Africa Writes Back to Self

Metafiction, Gender, Sexuality

By Evan M. Mwangi

Subjects: Literary Theory, African Studies, Literary History, Gender Studies, Critical Theory
Paperback : 9781438426822, 360 pages, July 2010
Hardcover : 9781438426815, 360 pages, July 2009

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Table of contents

Introduction: Writing Back to Self
1. Genealogies and Functions of Self-Reflexive Fiction
2. (En)countering Sex in the Nationalist Canon
3. Potentials and Pitfalls of National Language Literatures
4. Orature and Deconstructed Folklore
5. Politicized Palimpsests and Gendered Intertexts
6. Painted Metaphors: The Gendered Deployment of Visual Arts
7. Refiguring (Out) Queer Sexualities
8. Gendered Theoretical Recalibrations
Works Cited

Explores the metafictional strategies of contemporary African novels rather than characterizing them primarily as a response to colonialism.


The profound effects of colonialism and its legacies on African cultures have led postcolonial scholars of recent African literature to characterize contemporary African novels as, first and foremost, responses to colonial domination by the West. In Africa Writes Back to Self, Evan Maina Mwangi argues instead that the novels are primarily engaged in conversation with each other, particularly over emergent gender issues such as the representation of homosexuality and the disenfranchisement of women by male-dominated governments. He covers the work of canonical novelists Nadine Gordimer, Chinua Achebe, NguÅgiÅ wa Thiong'o, and J. M. Coetzee, as well as popular writers such as Grace Ogot, David Maillu, Promise Okekwe, and Rebeka Njau. Mwangi examines the novels' self-reflexive fictional strategies and their potential to refigure the dynamics of gender and sexuality in Africa and demote the West as the reference point for cultures of the Global South.

Evan Maina Mwangi is Assistant Professor of English at Northwestern University and the coauthor (with Simon Gikandi) of The Columbia Guide to East African Literature in English Since 1945.


"Africa Writes Back to Self is a solid contribution … its emphasis on texts written in local African languages makes it particularly useful. Its combination of reading established African writers alongside more locally known authors provides an uncommon insight into East African literature, making it good reading for scholars wishing to broaden their horizons on various aspects of contemporary African literature. " — H-Net Reviews (H-Africa)

"Evan Maina Mwangi, drawing from a rich selection of contemporary African novels, and attentive to their local histories, and sensitive to the nuances of linguistic and cultural translation, offers a bracing, nuanced, and yet surprisingly obvious thesis … Africa Writes Back to Self is deeply pedagogical … it reflects not only on what should be taught, but also on how it should be taught. " — Research in African Literatures

"…Mwangi effectively reinforces the familiar argument that early nationalist texts' metafictional critique of European discourse about Africa masked profound gender chauvinism … [a] fine and wide-ranging book. " — African Studies Quarterly

"…Mwangi is astonishingly well read in English and in several East African languages, and this volume covers both 'literary' and popular writing and novels known regionally as well as internationally. " — CHOICE