How Things Will Go: Genre, Infrastructure, and Hope in Welcome to Lagos
Keywords:genre, infrastructure, comedy, hope, urbanism
This article examines how two structuring forms, infrastructure and genre, facilitate and distribute affects of hopeful futurity in Chibundu Onuzo’s 2017 novel Welcome to Lagos. I argue that the genre acts as the infrastructure of infrastructure, an underlying connective logic that shapes how infrastructures are encountered and perceived. In turn, infrastructures materialize generic expectations about the world. In this novel, comic form, as the aestheticization of contingency and fortune, shapes the way characters relate to informal infrastructures like underbridges and abandoned buildings, while discarded spaces reinforce a view of the city as a space rife with opportunity. In contrast to more pessimistic views of the postcolonial city, in Welcome to Lagos comedy and infrastructure foreground how access to resources and materials are unpredictably distributed, in turn making feelings of hopeful or open futurity more available to the urban poor. Ultimately, I argue that affects like hope index the lived force of genre and infrastructure as structuring forms, and that genre and infrastructure are good for thinking postcolonial affect.