Historicising borders : studies in Nigerian novels

Okolie, Mary JanePatrick Nwakaego (2019-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: More than ever before, border studies is enjoying scholarly attention and cutting across many disciplinary boundaries. The re-shaping of borders, triggered by globalisation and other trans-border historical events, has brought about the reassessment of the notion of borders as more than physical demarcations. Nonetheless, there has been little contribution from studies of African scholarship, and almost none from Nigeria, to the growing concern with and re-imagining of the border. My thesis provides an alternative imagining of the border by examining fictional representations of bordered identities foregrounded in the three generations of Nigerian literature. From the perspective of border poetics, which is the intervention of arts and culture in border studies, my research examines a range of fictional novels that thematise historical concerns related to geographical, cultural, ethnic, and social divides. The primary texts for this research are: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) and Chukwuemeka Ike’s Sunset at Dawn (1976), Festus Iyayi’s Violence (1979) and Okey Ndibe’s Arrows of Rain (2000), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013), Chika Unigwe’s Night Dancer (2012), and Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday (2016). This study engages three dimensions of borders and bordering in the novels selected: first, borders as social constructs drawn between opposing ideologies; second, borders as fluid and complex forms of intervention in social life; and third, borders as sites of frictional exchange and transformative interaction between the individuals and territories that are divided by these social constructs. The thesis is particularly preoccupied with literary characters' ability to negotiate their identity in the encounter with socially and culturally created divides and the spatial shifts that attend these forms of division. By engaging novels that speak to the national concerns prevalent in different periods of Nigerian literary history, my research demonstrates how literary texts conceptualise and engage the lived experience of shifting borders, and the cultural and social distinctions that attend the historical changes in Nigeria from the colonial era to the present. This study provides insights that can potentially enlarge the scope of border studies from the perspective of the humanities and recast the traditional assumption of the border as a fixed geographical divide. Most importantly, my thesis argues for border inclusivity, achievable through a radical delinking from the mentality of superiority and fixity. It suggests an expanded notion of difference as part of a solution to the crisis of cultural and symbolic othering in Africa, and in the world at large.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Tans geniet studies ten opsigte van grense, baie meer akademiese aandag as vantevore en word verskeie vakgebiede daardeur betrek. Die herdefiniëring van grense, globalisering, asook historiese gebeurtenisse oor grense heen, het tot gevolg gehad dat die definisie van grense nie meer as bloot fisiese afbakening van lande gesien word nie. Daar is egter min bydraes, van studies gedoen in Afrika en bykans geen gedoen in Nigerië, ten opsigte van die groeiende veranderings, bekommernisse en heroorweging van die definisie van grense nie. My proefskrif bied ‘n alternatiewe beeld van die grens, deur die fiktiewe voorstelling van begrensde identiteite, deur drie generasies van Nigeriese literatuur te ondersoek. Wanneer daar gekyk word na die poësie wat die aspek van grense aanspreek en ook deur te kyk na die impak van kuns en kultuur in grens-studies, ondersoek my navorsing ‘n verskeidenheid van fiksie en romans met die tema om die historiese bekommernisse met betrekking tot geografiese, kulturele, etniese, en sosiale afbakening aan te spreek. Die primêre tekste vir hierdie navorsing is as volg: Chinua Achebe se ‘Things Fall Apart’ (1958); Chukwuemeka Ike se ‘Sunset at Dawn’ (1976); Festus Iyayi se ‘Violence’ (1979); Okey Ndibe se ‘Arrows of Rain’ (2000); Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie se ‘Americanah’ (2013), Chika Unigwe se ‘Night Dancer ‘(2012) en Elnathan John se ‘Born on a Tuesday’ (2016). Hierdie proefskrif het betrekking op drie aspekte van grense en die proses wat gevolg is om grense vas te stel, met betrekking tot die bogenoemde boeke. Eerstens, grense as sosiale skeiding tussen twee opponerende ideologieë. Tweedens, grense as dinamiese en gekompliseerde ingryping in sosiale omstandighede. Derdens, grense as plekke van wrywing wisseling en die interaksies wat transformasie veroorsaak tussen individue en die grondgebiede wat geskei is deur hierdie sosiale verskille. Hierdie proefskrif lê klem op literêre karakters se vermoë om te onderhandel oor hulle identiteit, tydens hulle interaksie op die plek of stadium waar met sosiale en kulturele skeidings en die ruimtelike verskuiwing wat bydra tot hierdie vorme van skeiding. Deur te kyk na literatuur wat handel met die nasionale kommer in spesifieke tydvakke in Nigerië se literêre geskiedenis, ontbloot my navorsing hoe literêre geskrifte die veranderende grense uitbeeld, en die ervaring en ondervindinge van die veranderende grense, asook die sosiale en kulturele verskille wat die historiese verandering in Nigerië onderskei in die verskillende tydperke vanaf die koloniale era tot huidig. Hierdie studie gee dus insig, wat die potensiaal het om die omvang van grens-studies te vergroot, uit ‘n geesteswetenskaplike oogpunt en ook om die tradisionele aanname van ‘n grens as ‘n vaste geografiese skeiding te heroorweeg. My proefskrif argumenteer vir grens inklusiwiteit, wat bereikbaar is deur radikale ontkoppeling van die mentaliteit van meerderwaardigheid. Dit stel voor dat idee van verandering uitgebrei word as ‘n deel van ‘n oplossing tot ‘n kulturele krisis en simboliese uiteensetting in Afrika en in die res van die wêreld.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107078
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