115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Towards a Minority Literature in the African Novel

David N. Odhiambo, University of Hawai'i, West O'ahu

My paper offers an alternative to Ngugi wa Thiong'o's vision of an indigenous African novel and argues that minor literature, a deterritorializing text, is a legitimate site for subversive work written in European languages by postcolonial African writers.

Proposal: 

In his essay "The African Character," G.W.F Hegel claims that the African hasn't attained a consciousness of God, the Law, or the individual self. Consequently, this untamed being is "the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature"(212). This ontology is one that removes black people from the category of human being, and by default it highlights the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions at the expense of contributions to civilization from Egypt and Nubia after 4800 BC. This ontological bias is built into a major literary tradition that Ngugi wa Thiong'o argues undermines the Afro-European novel, a text written by African writers in the tongue of the colonizer. His solution to this problem is to call for an African novel written in indigenous languages. My paper contends that a line of flight, or escape, for the African writer can also be drawn from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari definition of a minor literature as a deterritorializing text, one that subverts conventional signifiers from the major literary tradition and renders "a world of pure intensities where all forms come undone" (Minor Literature 13). Thus, my paper looks at how Dambudzo Marchera's collection of short stories, House of Hunger, written in English, uses this interplay between pre-linguistic prehensions, non-signifying signs, affective intensities, and signifiers to effectively subvert the dominant paradigm. Marchera's story about township life in colonial Rhodesia during the nineteen seventies uses the distinction between narrating and focalizing to strip down the colonial subject or cogito, and it produces a destratified minor language that Réda Bensmaïa refers to as both "stealing" and "stealing away" from "nonsignifying ruptures" and heterogeneous signs (xvii). Therefore, my paper offers an alternative to Ngugi wa Thiong'o's vision of an indigenous African novel and argues that minor literature, a deterritorializing text, is a legitimate site for subversive work written in European languages by postcolonial African writers.