Chapter 9 Blind Spots: Nationalism and the Photographic Gaze in Teju Cole’s Every Day Is for the Thief

In: Nationalism and the Postcolonial
Ralf Haekel
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In Teju Cole’s Every Day Is for the Thief, the protagonist visits the National Museum in his hometown Lagos after having lived in the USA for more than a decade. His high hopes, fuelled by the glorious image he had preserved in his memory since he was a child, however, are utterly disappointed by the exhibition. The protagonist’s negative reaction metonymically mirrors his disappointment in Nigeria as a whole. This chapter argues that the narrator has already taken on the point of view of Western colonizers, and that, at the same time, the novella undermines the position represented by the narrator. The chapter looks at two aspects in particular: the use of the genre of travel writing, and the use of photography as a medium that, by stressing mediation, hypermediacy, and blindness, runs counter to the Western gaze represented by the narrative of the protagonist.

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