African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa

By Cheryl B. Mwaria; Silvia Federici et al. | Go to book overview
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11
Hybridity, Neouniversalist Cultural Theory, and the Comparative Study of Black Literatures

F. Odun Balogun

We are living in a momentous, if transistory, period as far as the study of world cultures is concerned. The written literatures by peoples of African descent have matured and gained international reputation with their writers in the last decade predominating in the list of the recipients of the most prestigious award in literature--the Nobel Prize. Eurocentricity is at last on the run and has recently been dealt a significant blow by the Charles Bernheimer Committee of the prestigious and standard-setting American Comparative Literature Association when the latter signaled its intention to make comparative literature truly universal in scope as well as in theoretical and critical practice. We are only too familiar with the notorious subversion of the true meaning of the word universal in Eurocentric discourse which had provoked the wrath of black scholars and writers in a spate of counterdiscourse publications nearly three decades ago. Wole Soyinka in Myth, Literature and the African World ( 1976) had among many of the book's wide-ranging project of redemptive poetics of culture, expressed dismay at the exclusion of non-European writing in the literary curricula of British universities. Houston Baker in Blues, Ideology and Afro- American Literature ( 1984) chastised the even more amazing omission of African American writing in official American literary scholarship. Achebe was so outraged that he recommended in the essay on colonialist criticism included in his Morning, Yet on Creation Day ( 1975) a temporary ban on the use of the word universal in the discussion of African literature until it was restored fully to its authentic meaning. The collective of black scholars who contributed to Addison Gayle Jr.'s The Black Aesthetic ( 1971) even went so far as to construct a black aesthetic theory to counter the prevailing Eurocentric aesthetic practice. In recent times, to promote multiculturalism and discredit resurgent white conservatism and racism that threaten its gains, black scholars have produced a new wave of publications, informed by modern discoveries in science, genetic

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