Affiliation, Disavowal and National Commitment in Third Generation African Literature

Madhu Krishnan


This paper examines the construction of national commitment in third generation African literature through a comparative reading of Binyavanga Wainaina’s literary memoir, One Day I Will Write about this Place, Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s I Do Not Come to You by Chance. In each text, the relationship between the individual and his or her nation of origin cannot be reduced to a simple dyadic term, reflecting the multiply-articulated imagined communities in which individual lives exist and the (re)doubled workings of filiation, affiliation and disavowal at play in contemporary Africa. Like the nations which comprise the continent, then, the idea of the nation in the contemporary African literary work is both variable and shifting, responding to its immediate circumstances and demonstrating the potency of novel paradigms of belonging. Nationalism, like the nation, thus reflects a deep ambivalence which mobilizes multiple affiliations and, nevertheless, does not preclude belonging and commitment. Rather than dismiss the nation, as category, I argue that Wainaina’s, Vera’s and Nwaubani’s works present a vision of nationness which exceeds any unitary definition, demonstrating the boundlessness of constructions of belonging as well as the critical simultaneity of shifting and conflicting affiliations. This reconfigured relationship to the nation is itself reflective of the inherent variability of the African nation, one which contains within it the scope of multiple and conflicting paradigms of belonging.


African literature, nationalism, contemporary, third generation

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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