Challenging Hierarchies: Issues and Themes in Colonial and Postcolonial African Literature

Challenging Hierarchies: Issues and Themes in Colonial and Postcolonial African Literature

Challenging Hierarchies: Issues and Themes in Colonial and Postcolonial African Literature

Challenging Hierarchies: Issues and Themes in Colonial and Postcolonial African Literature

Synopsis

"Challenging Hierarchies explores the provocative and compelling work of African authors, from the writing of eighteenth-century social critic Ottobah Cugoano to that of contemporary novelists Chinua Achebe, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Ben Okri. The book focuses on challenges to colonial and neo-colonial oppression, with a special emphasis on African feminism and the work of women writers. Combining criticism, fiction, and creative autobiography, Challenging Hierarchies reflects the vital spirit of African literature and literary studies today." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Looking over the titles of the selections in this anthology, we are reassured that the title we have chosen for the book, Challenging Hierarchies, remains an apt one. For example, the title of Micere Mugo's second selection, "The South End of a North- South Writers' Dialogue," speaks eloquently to the notion of hierarchies and the attempts of African writers to call them into question. Not only does much contemporary African literature offer resistance to the hierarchical relationship usually evoked by the "North-South" pairing, it also raises similar doubts about typical understandings of "Western vs. Third- World," and "colonizer vs. colonized," among others. A special focus of this collection is the challenging of hierarchies that have relegated African women and African women writers to a subordinate position.

When we were preparing to co-teach our first course in African literature it decade ago, we knew that we wanted to include a number of works by women, and we were pleased to find that there existed a wider range of high quality material than even we suspected: works not only by Aidoo, Emecheta, and Nwapa, but also Bâ, Dangarembga, Mugo, and others. At the same time, we were chagrined to learn that there was relatively little critical commentary to be found on African women writers. Indeed, at the time, there were no book-length critical studies devoted to any of the women writers as there were to the works of Achebe, Ngugi, or Soyinka. (Even as of this writing, a decade later, Odamtten's recent study of Aidoo is the only such study extant.) Aside from the anthology, Ngambika, and one or two other survey works, there was nothing to be found. Even chapters within scholarly books on Afri-

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