How Things Will Go: Genre, Infrastructure, and Hope in Welcome to Lagos


  • Rebecca Oh University of Illinois Urbana Champaign


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.

Author Biography

Rebecca Oh, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Rebecca S. Oh is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. Her research focuses on postcolonial/global South literature and the environmental humanities. Her first book project, provisionally titled States of Failure: Reading Environmental Harm in the Global South, considers a plurality of forms such as sacrifice, promise, and revision that mediate how postcolonial states are imagined in the wake of long term environmental harms such as oil pollution, toxicity, and sea level rise. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Modern Fiction Studies, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, and other venues.