Beyond Postcolonialism: The Urban and Social Realist Turn in Indian and Nigerian Literatures

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Eskicioglu, Lale




Twenty-first century literatures of megacities like Mumbai and Lagos are moving away from the postcolonial condition ascribed to them. Since writing back to the Empire is no longer commensurate with the more accurate representation of their cities, contemporary literatures of Mumbai and Lagos are shifting towards fresh engagements with the extant issues of the present time. Literary trends in India and Nigeria demonstrate an urban turn and a social realist focus on the socio-political landscape of our times that include corruption, inequality and exclusion, unemployment, informal settlements, sanitation, infrastructure, and dysfunctional institutions. While the causes of many of these plights are rooted in colonial practices, their ongoing surge and impact remain debilitating. Contemporary authors continue to acknowledge the colonial histories of the cities they narrate; however, they are now bringing awareness to the present-day problems instead of dwelling on past injustices. These recent narratives, in a genre Ulka Anjaria terms 'the new social realism,' disrupt the comfort zones of middle-classes and aim to stir this group and others into reevaluating their personal and societal actions. I argue that the twenty-first century literary narratives of Mumbai and Lagos, employing diverse and innovative styles, implicate their audience in the perpetuation of prevalent urban problems. Through creative styles and unsettling aesthetics, contemporary city literatures reveal a new social consciousness of the immediate reality. The main corpus examined in this dissertation consists of urban novels and short stories published in the twenty-first century while also drawing from well-established Indian and Nigerian authors' earlier works. I examine the narratives of corruption, formal and informal neighbourhoods, and infrastructure and traffic in Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry, Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo, Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga, Graceland by Chris Abani, Breathless in Bombay by Murzban F. Shroff, No God in Sight by Altaf Tyrewala, Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, and "Birdsong" and Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie. With an emphasis on the present-day, these contemporary urban narratives of Mumbai and Lagos offer social commentary and disrupt what has become habitual, familiar, and unseen.


Literature - Comparative




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Cultural Mediations

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Theses and Dissertations

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