Beyond the postcolony: post-historical poetics in the contemporary African urban novel

Vortrag von James Orao

The birth of the African novel has been linked to a turning point in African history; the anti-colonial liberation struggles of the African nations that peaked in the 1960s with many African states gaining independence. Its main stated aim was to provide a much-needed counter-narrative of “powerful and enduring images of life in colonial Africa” while critically engaging the legacy of imperialism on the continent (Genova 2005, 266). The trend of postcolonial literary studies on novels from and about Africa or by African authors have also tended to accentuate the primacy of this historical moment in their analyses of the novel; tracing and mapping various narratives and narrative modes used in resituating the continent in the prevailing and emerging discursive constellations. Ogundele (2002: 125) notes that this preoccupation with history has remained at the centre of the postcolonial African novel to-date.

This paper argues that contemporary African literature has exhausted the impetus that the postcolonial condition gave it and that, recent iterations of African urban novels have set in motion a new form of poetics that is referred to here as post-historical poetics. By looking at two novels with strong leanings to fantasy and science fiction, the paper seeks to analyse those narrative modes and techniques that would make up the suggested post-historical poetics. 

James Orao is a lecturer at the Department of Linguistics and Languages at the University of Nairobi.