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The Performance of Madness as Resistance in Nuruddin Farah's Close Sesame

Robert L. Colson


This article explores the representation of madness in Nuruddin Farah’s Close Sesame (1983) as a performance of resistance against the Somali dictatorship of Mohammed Siyad Barre. I argue that Farah presents madness as performance in order to protect those who speak and act out against tyranny, as well as their associates and families. The novel’s presentation of these counter-hegemonic performances not only has implications for the study of narrative representations of dictatorship in Africa, but also for the understanding of the colonial and neocolonial disciplinary attitudes towards resistance fighters in East Africa. In particular, I consider the “Mad Mullah” and J.C. Carothers in light of their contributions to the colonial discourse about madness and resistance. The colonial history’s relationship to Barre’s dictatorial regime is explicitly marked by Farah’s novel, yet the place of madness within that history has not been adequately explored, nor has the function of madness within Farah’s Close Sesame. This article’s focus on resistance in the context of Farah’s text is also a broader reading of resistance and repression in colonial states and neocolonial dictatorships.


dictator; madness; Nuruddin Farah; Somalia; neocolonial; East Africa

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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