Trains, Stone, and Energetics: African Resource Culture and the Neoliberal World-Ecology

  • Sharae DeckardEmail author
Part of the New Comparisons in World Literature book series (NCWL)


This chapter explores the symbolic magnetism of motifs of trains and stone in African resource fiction, and examines varieties of “locomotive culture” bound up with resistance to the infrastructure underlying neoliberal extractivism. I compare a series of cultural artefacts from different sites and periods of resource extraction in Africa: Senegalese novelist Ousmane Sembène’s God’s Bits of Wood (1962), South African jazz-funk trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s song “Stimela (Coal-Train)” (1974), South African artist Dillon Marsh’s photograph, “Rhodium – 13 million troy ounces,” (2014), DRC novelist Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83 (2015), and Afro-diasporic writer Nisi Shawl’s s/f novel Everfair (2016). Through the differing politics and aesthetics of these depictions of resource extractivism, which chart the gamut from the revolutionary “striking energies” and collectivities imagined in Sembène’s socialist-realist “strike epic” and the anti-colonial force of Masekela’s “Stimela” in the age of decolonization, to the neoliberal political paralysis and “resource conflict dystopia” of Mujila’s Tram 83 and the utopian horizons re-summoned by Shawl’s turn to speculative fiction in Everfair, I trace the bloody history of mining and resource imperialism on the continent, both as violence and exploitation, and as resourceful contestation and insurgency, while exploring the changing political horizons and capacities of form to imagine resistance.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DublinRepublic of Ireland

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