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Cosmopolitanisms$

Bruce Robbins, Paulo Lemos Horta, and Kwame Anthony Appiah

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479829682

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479829682.001.0001

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Afropolitan Style and Unusable Global Spaces

Afropolitan Style and Unusable Global Spaces

Chapter:
(p.240) 18 Afropolitan Style and Unusable Global Spaces
Source:
Cosmopolitanisms
Author(s):

Ashleigh Harris

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479829682.003.0019

Abstract and Keywords

Ashleigh Harris critiques the tendency to locate Afropolitanism in African expatriate and diaspora culture, particularly as a culture of elite consumerism. Asking if “Afropolitanism” is a useful term, Harris argues that without it, the ways in which economic inequalities shape Africans’ experience of worldliness would largely remain invisible. Beyond the consumer culture of the elite, she contends, Africans do not enjoy equal cosmopolitan freedoms as citizens of the world. In her analysis of Brian Chikwava’s novel Harare North as a dramatization of the cosmopolitan experience of being African in the world, Harris arrives at a conclusion that seems similar to Bender’s conception of the cosmopolitan as someone who is at home nowhere rather than everywhere, but is more literal: the Afropolitanism Chikwava expresses in his novel is an actual state of homelessness, rather than the possibility of being at home in the world.

Keywords:   Afropolitan, diaspora, worldliness, homelessness, inequality

While African studies is a thriving discipline across the Anglophone academy, we might, along with Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttall, note the “overwhelming neglect of how the meanings of Africanness are made.”1 The readings of African spaces that dominate the discipline—for example, Africa in crisis, Africa at war, Africa as running before the temporality of modernity—produce a significant problem for the development of a cosmopolitan theory that is truly global in reach. Indeed, we may well ask ourselves whether cosmopolitanism has, despite its intrinsic claims to the contrary, perpetuated a global knowledge economy in which Africa is a regular site of analysis and application of theory, but not a space of knowledge and theory production itself. We might read the fact that the word “Afropolitan” has been lexicalized in both academic and popular contexts as an indication of cosmopolitanism’s failure to address this problem.

Even the origin of the term “Afropolitanism” is entangled in this politics of knowledge production. Taiye Selasi first coined the term in an article entitled “Bye-Bye Babar” in Lip Magazine in 2005, which was reproduced, with much wider critical impact, in Callaloo in 2013. Selasi’s Afropolitanism is, at first glance, a welcome rejection of the “quasi-equivalence … between race and geography”2 that has pervaded African nationalism. Selasi’s Afropolitanism describes, rather, a young mix-culture that is “redefining what it means to be African.”3 Yet despite her clear rejection of autochthonous Africanness, Selasi’s Afropolitan is, on closer inspection, little more than African expatriate and diaspora culture in a world quite radically dissociated from African everyday life. Her article begins with a description of young Afropolitans dancing to a Fela Kuti remix at the Medicine Bar in London:

(p.241) Like so many African young people working and living in cities around the globe, they belong to no single geography, but feel at home in many. They … are Afropolitans—the newest generation of African emigrants, coming soon, or collected already, at a law firm/chem lab/jazz lounge near you.4

Throughout her article, Selasi only observes the remix cultures of these Afropolitans in non-African spaces, with the implication that the redefinition of “what it means to be African” is the onus of this “newest generation of African emigrants” (my emphasis). She even ruminates on a time when the “talent” of Africa will “repatriate”, insinuating that Africa’s talent is, by definition, elsewhere.

Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina ardently rejects the terms of this form of Afropolitanism. For him, “Afropolitanism has become the marker of crude cultural commodification—a phenomenon increasingly ‘product driven,’ design focused, and ‘potentially funded by the West.’”5 I would take this further to argue that these economic patterns that Wainaina reads behind Afropolitan style are not disconnected from the broader issue of Africa’s omission from global knowledge production per se. As John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff have put it, the global knowledge economy has “treated [African spaces] less as sources of refined knowledge than as reservoirs of raw fact: of the minutiae from which Euromodernity might fashion its testable theories and transcendent truths. Just as it has long capitalized on non-Western ‘raw materials’ by ostensibly adding value and refinement to them”.6 Even Afropolitanism, with its rejection of nationalist identity and its ambition of reading Africa in and of the globe, remains troubled by the persistence of such unidirectional knowledge economies.

We may well ask, then, whether we need the term “Afropolitanism” at all. In short, I argue that we need a name for that which cosmopolitanism often neglects precisely because that neglect is invisible to itself. That is, without Afropolitanism, the routine ways in which Africa remains only an object (rather than a producer) of knowledge for the metropolitan and academic gaze of the global North are unlikely to be made visible. Beyond glib observation that the underdeveloped South is part of a single, but unequal, globe, Afropolitanism requires us to account for (p.242) how that economic inequality shapes Africans’ experiences of worldliness. If Africans do not assimilate into the privileged economies of trendy, metropolitan remix cultures, they will not enjoy equal cosmopolitan freedoms as citizens of the world. As such, the phenomenology of being African in and of the world requires its own terminology. In this essay, I begin to theorize the contours and illustrate the usefulness of that terminology through a discussion of Zimbabwean author Brian Chikwava’s 2009 novel, Harare North.7 Chikwava’s novel is Afropolitan in style and form insofar as it dramatizes the cosmopolitan experience and phenomenology of being African in the world. Ultimately, it is the condition of homelessness8—or the attenuation of global space for the African body—rather than the possibility of being at home in the world that Chikwava’s Afropolitanism articulates.

Given that my focus is on Afropolitanism as literary style, Rebecca Walkowitz’s well-known elaboration of a theory of cosmopolitan style, which emphatically resists a Eurocentric conception of modernism, is a good starting point to illustrate how easily Africa can be circumvented when theorizing cosmopolitanism. Even Walkowitz’s title, Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism beyond the Nation, emphasizes her aim to establish a critical cosmopolitanism that relocates modernist aesthetics and style across multiple global contexts. Nonetheless, the book describes this cosmopolitanism almost entirely outside Africa’s contribution to that style. The omission is all the more remarkable given that Walkowitz acknowledges, in her Introduction, that it was in Jean Paul Sartre’s essay “Black Orpheus”9—where he argued for the revolutionary value of negritude poetry—that he began to form “a nascent theory of cosmopolitan style.”10 While this suggests that Walkowitz reads negritude poetry as a major influence on Sartre’s thinking—and thereby on the consequent formation of cosmopolitanism—the rest of her book includes only one passing reference to African literature: a broad gesture not toward African writing and theory itself, but rather toward the politics of “postcolonial fiction and criticism by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, and Gauri Viswanathan”.11 I would argue that Walkowitz’s omission is symptomatic of a much longer critical tradition that has transposed active African participation in the philosophy and aesthetics of modernity into a passive register of influence. Even Léopold Sédar Senghor himself, whose anthology of negritude poetry (p.243) Sartre’s essay introduced, battled with these lines of influence. Senghor first endeavored to prove the centrality of African art in the modernist tradition by citing symbolism, surrealism, nabism, expressionism, fauvism, and cubism as some of the forms that drew on what he calls the “Negro revolution.” Yet in the same breath he hedges the significance of negritude in twentieth-century modernism, awkwardly admitting that “without the discovery of African art, the revolution would still have taken place, but probably without such vigor and assurance.”12

Simon Gikandi discusses the lines of influence between postcolonial literatures and modernism from the African—rather than the European—perspective: “[I]t was primarily … in the language and structure of modernism,” he writes, “that a postcolonial experience came to be articulated and imagined in literary form.” That is, for Gikandi, the “archive of early postcolonial writing in Africa, the Caribbean, and India is dominated and defined by writers whose political or cultural projects were enabled by modernism even when the ideologies of [European modernists] were at odds with the project of decolonization.”13 Modernist style not only suited the politics of anticolonial literature, but was also an obvious influence on early African postcolonial literary style, since, as Gikandi notes, the styles of modernism coincided with the advent of written and published literature in Africa.

But, in affirmation of Senghor’s uncertain hope that negritude was “a [universal] humanism of the Twentieth Century,”14 we now know that this influence was neither unidirectional nor limited to the anthropological curiosity of a few avant-gardists and surrealists. As Gikandi goes on to argue: “[M]odernism represents perhaps the most intense and unprecedented site of encounter between the institutions of European cultural production and the cultural practices of colonized people. It is rare to find a central text in modern literature, art, or ethnography that does not deploy the other as a significant source, influence or informing analogy.”15 Despite this, scholarship on modernist style has largely obscured African writers’ participation in twentieth-century aesthetics and continues to overlook the ongoing role that African writing plays in constituting cosmopolitan style today.

In an attempt to correct this scholarly trend, Achille Mbembe began articulating a conception of Afropolitanism (just a year or so after Selasi first used the term). Citing the multiple and sustained movements of (p.244) people into, out of, and across Africa in both precolonial and colonial times, Mbembe insists that the “cultural history of the continent can hardly be understood outside the paradigm of itineracy, mobility and displacement.” Furthermore, he writes:

Awareness of the interweaving of the here and there, the presence of the elsewhere in the here and vice versa, the relativisation of primary roots and memberships and the way of embracing, with full knowledge of the facts, strangeness, foreignness and remoteness … it is this cultural, historical and aesthetic sensitivity that underlies the term “afropolitanism.”’16

For Mbembe, Afropolitanism is, then, “an aesthetic and a particular poetic of the world.” This aesthetic is deeply resistant to nativist politics and to negritude style, both of which suggest autochthonous articulations of African being. Yet, while Afropolitanism acknowledges that “part of African history lies somewhere else, outside Africa” it is not only an aesthetic, like Selasi’s, for an African diaspora. Indeed, Mbembe’s Afropolitanism is as much a tracing of Africa in the world as it is a history of the world in Africa.17 If Afropolitanism is to get political purchase on the circumvention of Africa in cosmopolitanism, then it surely has to begin from this premise: Africa is, and has always been, an active participant in modernity, not merely a site of “raw” and pre-modern culture, in need of processing into the value-laden objects of a global market economy.

Brian Chikwava’s novel Harare North presents a deep and sustained writing of Africa onto the cartography of the foreign city in ways that exemplify Mbembe’s Afropolitan style. In the novel, London is narrated in the idioms, grammar, and psychology of an unnamed Zimbabwean in such a way that its streets become pervaded with what we might call the phenomenologies of Zimbabwe. London thus becomes the idiomatic, witty title of Chikwava’s novel: Harare North. Our sense of London is mediated so entirely by the perspective of the unnamed narrator that it is more a substratum of the condition of the poor Zimbabwean in the globe than an objective space determined by its own history. Our sense of this rewriting of London into the phenomenology of the narrator is such that the city he reveals to us is one of his own making: this is not (p.245) London, but Harare North, a city catalogued through distinctly Zimbabwean idioms and vocabularies.

This is evident from the outset, as Chikwava has his narrator speak both ungrammatically and in an idiom heavily inflected with chiShona proverbs and linguistic play. The result is not infantilizing, as is often the effect of written vernaculars. Rather, the grammatical errors (personal and possessive pronoun confusion, the dropping of the definite article, subject-verb agreement errors, and number errors), which remain consistent throughout the novel, reveal an impression of the narrator’s unwritten and unspoken mother-tongue, chiShona, on—or under—the English language that only tenuously covers the surface of the text. As such, language haunts the pages of Harare North.

English and its varied and various reappropriations have, of course, been widely debated and discussed across postcolonial scholarship and we needn’t rehearse that debate here. A germane example, however, can be found in Dambudzo Marechera’s seminal work of African modernism: The House of Hunger, a novel that also prefigures the structural devices of Chikwava’s text. Marechera’s narrator articulates the problem of learning and writing in the English language thus: “I was being severed from my own voice. … It was like this: English is my second language, Shona my first. When I talked it was in the form of an interminable argument, one side of which was always expressed in English and the other side always in Shona.”18

The consequence of this “interminable argument” is a kind of stuttering, one that may appear similar to the “stutters or stammers” of modernist writers that Rebecca Walkowitz argues were used “to register antagonisms within a civic rhetoric that claims to be uniform and consistent.” The stutter, she writes, “represents the discrepancies within collective assertion; it registers a protest that is otherwise prohibited.”19 Yet, as Marechera’s narrator discovers, his stammer does not always register protest. Indeed, in an attempt to articulate his protest against a Catholic priest, he complains: “‘It’s people like you who’re driving us mad!’ I wanted to say more, but I began to stammer and [the priest] took advantage of that to say ‘It’s the ape in you, young man, the heart of darkness.’”20 In Walkowitz’s analysis the stuttering of Whiskey Sisodia in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses is a strategy of “mix-up,” which is used to articulate the “new experiences of contemporary immigration (p.246) and also to distinguish between the cosmopolitanism of exploitative fusion, on the one hand, and the cosmopolitanism of tactical syncretism, on the other.”21 Yet, whereas Rushdie’s “mix-up” might certainly be said to introduce a productive level of disorder between these two oppositions, I tend, rather, to agree with Timothy Brennan’s assessment of Rushdie’s cosmopolitanism as insufficiently antagonistic, and thus “convenient.”22 Marechera’s stammering narrator, on the other hand, is sufficiently antagonistic, but his awkwardness in formulating himself reinscribes him in the racist rhetoric of the colonial episteme: as an inarticulate “ape.”

Chikwava also emphasizes the stutter of a key character in his novel, Shingi—the narrator’s best friend, who despite having his papers in order and thus living and working legally in the United Kingdom, spirals into drug addiction and, after a brutal attack, is left struggling for his life in hospital. Shingi’s stutter does not produce the linguistic play or double entendres of the sort that Walkowitz finds in Rushdie’s stuttering Sisodia; rather, Shingi’s stutter is a marker of various irreconcilables in his life: the most significant being the incommensurability of his Zimbabwean family’s economic need and what he can reasonably earn and send back to them. Shingi’s stutter becomes a marker of the schizophrenic nature of his everyday life, where he exists on the tightrope between the reality of economic desperation and a desperate fantasy of wealth and economic security.

Chikwava is at pains to illustrate the distance between those, like Shingi, who fail to cross this economic chasm, and those privileged immigrants, such as the narrator’s cousin Paul and his wife Sekai, who live a comfortable middle-class, émigré life. The chasm is wide: unlike Sekai—a nurse—who can afford to pay the narrator a significant sum of money when he blackmails her after discovering she is having an affair, we are introduced to Tsitsi, whose only source of income, being a minor, is to rent out her baby to people claiming parental benefits. Assimilation—or successful immigration—is primarily dependent on economic factors. Yet, according to the narrator, the cost of Sekai’s assimilation is that she has become a “lapsed African” who “don’t really know about things going on in Zimbabwe because she have been in England for too long. She buy all the propaganda that she hear from papers and TV in this country. … She don’t even know Comrade Mugabe.” Sekai, who no longer follows (p.247) the protocols of Shona society, is indeed at a remove from everyday life in Africa, a distance that is further marked by her detachment from underprivileged African émigré life in London. Tsitsi, on the other hand, who “sing old Shona song about bird that don’t want to come play because it want to fly high into clouds so it can be like them clouds,” fails to integrate into English social behavior entirely. Just like the language of the narrator, Tsitsi’s mode of being—which the narrator describes as “just rural mother”—fits awkwardly in the context of London. When her baby falls ill (as a result of salmonella caused by his diet of cheap milk powder), we read: “Tsitsi now start wailing in proper native way, wrapping them arms around she head and throwing sheself about on the hospital floor in disorderly way and frightening English people.” The scene later prompts the narrator to lecture the other immigrants he shares a squat with: “We have to acquire what they call culture” and “ease down some of they native behaviours so they don’t frighten all them important English people”. If assimilation is an economic process, access to the formal economy is oiled by cultural commonality and linguistic fluency.23

The line between the formal and informal economies falls precisely in the space between Paul and Sekai’s middle-class lives and the lives of those living in the squat. The narrator, who is an illegal in London, cannot work in the formal economy and thus quickly crosses over that line, finding work illegally under Shingi’s name and looking for any opportunity in the informal economy to make a living. Ato Quayson illustrates the pervasiveness of such improvisations within the informal economy in African social life. He elaborates this in the Ghanaian context through the figure of the kòbòlò, who “is defined primarily as a good-for-nothing street lounger [but] turns out on closer inspection to be a much more complex sociological category that encapsulates a transitional state of urban existence at the intersecting vectors of space, time, and longing.”24 As Quayson points out, the scale and complexity of informal economies across Africa result in this figure being a commonplace in most African cities: “Akin to the area boy in Lagos popular lore, the term ‘kòbòlò’ also has resonance with the Dakarois fakhman, a term that designates a good-for-nothing street loiterer and potential criminal.”25 Chikwava’s London-based narrator draws on this pervasive figure in African street life and literature,26 thereby enabling the phenomenology of African street life in the spaces of London.

(p.248) Chikwava’s street hustler is, like the kòbòlò, “on a quest to escape the vagaries”27—and, I would add, violence—of the informal economy. The narrative form that shapes this quest is determined by the success or failure of the protagonist to assimilate. A successful assimilation narrative would fit the easy form of the Bildungsroman, with economic, rather than moral, aspiration as its driving force. Yet, in Harare North, the protagonist’s hustle fails, and the result is a narrative form that becomes entropic. Chikwava consciously resists anodyne and harmonious closure, activating awkwardness as a strategy for dislocating the event of reading itself. Indeed, after a series of betrayals and failures to discover a sense of belonging in London, the narrator takes to the street: completely dispossessed of all but his suitcase, which eventually breaks open, scattering his last possessions through the streets of London before he notices: “Nothing is left inside suitcase except the smell of Mother … it’s full of nothing.”28

Quayson provides a nuanced reading of how, in the African city, an incoherent economy produces free time for the street hustler. This is not to say that the hustler enjoys free movement in the city, as the flâneur might. Rather, he/she feels an “obligation to do something as a way of combatting the vagaries of free time.”29 In Chikwava’s novel, the narrator’s homelessness takes the phenomenology of free time even further. With his psyche, suitcase, and time equally “full of nothing,” the narrator’s homelessness exposes him to incoherent and persistently arduous time. As Steven VanderStaay puts it in Street Lives, “Homeless people with nowhere to go are often forced to spend their day getting there. Walking, remaining upright, and endlessly waiting become all-consuming tasks, full-time work.”30 In “The Homeless Body,” Samira Kawash describes the problem thus: because “there is no place in the contemporary urban landscape for the homeless to be … the itinerant movement of the homeless is a mode of movement peculiar to the condition of placelessness.” Rather than the temporality of waiting, then, in which the anticipation of an event of ingenuity or improvisation is, whilst precarious, still emplaced, the homeless “exist in a perpetual state of movement.”31

The narrator of Harare North now inhabits London in this condition of restless placelessness, without hope or purpose: “I’m feeling like umgodoyi—the homeless dog that roam them villages scavenging until (p.249) brave villager relieve it of its misery by hit its head with rock. Umgodoyi have no home like winds. That’s why umgodoyi’s soul is tear from his body in rough way. That’s what everyone want to do to me, me I know.”32 The temporal dimension of this sort of wandering, without dignity and community, becomes as diffuse as the winds. The phenomenological dimension of time is not simply one of waiting, but one of temporal collapse. All times get compressed into a single flow in what we can only describe as psychosis. The narrator’s ensuing loss of self is indicated in the last paragraph of the novel, rendered in a second-person narrative address:

Half naked, you turn left into Electric Avenue and walk. You start to hear in tongues; it feel like Shingi is on his way back to life. You can tell, you know it; Shingi is now coming back. Already there’s struggle over your feeties; you are telling right foot to go in one direction and he is telling left foot to go in another direction. You tell the right foot to go in one direction and he is being traitor shoe-doctor and tell left foot to go in another direction. You stand there in them mental backstreets and one big battle rage even if you have no more ginger for it.33

The narrator’s spiral toward homelessness is accompanied, then, by a narrative structure that spirals outward—scattering the account that he gives of himself until even the personal pronoun “I” is abandoned in his de-realization of self. Chikwava’s careful attention to the process by which this already vulnerable global subject crosses into the hinterland of homelessness draws our attention to the broader significance of this figure when contemplating cosmopolitan space. As Kawash writes of the homeless body:

Stories recounting the events that precipitate an individual into homelessness emphasize an inexorable chain of loss that spirals inward towards the body: loss of job, loss of welfare, loss of friends and family, loss of health. This tumult of dispossession leaves the homeless with little intact but the body. Without a safe place to leave things, one’s possessions must be reduced to whatever one can carry. Even that is always at risk of dispossession; both the shelters and the streets pose the constant threat of violence and theft.34

(p.250) Kawash’s description of the condition of homelessness might be read as a plot outline of Harare North: at the close of the novel, the narrator is left “half-naked,” with a suitcase “full of nothing,” trapped in an unrelenting stasis (which is not the same as stillness), and faces starvation and violent attack in the “mental backstreets.” “It is because it is paradoxically positioned as simultaneously excluded and present,” writes Kawash, “that the homeless body appears as a limit-figure in relation to the public.” The narrator’s stasis, which encapsulates the phenomenology of passing time without taking up space produces just such a limit-figure. Here, we are no longer concerned with the comparatively trivial concerns of dislocation or homesickness as experienced by the privileged migrant, but with a homeless figure that in turn figures its psychological correlate: the uncanny. Kawash argues:

The public view of the homeless as “filth” marks the danger of this body as body to the homogeneity and wholeness of the public. The desire or ambition for such wholeness thus faces an obstacle that may be ideologically disavowed but that always returns as an irreducibly material challenge. The solution to this impasse appears as the ultimate aim of the “homeless wars”: to exert such pressures against this body that will reduce it to nothing, squeeze it until it is so small that it disappears, such that the circle of the social will again appear closed.35

Chikwava’s narrative traces this compression as his narrator’s body is increasingly, violently, squeezed out of public spaces. His body is the material reminder, the abject return, of the repressed of a contemporary economic order that disavows him as no more than the waste it produces. It is not incidental that Chikwava is dramatizing this figure as an African émigré, a trace of the seismic scale of this economic violence and the geographies of vulnerability it produces.

Chikwava’s novel registers these phenomenologies of free, and violently entropic, time on the stylistic and formal level. The awkwardness of the narrator’s tale, language, and body—as homeless—mark the limit of cosmopolitanism in the global North (the successful abjection of the homeless body would, as Kawash suggests, make the social circle appear “closed”). Perhaps the word “awkwardness” is too insipid to capture the discomfort of being that is rendered on the level of syntax, grammar, (p.251) and style, and also in the spiral toward entropy that structures this novel. Where Walkowitz sees stuttering as a charged style of (privileged) immigrant cosmopolitan fictions, the irresolvable bind between placelessness and the inexorability of time forces Chikwava’s style and form into far more uncomfortable places. In a time in which the homeless are being increasingly, violently, compressed into a nonspace (outopia) of the utopian dream of market capitalism, Chikwava’s novel seeks a style and form for that condition.

It is worth noting that Rebecca Walkowitz draws on the following passage from Michel de Certeau’s Practice of Everyday Life to illustrate the cosmopolitan strategies that emerge in creative improvisations that constitute the “small degrees of resistance” in the everyday life of immigrants.

Thus a North African living in Paris or Roubaix (France) insinuates into the system imposed on him by the construction of a low-income housing development or of the French language the ways of “dwelling” (in a house or a language) peculiar to his native Kabylia. He superimposes them and, by that combination, creates for himself a space in which he can find ways of using the constraining order of the place or of the language. Without leaving the place where he has no choice but to live and which lays down the law for him, he establishes within it a degree of plurality and creativity. By an art of being in between, he draws unexpected results from his situation.36

The passage fits Walkowitz’s theory of the stammer well. But for de Certeau, this frisson of being, which brings with it a “degree of plurality and creativity,” follows the same logic as that I have described above: the European city demands an assimilation that effaces African phenomenologies of being. If this is the starting point of how we negotiate Africa’s place in contemporary cosmopolitanism, then the Afropolitan can be nothing more than Taiye Selasi’s young mix-culture. Yet, in the extreme space of homelessness depicted by Chikwava, where the conditions of “dwelling” in both language and space are severely compromised and even violently denied, such “small degrees of resistance” are not only impossible, but grotesquely inadequate. Chikwava’s narrator is not “in between” two systems at the end of this novel: he is entirely compressed (p.252) into public space in ways that make that space unusable in de Certeau’s sense. In negotiating ways of depicting this impossible dwelling, this unusable space, Chikwava begins to articulate, to recall Mbembe’s words, “an aesthetic and a particular poetic of the world” that—despite its ultimate dramatization of its own impossibility and erasure—we might call Afropolitanism.

Notes

(1) Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttall, Writing the World from an African Metropolis,” Public Culture 16.3 (Fall 2004): 352.

(2) Achille Mbembe, “African Modes of Self-Writing,” Public Culture 14.1 (Winter 2002): 256.

(3) Taiye Selasi, “Bye-Bye Babar,” Callaloo 36.3 (2013): 529.

(5) Stephanie Bosch Santana, “Exorcizing Afropolitanism: Binyavanga Wainaina Explains Why ‘I Am a Pan-Africanist, Not An Afropolitan,’” (2013): n.p. Available http://africainwords.com. See also Binyavanga Wainaina, “I Am a Pan-Africanist, Not an Afropolitan,” unpublished plenary address at the Biennial Conference, 6–8 African Studies Association of the U.K., September 2012, Leeds University, United Kingdom.

(6) John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, “Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America Is Evolving toward Africa,” Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology 22.2 (2012): 114.

(7) Brian Chikwava, Harare North (London: Random House, 2009).

(8) Rob Nixon in “London Calling: V. S. Naipaul and the License of Exile,” South Atlantic Quarterly 87.1 (1988): 27

(9) Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue françaisJean-Paul Sartre [1948], “Black Orpheus,” Massachusetts Review 6.1 (Autumn 1965): 13–52.

(10) Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism beyond the Nation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 24.

(12) Léopold Sédar Senghor [1970], “Négritude: A Humanism of the Twentieth Century,” in Tejumola Olaniyan and Ato Quayson, eds., African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 200.

(13) Simon Gikandi, “Preface: Modernism in the World,” Modernism/Modernity 13.3 (September 2006): 420.

(16) Achille Mbembe, “Afropolitanism,” trans. Laurent Chauvret, in Simon Njami, ed., Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent (Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2007), 27–28.

(18) Dambudzo Marechera, The House of Hunger (Oxford: Heinemann, 1978), 30.

(22) Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style, 133Timothy Brennan, At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), 306.

(23) Chikwava, Harare North; 5, 8, 59, 98–99, 112, 146, 147.

(24) Ato Quayson, Oxford Street: Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), Kindle edition, location 3885.

(26) In Oxford Street Quayson also notes the prevalence of this figure across various sub-Saharan African writing, citing Wole Soyinka’s The Road and The Beautification of the Area Boy, Ben Okri’s short stories, Dambudzo Marachera’s House of Hunger, and Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying (Kindle location 5763) as some examples of African fictions that rely on this figure.

(30) Samira Kawash, “The Homeless Body,” Public Culture 10.2 (Winter 1998): 327, cites Steven Vanderstaay, Street Lives: An Oral History of Homeless Americans (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992), 2.

(36) Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style, 134Michel de Certeau [1974], The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendell (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), Kindle edition, location 612.

Notes:

(1) Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttall, Writing the World from an African Metropolis,” Public Culture 16.3 (Fall 2004): 352.

(2) Achille Mbembe, “African Modes of Self-Writing,” Public Culture 14.1 (Winter 2002): 256.

(3) Taiye Selasi, “Bye-Bye Babar,” Callaloo 36.3 (2013): 529.

(5) Stephanie Bosch Santana, “Exorcizing Afropolitanism: Binyavanga Wainaina Explains Why ‘I Am a Pan-Africanist, Not An Afropolitan,’” (2013): n.p. Available http://africainwords.com. See also Binyavanga Wainaina, “I Am a Pan-Africanist, Not an Afropolitan,” unpublished plenary address at the Biennial Conference, 6–8 African Studies Association of the U.K., September 2012, Leeds University, United Kingdom.

(6) John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, “Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America Is Evolving toward Africa,” Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology 22.2 (2012): 114.

(7) Brian Chikwava, Harare North (London: Random House, 2009).

(8) Rob Nixon in “London Calling: V. S. Naipaul and the License of Exile,” South Atlantic Quarterly 87.1 (1988): 27

(9) Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue françaisJean-Paul Sartre [1948], “Black Orpheus,” Massachusetts Review 6.1 (Autumn 1965): 13–52.

(10) Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism beyond the Nation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 24.

(12) Léopold Sédar Senghor [1970], “Négritude: A Humanism of the Twentieth Century,” in Tejumola Olaniyan and Ato Quayson, eds., African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 200.

(13) Simon Gikandi, “Preface: Modernism in the World,” Modernism/Modernity 13.3 (September 2006): 420.

(16) Achille Mbembe, “Afropolitanism,” trans. Laurent Chauvret, in Simon Njami, ed., Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent (Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2007), 27–28.

(18) Dambudzo Marechera, The House of Hunger (Oxford: Heinemann, 1978), 30.

(22) Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style, 133Timothy Brennan, At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), 306.

(23) Chikwava, Harare North; 5, 8, 59, 98–99, 112, 146, 147.

(24) Ato Quayson, Oxford Street: Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), Kindle edition, location 3885.

(26) In Oxford Street Quayson also notes the prevalence of this figure across various sub-Saharan African writing, citing Wole Soyinka’s The Road and The Beautification of the Area Boy, Ben Okri’s short stories, Dambudzo Marachera’s House of Hunger, and Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying (Kindle location 5763) as some examples of African fictions that rely on this figure.

(30) Samira Kawash, “The Homeless Body,” Public Culture 10.2 (Winter 1998): 327, cites Steven Vanderstaay, Street Lives: An Oral History of Homeless Americans (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992), 2.

(36) Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style, 134Michel de Certeau [1974], The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendell (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), Kindle edition, location 612.