going poverty that is racially marked; this exists alongside postapartheid freedoms within a larger context of global resurgences of ethnic identification and increasingly recognized transnational connectivity.
As a cultural system that still exists in three out of every four African communities, polygyny dehumanizes women in numerous ways. Polygyny, as represented in Chinua Achebe's historical novels and as it exists in the world, is, however, a multidimensional custom. How, then, can Western feminists respond to Achebe's portrayals of polygyny without projecting a "West is best" ideology onto our discourse and without further objectifying and silencing the real women involved in polygynous relationships? Drawing on the theoretical frameworks of bell hooks and others, I contend that Western feminists can, and should, think and speak about polygyny. The Western feminist agenda must recognize that despite its benefits, polygyny is intrinsically destructive to women's autonomy. One way that we can move toward this goal is by drawing attention to literary representations of polygyny, like Achebe's, that obscure the immediate problems and cultural legacies that result from this system of marriage.
Almost fifty years separate Camara Laye's L'enfant noir and Ahmadou Kourouma's Allah n'est pas obligé. The novels have in common the depiction of West African boys who negotiate the imposition of the French language on their native Malinké language and culture. Yet their formative experiences are strikingly different: Laye cautiously accepts a compromise by going to French schools while Kourouma's protagonist and narrator, Birahima, quickly becomes an orphaned child-soldier who abandons all formal schooling. Brief comparison of Laye and Birahima allows us to cast into sharp relief the latter's violent childhood. Specifically, this article explores Kourouma's deformation of the African bildungsroman in French in order to consider a genre of writing and its relationship to the place of francophonie in contemporary West Africa. It examines the roles of language(s) and education not only as central themes of an African tragedy but also as the dramatic rhetoric of Kourouma's novel.
This article examines Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) through an "African Postcolonial Gothic" lens. It begins by tracing the historiography and manifestations of Gothic attributes in precolonial and colonial Africa as exemplified in novels such as Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1959), Mongo Beti's Poor Christ of Bomba (1971), and Bessie Head's A Question of Power (1974). It then discusses Half of a Yellow Sun, which explores postindependence ethnic strife in Nigeria, particularly the Biafra War, and situates it as the historical precedent of the contemporary haunted setting in Purple Hibiscus. Adichie, I argue, participates in an ongoing reinvention and complication of Gothic topography in African literature. She teases out the peculiarities of the genre on the continent; dissects fraught African psyches; and engages in a Gothic-like reclamation of her Igbo heritage, including Igbo-Ukwu art, language, and religion.
Djibril Diop Mambety's film Hyenas (1992) has typically been read as an Africanized version of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's 1962 play, The Visit. Although the play is an important influence on Mambety's film, it is not the only one. The form and iconography of Hyenas seem to derive from the Hollywood western. Mambety engages the western in his film in order to critique materialism, American cultural hegemony, and Western economic imperialism. Moreover, Hyenas suggests that the western serves as a narrative that promotes and legitimizes all of these. Ultimately, Mambety presents globalization, and the narrative of the western to which it is linked, as a new form of colonization, one that Africans have willingly embraced.