Ethnicity in post-2000 African writing

Authored by: Aghogho Akpome

Routledge Handbook of African Literature

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN:
eBook ISBN: 9781315229546
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines the use of ethnicity in the exploration of social subjectivities in selected African novels and memoirs published since the turn of the twenty-first century. In the opening part of the chapter, I argue that, in general, ethnicity is used in recent African writing in ways that are significantly different from many earlier texts, especially those that belong to the so-called first generation. In contrast to the largely cultural nationalist orientation of seminal African texts such as Chinua Achebe’s trilogy, ethnicity is deployed in recent writing in ways that are much more fluid and ambivalent. In this regard, I argue that referents of ethnicity and indigenous African cultures can be understood in recent writing in different ways. They may operate as metonym and/or metaphor for other categories of identification and may sometimes conflate and contest the complex forms of social consciousness that characterize the postcolonial and postmodern contexts of identity (re)construction among African narrative subjects. I therefore approach references to the ‘ethnic’ in terms of narrative strategies that complicate a range of contemporary subjectivities including region, race, class, nation, gender and autochthony.

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