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No-Man’s Land: Nuruddin Farah’s Links and the Space of Postcolonial Alienation

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Abstract

The novel of the cultural nationalist period of modern African literature was often heavily invested in the rural. Also sometimes referred to as the rediscovery phase of African literature, the novels of this period usually focused on the lives of characters inhabiting a ‘pure’ rural space, undistorted by the alienations of colonialism and modernity. In this body of writing, the rural was seen as the social space in which the African subject lived in organic harmony, integrated into a functioning social order and at one with the rhythms of nature. This, the reasoning went, was the state of pre-colonial African societies. For the writers of this period therefore, the rural represented the space of unsullied ‘Africanness’, where the authentic essence of Africa could still be found. Colonialism was seen as the disruptive force that severed the link between the African self, the social order and the natural world. By introducing a new order of things that destabilized the continuity of tradition, colonialism in effect introduced a regime of alienation on the people. In the literature, this alienation was not only portrayed as epistemological, in the sense of the ways people understand and orient themselves to the world, but also spatialized, in terms of the division between the rural and the urban. The idea of colonial alienation is fairly commonplace in African literature and the ‘city’ was depicted as the space of its location, the site of its unfolding. This is perhaps the most common depiction of alienation, and, in this regard, African elaborations of the sources of colonial alienation do not differ from descriptions of alienation in the West, often seen as consequent upon the mechanization and bureaucratization of life in modern industrial and post-industrial societies.

Keywords

Social Order African City Binary Opposition City Life African Literature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2008

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