In his 2004 novel GraceLand, Chris Abani unsettles notions of youth "empowerment," or "resistance," creating a restless oscillation between cynicism and idealism. On the one hand, pervasive violence and restricting norms seem to debilitate the novel's characters, leaving little room to negotiate the constraints of their bleak lives in the slums of Lagos. On the other, there is a certain euphoric optimism that pervades the novel—particularly among youth—which is undergirded primarily by idealized non-African spaces. The persistent fluctuation between suffocating violence and utopian thoughts of the "outside" renders the politics of GraceLand fundamentally ambiguous. In lieu of a rigidly determinate portrayal, Abani deploys ambivalence as a discursive vehicle with which to expand the contours of how we come to think and imagine African youth resistance—pressing us to consider the inherent contradictions, complicities and contingencies that perhaps accompany any ascription of agency.


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pp. 84-96
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