Nigeria’s postcolonial nationality has been marked by disjunctions that continue to highlight its character, as a product of the colonial will, and of what Biodun Jeyifo has articulated as “arrested decolonization”—the basis of its problematic modernity. Nigeria is, in its current formation, a hybrid state; a nation of multiple nations coalescing to form the basis of nationness and national belonging. One of the fundamental sources of its evolution is to be found in its literature, particularly in poetry, that most nationalist of genres, but significantly also, in the form of the novel, which constitutes much of the narrative of nation. Modern Nigerian literature can now be categorized in three to four movements, or generations, starting with the Azikiwe/Osadebe generation of nationalist poets, to the late modernists Achebe, Okigbo, Soyinka, etc., to the current generation or category of writer whose writings encompass the new attitudes, desires, values, and anxieties of the postcolonial nation. In this paper, I specifically examine the intriguing presence or overwhelming prominence of Igbo novelists writing in the English language, whose works, I argue, are currently defining the canon of contemporary Nigerian national literature. I claim the implicit value of Igbo traveling identity in the formation of the modern state as providing the cultural and historical factors, stimulus or circumstances that animate this literature. The nature of the Igbo traveling identity—its cosmopolitanism, transborder claims, and new metropolitan tropes—permits us therefore to fully comprehend the nature of Nigeria’s contemporary cultural production as well as its implication or significance in shaping modern, postcolonial Nigerian identity and the direction of its narrative of the nation.


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