Beyond Afropolitanism: Representations of African Identities in Select 21st Century African Novels

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Gourgem, Hicham




Abstract This dissertation explores the theoretical and ideological stakes in contemporary representations of African cultural identities through "Afropolitanism" and "Afropeanism." The two concepts informed by anglophone and francophone African experience respectively—"Afropolitan" and "Afropean"—construct cultural dialogue through an over-reliance on a dualized Western-African relation. The study presents a comparative analysis of francophone and anglophone novels written at the turn of the twenty-first century by Calixthe Beyala, Sami Tchak, Chris Abani, Teju Cole, NoViolet Bulawayo, and Taiye Selasi. I examine these literary works as instantiations of a paradigm of cultural dialogue that privileges Western culture in contemporary redefinitions of African identities. The study also underlines the efforts by "Afropolitan" and "Afropean" writers to depart from atavistic African self-representation of the 1950s and 1960s generation of African writers to challenge myths of national identity, universality of Western culture, and stereotyping and marginalizing Africans in Western societies. Put differently, this work aims to show how a select group of African writers deploy "Afropolitan" and "Afropean" literary texts to reimagine alternative African identities and ways of belonging that challenge monolithic Western discourse on national identity. Yet, it interrogates the writers' model of decolonizing African representations as one that perpetuates the notion of the West as the center. Theoretically, I build on Edouard Glissant's concept of Relation and Achille Mbembe's rendering of "Afropolitanism" as alternative accounts that diversify cultural dialogue(s) and complicate identities. The "Afropolitan" and "Afropean" texts studied here inadequately engage with the cultural histories of African people. Through a close reading of these literary texts, I delineate how the writers negotiate social identities and belonging of African subjects across race, gender, and social status, and particularly, how they attempt to resist imperial domination through hybridity.


Literature - Comparative
Literature - African
Literature - English




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

Thesis Degree Level: 


Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Cultural Mediations

Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

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