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China-Africa Relations, Political Conditions, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow.

Peter Leman


Standing, in effect, at the cusp of a global transition from a Western-dominated world to one witnessing the effects of the “economic renaissance of East Asia,” as Giovanni Arrighi has called it, Ngũgĩ’s wa Thiong’o’s 2006 novel Wizard of the Crow reiterates the author’s well-known critique of neocolonialism but, perhaps more importantly, it also registers the growing presence of Asia in Africa and offers a thought-provoking consideration of the meaning of that presence in an era of global capital. Though commonly identified as a “dictator novel,” Wizard of the Crow is only partly about “The Ruler” of the fictional African nation of Aburĩria. Through the titular character, Ngũgĩ also develops a narrative that explores the opportunities and dangers of embracing the paths of modernization marked out by the advancing economic powers of the East, especially China and India. This paper analyzes that narrative, focusing in particular on the thematic and formal elements that reflect and are relevant to China’s all-important ambitions in Africa and its core policy of offering aid “without political conditions.” These issues ultimately offer a unique way of bringing the novel to bear upon contemporary debates specific to the phenomenon of China-in-Africa.


China-Africa, Wizard of the Crow, Ngũgĩ’s wa Thiong’o, modernization, globalization

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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