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Mouthwork

Ewa Macura-Nnamdi

Abstract


This essay explores the politics and aesthetics of the mouth in Amos Tutuola’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in order to read the novel as reflecting on the speculative logic of finance capitalism. Departing from a scholarly consensus that views My Life in the Bush of Ghosts as a novel about the slave trade and its traumas, the essay proposes, instead, to approach it as engaging with the capitalist economies generated by slavery. These economies come to be revealed in Tutuola’s rendition of the mouth as a site for the production of abstract value, a production enabled by the mouth’s ability to mimic and enact the logic of destruction. Building up on Ian Baucom’s insightful readings of the slave trade and finance capitalism in which he brings to light the value of destruction as absolutely indispensible to the rise and success of finance capitalism and thus productive of more lasting and tangible benefits, the essay reads the recurring figure of the mouth as an instrument with which to enact a conversion of loss into gain. For this conversion to become possible, one needs to see consumption as a productive process which I suggest to call “mouthwork.” Enlisting consumption for the production of abstract value Tutuola’s novel not only renders the relation between consumption and production more complex and less polarizing than might initially seem but also reveals redemption as capitalism’s underlying and galvanizing sentiment.


Keywords


Amos Tutuola, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, mouthwork, capitalism, consumption, production

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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