This article connects the disparate references to India in Coetzee’s writings to his core debate on ethics. Coetzee’s novels are in dialogue with the Western philosophical and psychoanalytic tradition that privileges an intersubjective reality over the reality of the objective world. This tradition sees the common Indians, and the natives of colonies, indifferently poised at the threshold of humanity. Being barely human these indifferent multitudes are seen as dispensable objects devoid of ethical claims. Coetzee’s metafiction highlights the ways in which the intersubjective community uses language and signification to produce a closed consensual reality against the open truths of the objective world. Coetzee’s snippets from India interweave the reality of a world oblivious to Western sentience and cognition. His efforts at pulling the obscure into the divine light of the rational community becomes comparable to drawing the divine seed to fertilize an abandoned and banished version of the Eternal Feminine.
In this paper I attempt to tackle the issues of creolisation, magic, and mimesis, as well as colonialism. I will approach this last via the the first three. I begin by discussing two travel and ethnographic accounts, and then a piece by Diderot. I also discuss Taussig’s work. My overall argument, following closely on the heels of Diderot’s and Taussig’s work, but also somewhat expanding them, is that writing ethnography or any account of ‘others’ involves closely linked and complex processes of creolisation, mimesis, and magic. There is also, of course, a personal dimension to them. Such processes in fact affect not only ethnographic writing, but perhaps any writing. I also include myself in this narrative, albeit only marginally, as someone born and raised in Brazil, perhaps the most famous hub of creolisation ever, and who ventures not only across the South Atlantic, but eventually also into the Indo-Pacific world.
In this creative/critical paper, a recent migrant to the UK attempts to negotiate ideas of Africanness and Englishness through the rewriting of places linked by a statue in a small Northumberland village commemorating the death of a local officer killed in the ‘Anglo-Boer War.’ Drawing on two recent and influential theoretical developments, the ‘mobility turn’ within the social sciences and the ‘spectral turn’ in cultural criticism, this paper is a ficto-critical experiment in finding an appropriate creative form to test the generic implications of the major, and yet largely still unreflected, issue of migration and immigration/emigration in post-apartheid writing. It explores the unsettling ways in which places are not so much geographically fixed as implicated within complex circuits at once contingent and the product of material relations of power.
This article assesses representations of imprisonment without trial and inmates’ torture in three novels depicting severely repressive, murderous regimes—Malawi’s under Hastings Banda, Ethiopia’s under the Derg, and Kenya’s under colonial and successive post-colonial rulers. In The Detainee (Kayira 1974), the narrative of a naïve, apolitical villager’s unjust detention highlights unrestrained power abuse through minions and gradually uncovers atrocities. Under the Lion’s Gaze (Mengiste 2010) depicts several visceral, appalling scenes of torture as a technique of intimidation. Dust (Owuor 2014) has fewer, but harrowingly intense scenes of pain infliction on prisoners as a political tool to silence opposition. All three texts establish their importance as archival evaluations of under-reported regimes, African literary artworks, and morally responsible evocations of undeserved suffering, communicating effectively with both local and international readerships.
When the Nigeria-Biafra civil war ended in July 1970, the Commander in Chief of the Federal Army, General Yakubu Gowon, declared that there was “no victor no vanquished” and, consequently, drew an iron curtain on a painful historical moment. This closure foreclosed further engagements with the events of the war in a manner that imposed a “code of silence” on its historiography. However, in the face of this silence and the silencing of public remembrances, private remembrances have continued to bloom. And in recent times, these remembrance(s) have fertilized a virulent demand for secession. I argue that literary accounts of the conflict question its ‘closure’ through what I call ‘lack of return.’ Relying on Van der Merwe and Gobodo-Madikizela’s conception of narratives as spaces of healing, I engage in a close reading of one fictional account—Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy—and two memoirs—Achebe’s There Was a Country and Chukwurah’s The Last Train to Biafra—to examine how narratives of Biafra call attention to the persistent freshness of the wounds and trauma of the war by creating stories that lack denouement. I find that in these texts, the silencing of ordnance doesn’t herald a return home—whether spatially or mentally. Consequently, these stories could be read as palimpsests that reveal a need for spaces of narrative engagements, abreaction, and healing.
The essay enquires into what is accepted in academic and political circles as ‘post-colonial’ reality and questions some of the assumptions about its imagination, narratives, and edifices. It does this through the lens of moments taken from lived ‘post-coloniality’, mostly out of Kenya, which, like most ‘independent nations’ presumed a cut-off point between ‘colonial’ and its ‘post’ in the solemn ritual act of swapping flags one midnight. That the world, its presumptions and assumptions, certainly regarding civilizational apotheosis, is today in a state of befuddlement is no mystery. What is mysterious is the persistence of hollow ideas of the character of relationships among peoples, and the distribution of terminologies to refer to these—first world, third world, developed, undeveloped, colonial, post-colonial, neo-colonial, immigrant, expatriate—in a time when these neither make sense nor offer anything meaningful to the world. The essay finally retreats to the ‘autopsy table’ for inspiration: it imagines that the contradictions and confusions of the present era could also be read as an invitation to humanity to ‘look at itself again and really see’, and to, perhaps, this time, do so with that long-absent courage, truthfulness and humility that speak to human realities and allows for an examination of debris from unexplored past and present relationships that now disorder the human future.
Zakes Mda is not only one of South Africa’s most significant post-apartheid novelists, but has worked in diverse media such as theatre, film, opera, painting and music. His prolific creativity in forms other than the novel needs to be taken into account when evaluating his writings. This article proposes an intermedial analysis of Black Diamond (2009), a novel which has largely been given unfavourable critical attention, and suggests that it needs to be considered as a mixed medial text that is shaped by a cinematic mode of narration. The novel is also re-interpreted in the light of a postcolonially inflected “surface reading,” which makes the pervasive visuality of Mda’s prose visible. Finally, it is argued that texts such as Black Diamond raise questions about the interpretive methodologies and reading practices in English literary studies, pointing to future challenges and opportunities in the discipline.