Nomadic London: Reading Wandering in Sam Selvon’s <i>The Lonely Londoners</i> and Ben Okri’s “Disparities”

  • Kristine N. Kelly Department of English Case Western Reserve University 10900 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44106
Keywords: migrancy, mobility, wandering, networks, post-colonial London


This essay presents an aesthetic of mobility, or a way of reading that recognizes migrancy, wandering, and fragmented experience as fundamental narrative features of colonial and post-colonial literary contexts. Drawing on contemporary network theories and on discussions of walking as a social practice, the essay argues that Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and Ben Okri’s “Disparities” demonstrate the creative potential of wandering as a narrative strategy of digression and layering in plot and structure, allowing for an incorporation of the views of migrants into London’s topography and its concomitant meaningfulness. The analysis identifies a narrative practice where metropolitan space is constructed by the lived, mobile experiences of colonial migrants and post-colonial immigrants, who sidestep the controlling pressures and modulating flows of local and global network systems, especially as they are exerted by urban design, social organization, and immigration policies. This reading for mobility as aesthetic practice offers a way of understanding the stories of im/migrants as composed of complex paths and unexpected intersections, rather than as confrontational or hierarchal. It provokes a need for focusing critical attention on networks as compelling structures of order and influence that, paradoxically, also offer potential for an indirect, multi-layered agency.

Author Biography

Kristine N. Kelly, Department of English Case Western Reserve University 10900 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44106
Kristine Kelly is a Lecturer in English, teaching in the general education program at Case Western Reserve University.  Her research and classes focus on travel and migration in colonial and post-colonial literature.  She also writes about digital media and electronic literature, with an interest in global networks, mobility, and social justice.  Her work has been included in venues like Nineteenth-Century Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and recently in a special issue of Paradoxa on “Small Screen Fiction.”
Cluster on Black Diasporic Writing