Imagining Disaster in the African Postcolony

Imagining Disaster in the African Postcolony This essay discusses the theoretical implications and consequences of the topical use of `disaster' in public discourse on, and in literary and cinematic representations of, Africa. The author introduces the "genre of contemporary disaster writing" as a site where `disaster' is often treated as a `natural' condition of modernity. The images and motifs that are mediated by such disaster writings, it is further argued, easily become the object of touristic curiosity. Introduction Y M A I N I N T E R E S T I N T H I S E S S A Y is to seek representational alternatives to stereotypical European conceptions of Africa as the Dark Continent, conceptions which refer back to or revivify a longstanding tradition in which Africa has served either as a counterpoint to or, more often, an alibi for the institutional excesses of the West.1 Taking my cue from the work of Achille Mbembe, my secondary aim is to restore a more complex vision of an enormously diverse continent, one still too often seen through the twin distorting mirrors of the catastrophic (Africa as undifferentiated disaster zone) and the savage (Africa as what Mbembe calls a "meta-text about the See http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Matatu Brill

Imagining Disaster in the African Postcolony

Matatu , Volume 36 (1): 313 – Jan 1, 2009

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Publisher
BRILL
Copyright
Copyright 2009 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0932-9714
eISSN
1875-7421
D.O.I.
10.1163/9789042028166_021
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This essay discusses the theoretical implications and consequences of the topical use of `disaster' in public discourse on, and in literary and cinematic representations of, Africa. The author introduces the "genre of contemporary disaster writing" as a site where `disaster' is often treated as a `natural' condition of modernity. The images and motifs that are mediated by such disaster writings, it is further argued, easily become the object of touristic curiosity. Introduction Y M A I N I N T E R E S T I N T H I S E S S A Y is to seek representational alternatives to stereotypical European conceptions of Africa as the Dark Continent, conceptions which refer back to or revivify a longstanding tradition in which Africa has served either as a counterpoint to or, more often, an alibi for the institutional excesses of the West.1 Taking my cue from the work of Achille Mbembe, my secondary aim is to restore a more complex vision of an enormously diverse continent, one still too often seen through the twin distorting mirrors of the catastrophic (Africa as undifferentiated disaster zone) and the savage (Africa as what Mbembe calls a "meta-text about the See

Journal

MatatuBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2009

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