Representations of History in African Diasporic Literatures and the Politics of Postmodernism

By Johanna Njemi, Minna | Journal of Pan African Studies, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Representations of History in African Diasporic Literatures and the Politics of Postmodernism


Johanna Njemi, Minna, Journal of Pan African Studies


"Representations of History in African Diasporic Literatures and the Politics of Postmodernism" examines four novels published by African American and African authors in late 1970s and early 1980s. Literary criticism set narrow terms for literary production during these politically urgent times on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and it remains my argument that all of these novelists, via the usage of postmodern narrative forms, criticize the particular literary and cultural establishments of their time as they broaden the ways in which contested pasts are represented in fiction. In addition, all of the novels examined in this study crucially link the examination of a violent past to their contemporary political, cultural and social situations, marked and haunted by the same past. I argue that, particularly by utilizing non-linear narrative forms, they are better equipped to illustrate the ways in which the present intersects with the past it often seeks to avoid.

The first part of the dissertation discusses how, in the context of African liberation movements in late 1970s and early 1980s, Somali author Nuruddin Farah and South-African author J. M. Coetzee examine the ways in which the history of colonialism keeps informing the present. Farah's Maps refuses to clearly distinguish between the earlier colonial destruction and the contemporary Somali nationalist will for territorial expansion. Instead the novel--in its fragmented, postmodern narrative form-clearly illustrates how a disruptive colonial history haunts present-day society via the territorial wars, including the Ogaden war, it depicts. Coetzee's essays, as well as his novel Waiting for the Barbarians, are examined in the context of Theodor Adorno's reading of the notion of autonomous art vs. …

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