Academic journal article Hemispheres

The Afropolitanism and Portrayal of Nigerian Women in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Short Story Collection the Thing around Your Neck

Academic journal article Hemispheres

The Afropolitanism and Portrayal of Nigerian Women in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Short Story Collection the Thing around Your Neck

Article excerpt

Introduction

The general insights into a variety of female characters in all the works of the contemporary writer of Nigerian origin, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie1, from her debut novel about a patriarchal Igbo family Purple Hibiscus (2003),2 For Love of Biajra (1998),3 Half of a Yellow Sun (2006),4 The Thing Around Your Neck (2009),5 through Americanah (2013)6 and We Should All Be Feminists (2014)7 gives the impression of a constant redefinition of social and cultural phenomena as well as the author's feminist approach. As one sees in her works, the leading themes are as follows: traditional female social and gender roles, motherhood, family, children's upbringing, patriarchal practices and their tolls on daily relationships.8

Likewise, the collection The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), that consists of twelve stories published earlier in magazines and journals, depicts the recent life of Nigerian women in Nigeria and the United States of America, exploring the recurrent themes of family relations, gender issues, history, diasporic identity, migration, inheritance laws, racism, love, culture conflicts, youthful exuberance, religion, corruption, the Nigerian Civil war and experiences of corporate prostitution.9 The collections includes: Cell One, Imitation, A Private Experience, Ghosts, On Monday of Last Week, Jumping Monkey Hill, The Thing Around Your Neck, The American Embassy, The Shivering, The Arrangers of Marriage, Tomorrow is Too Far and The Headstrong Historian. The stories, which are set in Nigeria, for instance in Nsukka, a university town in the south of the country, reveal the narratives of women, who often find themselves at ambiguous and complicated moments of crisis, revealing their exploited and neglected status. As we read in A Private Experience, an Igbo Christian student is obligated to find shelter with an older Hausa Muslim woman in an abandoned store, while machete-wielding attackers kill people in the streets during ethnic riots. In The American Embassy a woman waits in a queue at the American Embassy to apply for political asylum in the US to follow her husband, an activist and journalist, after the murder of her four-year- old son by government forces in Umunnachi.

The range of concerns interwoven into the stories is wide, as it is also in those set in the United States. Female characters struggle to reconstruct their identities in a new cultural and political setting, as with the young girl from The Arrangers of Marriage who has just entered into an arranged marriage with a Nigerian doctor based in New York. Firstly, several of her stories uncover the cultural, social and racial variety and hybridity by which diasporic women are actively marked. Secondly, they highlight peculiarities of African communities living in the United States and portray the problems faced by first-generation Nigerian migrants, who soon come to be called Afropolitans, as represented in the stories Imitation and The I hing A round your Neck.10

All of the stories have a female narrator or protagonist, focusing on specific diasporic experience with relevance to contemporary gender issues. They are made up of a multiplicity of social forms in Nigerian (Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba) and American cultures and interlaced boundaries that are entangled in myriad ways in public discourse. Adichie, in an interview with Belinda Otas, explains in the issue: "the problem of gender is that it prescribes who we should be instead of recognising who we are. Imagine how much freer we would be if we did not have to live under the weight of gender expectations. Culture does not make people; people make culture. A feminist is a man or a woman who says there's a problem with gender and we must fix it".11 As a result, in her narration she puts forward the model of femininity derived from Igbo culture, with respective portraits of wives and paternal figures, which suggests the writer's concern with issues of gender and the ongoing process of cultural practices on individual woman and her family also living abroad. …

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