Postcolonial African Literature

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How does postcolonial theory apply to the appreciation of African literature?

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Postcolonialism encompasses a set of theoretical perspectives that analyze modern society primarily through the eyes of people who had been subjugated under European and American colonial rule. Most African countries were in that situation. While this approach has earlier roots in anti-colonial resistance movements, it is largely associated with the post-World War II era that brought independence in Asia and Africa.

Two influential early works that lay out these themes are those by Albert Memmi (Tunisia/France), The Colonizer and the Colonized (published in French 1957), and Frantz Fanon (Martinique), Black Skin, White Masks (published in French 1952).

In sub-Saharan post-independence literature, numerous authors write about the era of colonial domination and contextualize individual characters' lives in terms of resistance to or appropriation of the colonizers' culture. Significant contributions include novels by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria), notably Things Fall Apart, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (Kenya), such as Weep Not, Child (1964). Ngũgĩ initially wrote and published in English but later changed to writing exclusively in his native language, Kikuyu, after being imprisoned; some of his writings about the politics of language are collected in Decolonising the Mind (1986).

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