Cosmopolitanism, Transnationalism, Afropolitanism and the Contemporary African Novel

English 8400
Section 1
Christopher Okonkwo

Easily one of the most exciting developments in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African literary and cultural history is the still-increasing number of critically acclaimed and award-winning narratives of migration, expatriation, and exile written by young novelists of African parentage, born, residing, and/or working in the United States and Europe, particularly. Broadening the historical, stylistic and thematic paths already blazed by their predecessors, these novelists and sometimes public intellectuals shed important new light on the complex experiences and positioning of Africans and their descendants on the continent, in the diaspora, but particularly in the metropolises of Europe and the U.S. But just as stimulating about this cultural turn is those novels’ entanglement with various epistemologies, in this case cosmopolitanism, transnationalism and, more recently, Afropolitanism. Building upon Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers and other theoretical and contextual studies on the subjects, this seminar aims to frame a rich sampling of those novels and their authors around the three vocabularies. Emphasizing kinesis, the free-flowing, and paradox, the focal narratives demand we rethink many often-stagnated notions, including—among many others—the logics of nation, citizenship, and identity, the economy of belonging and unbelonging, and the domains of “the African” and “African literature” as stable signifiers. Although this seminar emphasizes African diaspora literary and cultural praxes, students in other emphasis areas will be more than welcome to pursue comparative interrogations of contexts and texts in class discussions and their seminar papers written as though for publication.