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Mobilities and Cosmopolitanisms in African and Afrodiasporic Literatures
 9789004444751, 9789004442726

Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Information
Title Page
Copyright Page
Contents
Acknowledgements
Introduction
1 Mobility and Cosmopolitanism: Complex Relations, Shortcomings, and Unease
2 Mobilities, Representation, and the Literary Form
3 Outline of the Book and Chapter Summaries
Part 1 Trouble in the Business Class
Chapter 1 Anxious Mobilities of Afropolitans avant la lettre: Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes: A Love Story
1 Automobility: Undecidedness in the Streets of Accra
2 Hotels as In-between Spaces
3 Transnational Business Class Travel: Afropolitans avant la lettre
4 Conclusion: Freedom of Movement?
Chapter 2 The Hotel as a Space of Transit in Sefi Atta’s and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Short Stories
1 Atta’s Hotel: A Chronotope of Hypermobility, Inequality, and Unbelonging
2 Adichie’s Hotel Room: Adulterous Space between the Domestic and the Public
3 Conclusion: Being in Transit, Longing for Home
Chapter 3 Uneasy ‘Homecoming’ in Alain Mabanckou’s Lumières de Pointe-Noire
1 Returnee: A Tourist-Native
2 Nostalgia and Loss
3 Returned Gazes, Unbalanced Dialogues
4 Blind Spot behind the Camera: La blanche
5 Conclusion: Problematics of a Business Class Return
Part 2 Budget Travels, Practical Cosmopolitanisms
Chapter 4 New Technologies and Communication Gaps in Novels by Liss Kihindou, Véronique Tadjo, NoViolet Bulawayo, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
1 Formal Matters: The Mobile Poetics of Communication Technologies
2 Technological Advances – From Letters to Email and Skype
3 Creating Distance: Communication Gaps
4 Conclusion: Ruptured Dialogues and Unbalanced Cosmopolitanisms
Chapter 5 Everyday Urban Mobilities in Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps and Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-toi et meurs
1 Cartographies of Paris
2 Débrouillardise Cosmopolitanism: Survival in a New Environment
3 Peripheral Dead Ends
4 Conclusion: Managing the Metropolis through Mobility
Chapter 6 European Peripheries and Practical Cosmopolitanism in Fabienne Kanor’s Faire l’aventure
1 Peripheries and the Dream of “la grosse Europe”
2 Débrouillardise Cosmopolitanism: Limits and Potentials
3 Conclusion: Out of Reach? Centres and Cosmopolitan Ideals
Part 3 Abject Travels of Citizens of Nowhere
Chapter 7 Failing Border Crossings and Cosmopolitanism in Brian Chikwava’s Harare North
1 Cosmopolitanism as an Active Engagement
2 Instances of Anti-cosmopolitanism
3 Non-dialogue and Linguistic Nonconformity
4 Parodying the Afropolitan
5 Abject Unbelonging
6 Conclusion: Cosmopolitanism’s Breakdown
Chapter 8 Arrested Clandestine Odysseys in Sefi Atta’s “Twilight Trek” and Marie NDiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes
1 Erased Identities
2 Tropes of Mobility: Shoes, Trucks, and Boats
3 Sand and Sea: The Slavery Parallel
4 Conclusion: Precarious Journeys
Chapter 9 Zombie Travels: J. R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du nord and Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore
1 Tropes of Zombifying Mobilities: Hiding, Confinement, Dehumanisation, and Darkness
2 Not Feeling It: Lost Selves, Lost Emotions
3 Europe and the Failures of Cosmopolitanism
4 Eliminating the Zombie
5 Conclusion: The Poetics of Zombification
Coda
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

Mobilities and Cosmopolitanisms in African and Afrodiasporic Literatures

Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

Textxet Studies in Comparative Literature

General Editors Theo D’haen (University of Leuven) Karen Laura Thornber (Harvard University) Zhang Longxi (City University of Hong Kong) C.C. Barfoot (University of Leiden) Hans Bertens (University of Utrecht)

volume 95

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/​tscl

Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

Mobilities and Cosmopolitanisms in African and Afrodiasporic Literatures By

Anna-​Leena Toivanen

LEIDEN | BOSTON

Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skɫodowska-​Curie grant agreement no. 701238.

Cover illustration: A moving escalator in green neon light. Photo by Joakim Honkasalo on Unsplash. The Library of Congress Cataloging-​in-​Publication Data is available online at http://​catalog.loc.gov LC record available at http://​lccn.loc.gov/2021001697​

Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: brill.com/​brill-​typeface. issn 0927-​5 754 isbn 978-​9 0-​0 4-​4 4272-​6 (hardback) isbn 978-​9 0-​0 4-​4 4475-​1 (e-​book) Copyright 2021 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi, Brill Sense, Hotei Publishing, mentis Verlag, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh and Wilhelm Fink Verlag. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Requests for re-​use and/​or translations must be addressed to Koninklijke Brill NV via brill.com or copyright.com. This book is printed on acid-​free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

Contents Acknowledgements ix Introduction 1 1  Mobility and Cosmopolitanism: Complex Relations, Shortcomings, and Unease 8 2  Mobilities, Representation, and the Literary Form 15 3  Outline of the Book and Chapter Summaries 21

part 1 Trouble in the Business Class 1  Anxious Mobilities of Afropolitans avant la lettre Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes: A Love Story 29 1  Automobility: Undecidedness in the Streets of Accra 32 2  Hotels as In-​between Spaces 36 3  Transnational Business Class Travel: Afropolitans avant la lettre 40 4  Conclusion: Freedom of Movement? 46 2  The Hotel as a Space of Transit in Sefi Atta’s and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Short Stories 47 1  Atta’s Hotel: A Chronotope of Hypermobility, Inequality, and Unbelonging 51 2  Adichie’s Hotel Room: Adulterous Space between the Domestic and the Public 57 3  Conclusion: Being in Transit, Longing for Home 62 3  Uneasy ‘Homecoming’ in Alain Mabanckou’s Lumières de Pointe-​Noire 64 1  Returnee: A Tourist-​Native 67 2  Nostalgia and Loss 72 3  Returned Gazes, Unbalanced Dialogues 77 4  Blind Spot behind the Camera: La blanche 81 5  Conclusion: Problematics of a Business Class Return 83

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vi Contents

part 2 Budget Travels, Practical Cosmopolitanisms 4  New Technologies and Communication Gaps in Novels by Liss Kihindou, Véronique Tadjo, NoViolet Bulawayo, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 87 1  Formal Matters: The Mobile Poetics of Communication Technologies 91 2  Technological Advances –​From Letters to Email and Skype 94 3  Creating Distance: Communication Gaps 98 4  Conclusion: Ruptured Dialogues and Unbalanced Cosmopolitanisms 105 5  Everyday Urban Mobilities in Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps and Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-​toi et meurs 107 1  Cartographies of Paris 109 2  Débrouillardise Cosmopolitanism: Survival in a New Environment 115 3  Peripheral Dead Ends 119 4  Conclusion: Managing the Metropolis through Mobility 125 6  European Peripheries and Practical Cosmopolitanism in Fabienne Kanor’s Faire l’aventure 126 1  Peripheries and the Dream of “la grosse Europe” 129 2  Débrouillardise Cosmopolitanism: Limits and Potentials 136 3  Conclusion: Out of Reach? Centres and Cosmopolitan Ideals 144

part 3 Abject Travels of Citizens of Nowhere 7  Failing Border Crossings and Cosmopolitanism in Brian Chikwava’s Harare North 149 1  Cosmopolitanism as an Active Engagement 151 2  Instances of Anti-​cosmopolitanism 153 3  Non-​dialogue and Linguistic Nonconformity 158 4  Parodying the Afropolitan 160 5  Abject Unbelonging 162 6  Conclusion: Cosmopolitanism’s Breakdown 166

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vii

Contents

Arrested Clandestine Odysseys in Sefi Atta’s “Twilight Trek” and Marie 8  NDiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes 168 1  Erased Identities 174 2  Tropes of Mobility: Shoes, Trucks, and Boats 180 3  Sand and Sea: The Slavery Parallel 183 4  Conclusion: Precarious Journeys 186 Zombie Travels 9  J. R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du nord and Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore 188 1  Tropes of Zombifying Mobilities: Hiding, Confinement, Dehumanisation, and Darkness 192 2  Not Feeling It: Lost Selves, Lost Emotions 196 3  Europe and the Failures of Cosmopolitanism 199 4  Eliminating the Zombie 202 5  Conclusion: The Poetics of Zombification 206  Coda 207  Bibliography 211  Index 240

Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

Acknowledgements I start with an itinerary: this study is a compilation of my research in African and Afrodiasporic literatures that I  have conducted over the past five or six years during my postdoctoral and partly also during my senior researcher career stages. At the start of my postdoctoral research, I was planning a project on the role of nationhood in contemporary African women writers’ texts. But then Ayo A. Coly’s excellent The Pull of Postcolonial Nationhood: Gender and Migration in Francophone African Literatures (2010) was published, and I needed to think further. In 2012, two months before giving birth to my son, I had the chance to present a paper at a session on cosmopolitanism organised by Ranka Primorac at the asauk conference in Leeds, and it was from there that I  selected the concept of cosmopolitanism for my research. I  gradually ‘discovered’ mobility studies as I started to apply the concept of mobility in my work –​often in the rather vague, metaphorical sense that I criticise in this study. Mobilities research and the ways in which it can be adopted into postcolonial literary studies repeatedly inspire me in my new research project, the results of which will hopefully form my next monograph. The research on which the present study is based has been funded by the Academy of Finland (grant number 294780), the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (msca-​i f 701238), and the Alfred Kordelin Foundation (grant number 110485). I  also wish to acknowledge the funding provided by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (Research Project “Bodies in Transit 2”, ref. FFI2017-​84555-​C2-​1-​P), the European Regional Development Fund, and the Spanish Research Agency. My thanks also go to the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Eastern Finland for a research incentive grant that has been used, among other things, to cover the proofreading costs of this book. Most of this research has been conducted within the School of Humanities at the University of Eastern Finland, contributing to the uef’s official research area, Borders, Mobilities, and Cultural Encounters. At the uef, I  am deeply indebted to Jopi Nyman for his all generous help. Special acknowledgements are also due to my uef colleagues Salli Anttonen, Elina Arminen, Pekka Kilpeläinen, and Kari Korolainen. I  would like to express my gratitude to Milena Fayt from the research services for her kindness and invaluable help with funding applications. Many thanks, too, to John Stotesbury for proofreading the manuscript. Between 2017 and 2019, I worked at the postcolonial studies research centre cerep at the University of Liège as a Marie Skłodowska-​Curie Fellow: I should

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like to extend my thanks for their help in both research-​related questions and all sorts of practicalities, in particular to Bénédicte Ledent and Daria Tunca, without whose collaboration the fellowship would have not been possible. Thanks also to the following colleagues for their support, inspiration, collaboration, and help with my past and ongoing research projects:  Elisabeth Bekers, Ben Cocking, Cédric Courtois, Pilar Cuder, Chris Ewers, Charles Forsdick, Sandra Garcia-​Corte, Kathleen Gyssels, Janine Hauthal, Christopher Hogarth, Joel Kuortti, Mate Paksy, Lynne Pearce, and Johan Schimanski. Thanks to Textxet series editors and acquisitions editor Christa Stevens at Brill. I should also like to thank the anonymous reviewers of my manuscript for their comments. The research chapters comprising this volume are based on articles that have previously appeared in various academic journals; I am greatly indebted to the anonymous peer-​reviewers who have helped me improve the articles and also the journal editors for fruitful dialogues –​special thanks to Carli Coetzee (Journal of African Cultural Studies) and Tim Youngs (Studies in Travel Writing) for particularly pleasant editing and publishing processes. Versions of these chapters have also been presented at various academic conferences over the years: I am grateful for all the insightful feedback I have received during these events. Thanks to my mother Kaisa for her encouragement and dark humour, and my brother Tuomas for weight-​training tips. Et finalement, le plus grand merci à ma petite famille pour leur amour, soutien et flexibilité:  Tuure, mon petit soleil, et Vincent, mon complice et compagnon de vie. I dedicate this book to the memory of my father, Pekka Pertti Einari Toivanen (1951–​2014). An earlier version of Chapter 1 has appeared as “Anxious Mobilities in Accra and Beyond: Making Modern African Subjects in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes: A Love Story” in Matatu 49 (2017), 307–​328. Chapter  2 is based on “Spaces of In-​between-​ness and Unbelonging:  The Hotel in Short Stories by Sefi Atta and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”, published in English Studies in Africa 60.1 (2017), 1–​11. Chapter 3 has been published as “Uneasy ‘homecoming’ in Alain Mabanckou’s Lumières de Pointe-​Noire” in Studies in Travel Writing 3.3 (2017), 327–​345. Chapter  4 is a revised version of “Emailing/​Skyping Africa:  New Technologies and Communication Gaps in Contemporary African Women’s Fiction”, which has appeared in ariel 47.4 (2016), 135–​161. Chapter  5 has appeared as “Cartographies of Paris: Everyday Mobilities in Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps and Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-​toi et meurs” in the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies 6.1 (2019), 59–​78. An earlier version of Chapter 6 has been published as “Clandestine Migrant Mobility, European Peripheries, and Practical Cosmopolitanism in Fabienne Kanor’s Faire l’aventure” in the

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open-​access journal Francosphères 8.2 (2019), 127–​142. Chapter 7 is based on the article “Failing Border Crossings and Cosmopolitanism in Brian Chikwava’s Harare North”, published online in The Journal of Commonwealth Literature on 3 September 2018. Chapter  8 is a revised version of “The Unattainable Mediterranean:  Arrested Clandestine Odysseys in Sefi Atta’s ‘Twilight Trek’ and Marie NDiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes”, which was published in Research in African Literatures 47.4 (2016), 133–​151. Chapter  9 is based on the article “Zombified Mobilities: Clandestine Afroeuropean Journeys in J. R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du nord and Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore”, published in the Journal of African Cultural Studies 31.1 (2019), 120–​134.

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Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

Introduction Business travellers commuting between continents; nostalgic returnees walking in their childhood neighbourhoods; clandestine migrants crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats; illicit lovers meeting in shabby hotels; newcomers taking the Paris métro for the first time; unanswered emails from faraway places  –​contemporary African and Afrodiasporic literatures feature a wide variety of representations of (modern) mobilities. Yet not that much critical attention has been devoted to literary portrayals of concrete, tangible forms of mobility. One reason for the relative lack of critical interest in representations of concrete forms of mobility in African and Afrodiasporic literatures could be that mobility is such a ‘natural’ and ‘obvious’ aspect of the modern postcolonial and globalised life that it easily goes unnoticed in literary texts. I would argue, however, that a more substantial reason for this lack of scholarly interest has to do with the postcolonial studies paradigm: postcolonial studies promote a rather restricted understanding of what ‘mobility’ means. The field of postcolonial studies has paid a lot of attention to the figure of the migrant –​ to such an extent that it can be argued that the migrant has been paradigmatised as the axiomatic representative of globalised postcoloniality. Due to the centrality of the figure of the migrant, postcolonial studies have a tendency to reduce the concept of mobility in migration by equating it with wider global migratory movements or by understanding it in a metaphorical, abstract sense as the founding element of ‘the migrant condition’. As a consequence, postcolonial subjects are not recognised as mobile subjects or travellers –​beyond being migrants, of course (Ní Loingsigh 2009, 2–​3). There is obviously a certain irony in the failure of postcolonial studies to recognise concrete forms of mobility as valuable objects of critical scrutiny, since, as Ċetta Mainwaring and Noelle Bridgen (2016, 247; see also Cresswell 2006, 2; Schapendonk 2012, 137) emphasise, the concept of ‘migration’ does entail concrete mobility practices and travel. These elements tend, however, to be overshadowed or ignored when applying a migration or diaspora studies approach. In effect, postcolonial studies –​a field that has been profoundly informed by migration and diaspora studies –​have been more interested in the outcomes of movement than in the very act of movement itself, as Marian Aguiar, Charlotte Mathieson and Lynne Pearce (2019, 19) argue. At the same time, it is somewhat confusing that the term ‘mobility’ seems to feature more and more frequently in current postcolonial studies discussions. This does not, however, mean that the field would suddenly be interested in exploring concrete forms of mobility and travel. Rather, the term ‘mobility’ has been adopted and is being used as

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2021 | DOI:10.1163/9789004444751_002Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

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Introduction

a mere substitute for such previously popular notions as migration, diaspora, exile, and displacement. Meanwhile, studies genuinely engaging with the analysis of representations of concrete mobility practices and modes of transportation remain exceptions in postcolonial literary scholarship.1 Instead of reducing the meaning of mobility to a synonym for migration or a metaphor for diasporic displacement, my understanding of ‘mobility’ draws on the way in which the concept has been defined in the field of mobility studies and the ‘new mobilities turn’ that mobilities research has generated (Hannam, Sheller & Urry 2006; Sheller & Urry 2006). Following Tim Cresswell’s (2006, 2) definition, mobility “involves displacement –​the act of moving between locations”. While Cresswell (2006, 2) defines ‘movement’ as an abstract form of mobility, ‘mobility’, according to him, is, in contrast, “full of meaning”. The meanings of mobility are socially constructed and relational (Cresswell 2006, 3), and these meanings are relevant not only from the perspective of the mobile subjects themselves but also from the viewpoint of “the people and places that are encountered through such movement” (Bond 2018, 3). Cresswell (2006, 3) outlines three different, yet often profoundly interlinked, aspects of mobility, which include, firstly, mobility “as a brute fact”, that is, ‘real-​life’ mobilities; secondly, as representations of mobility; and thirdly, positing mobility as an embodied and experienced practice. Literary analysis, obviously, is interested in the representational aspects of mobility although, as I will underline later in this introduction, representations of mobility also contribute to the process of making sense of real-​life mobilities, and render experienced, embodied mobilities more tangible. Mobility is “movement imbued with meaning” (Adey 2010, 33) also in the sense that it plays a crucial role in the production of the identities of both people and places (Cresswell & Merriman 2013, 7–​10; Schapendonk 2012, 138). The questions of who is on the move, and why, lie at the heart of what has been referred to by Cresswell (2010, 21) as the politics of mobility, that is, the way in which “mobilities are both productive of [power relations] and produced by them”. Different mobilities form wider mobility systems (e.g., automobility and aeromobility) and entail institutional and infrastructural ‘moorings’ which enable mobilities (Hannam, Sheller & Urry 2006, 3). Furthermore, these mobility systems intersect with each other (Urry 2007, 44). As a consequence, when studying mobilities it is necessary to acknowledge and analyse such interdependencies and entanglements instead of treating different mobility practices in isolation from each other. Mobilities 1 For exceptions, see, e.g., Aatkar 2020; Anyinefa 2003; Borgomano 1998; Forsdick 2016; Green-​ Simms 2017; Jones 2018; Mazauric 2016; Neigh 2018; Ní Loingsigh 2009; Ponsavady 2018; Savonick 2015; Steiner 2014; Tunca 2008; Upstone 2014.

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3

research focuses on a wide variety of different modes of mobility, starting from the corporeal travel of people and physical movement of objects to imaginative, virtual, and communicative travel (Urry 2007, 47). Mobility studies are not concerned simply with globalisation and ‘modern’ mobilities. As Nina Glick Schiller and Noel B. Salazar (2013, 185) suggest, the field “emerged as a critique of the academic tendency to ignore either past or present histories of human movement and interconnection”. Mobility, in a wide variety of forms, characterises all human (and often also non-​human) life and is not limited to specific eras or geographical locations. Indeed, as Mimi Sheller (2014, 48) puts it, “mobilities have long been a central aspect of both historical and contemporary existence, of urban and non-​urban locals, of Western and non-​Western experience”. What should also be underlined is that, far from idealising or romanticising movement or privileging a ‘mobile subjectivity’, mobilities research is interested in the contexts in which mobility takes place and also in the mechanisms that produce not only mobility but also stasis/​ immobility (Bissell 2007; Glick Schiller & Salazar 2013; Hannam, Sheller & Urry 2006, 3–​4). In other words, analysis of different forms of mobility through a mobility studies lens often involves questions related to immobility (Matereke 2016, 114–​115; Schapendonk 2013, 11). In this study my analysis of literary representations of mobility foregrounds physical human travel, but it also addresses aspects of imaginative, virtual, and communicative travel. What characterises my readings is that, instead of reducing mobility to a vague metaphor for diasporic/​migrant displacement the focus is placed on representations of concrete forms of mobility. Moreover, my analysis is motivated by acknowledgement of the intertwined character of different mobilities and their “contrasting time-​ space modalities” (Urry 2007, 47) as well as by the idea that representations of immobility/​stasis are just as relevant aspects of the analysis of the theme of mobility as mobility itself. When the question of mobility in the context of African and Afrodiasporic literatures is addressed, it has to be noted that, from a postcolonial perspective, the association of mobility with modernity (Cresswell 2006, 15) is problematic:  traditional understandings of ‘modernity’ are closely intertwined with the colonial project (Matereke 2016, 113; Mavhunga, Cuvelier & Pype 2016, 44; Wood, Kębłowski & Tuvikene 2020, 2). This association has also defined mainstream mobility studies. As Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga (2012, 77) suggests, mobilities research has had the tendency to overshadow African mobilities that fall beyond the scope of the colonial paradigm and that have been “generated from within without necessarily deferring to or arising from intercourse with the West”. In an important account of how they see the future of study of African mobilities, Mavhunga, Jeroen Cuvelier, and Katrien Pype

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4 Introduction (2016, 44) argue that research into African mobilities should challenge conceptions of Africa as a passive venue for the mobilities of non-​African things and people, focus on African historical mobilities, and criticise Western, universalised notions of mobility. As Mavhunga, Cuvelier, and Pype (2016, 49) suggest, African mobilities can also be studied outside the paradigm of colonial modernity: “African mobilities are such that if technology (specially the automobile, trains, airplanes, ships, telephones, cell phones, and the Internet) is removed, it should still be possible to talk about mobility”. In short, the stereotypical (mis)representation of African cultures and societies as inherently stagnant and immobile does not hold true and needs to be challenged (Matereke 2016, 113; Mavhunga 2011, 81; Mavhunga, Cuvelier & Pype 2016, 44). Besides highlighting the existence of non-​ colonial African mobilities (Mavhunga 2012, 77–​83) and the important role played by mobility in African social structures (Mavhunga 2011, 81), mobility studies scholars focusing on Africa have also drawn attention to the ways in which initially colonial modes of transport have been appropriated by African mobile subjects and users of mobile technologies (Mavhunga, Cuvelier & Pype 2016, 47). Scholars in African automobilities, in particular, have mapped out African automobile subjects’ transgressive and creative uses of initially colonial automobility as ways of challenging social hierarchies, enabling them to claim agency and navigate unstable and precarious situations (see, e.g., Grace 2013; Hart 2016; Melly 2017). By underlining the agency of African mobile subjects in their adaptations of colonial forms of ‘modern’ transportation, mobility studies have, in other words, started to move beyond strictly Western understandings of mobility and mobile technologies. While acknowledging the importance of alternative views of mobility in the African context, this study focuses primarily on mobilities that are typical of the contemporary postcolonial, global era. For instance, many of the texts analysed address transnational and transcontinental mobilities  –​between Africa and Europe in particular. In addition to mobilities enabled by ‘modern’ mobile technologies such as the email, the hotel, automobility, and the metro (for instance, in Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5), the study also draws attention to forms of mobility that are not uniquely associated with modern technologies such as walking or maritime journeys in a pirogue (e.g., Chapters 6, 8, and 9). While the focus is mainly on ‘modern’ forms of mobility and often on mobilities taking place outside the African continent itself, this study nevertheless wishes to contribute to the body of work on African mobilities by exploring how “African mobilities become constitutive of the world outside them and vice versa” (Mavhunga, Cuvelier & Pype 2016, 44). This inclusive approach underlines the diversity of African and Afrodiasporic mobilities and revises

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conventional ideas “picturing the continent as a circumscribed geographical entity” (Mabanckou 2011, 87). In the field of African literary studies the term ‘mobility’ is nowadays frequently paired with that of cosmopolitanism or, more specifically, Afropolitanism (see, e.g., Crowley 2018; Gehrmann 2016; Knudsen 2020; Knudsen & Rahbek 2016). In such cases, ‘mobility’ primarily refers to diasporic displacement and transnational/​continental migration on a general scale, the focus remaining rather on the outcomes of mobility than on mobility practices themselves. ‘Mobility’  –​in the sense of migration and diaspora  –​is seen as the key element of Afropolitanism, an ‘Africanised’ form of ‘cosmopolitan world citizenship’. Much as in the case of the concept of mobility, the use of the term ‘cosmopolitanism’ is often vague and inconsistent (Petzold 2017, 170). In effect, the concept of cosmopolitanism tends to be “used interchangeably with transnationalism, postcolonialism, diaspora and hybridity” (Rovisco 2013, 150). Moreover, the relationship between mobility and cosmopolitanism is often taken for granted: mobile (or rather diasporic or migrant) Africans are sometimes rather automatically referred to as cosmopolitans or Afropolitans. In order to question any taken-​for-​granted conceptualisations of both mobility and cosmopolitanism it is extremely important to “unpack how these two concepts […] relate to each other” (Rovisco 2013, 150). Exploring and questioning the relationship between mobility and cosmopolitanism is, indeed, the aim of this study. The present study has two interlinked lines of inquiry. First of all, the analysis is concerned with the representations of mobility and travel in contemporary Francophone and Anglophone African and Afrodiasporic literatures. The analysis is motivated by the idea of “taking the fact of mobility seriously”, as the mobility studies scholar Tim Cresswell (2010, 18) has formulated it. This is achieved by placing literary representations of mobility and travel at the centre of the analysis. The second line of inquiry, which is, to a certain extent, connected to the theme of mobility, consists of analysing the texts from the perspective of the concept of cosmopolitanism. The main research question which this study sets out to answer pertains to the relationship between mobility and cosmopolitanism:  how are mobilities represented in contemporary African and Afrodiasporic Francophone and Anglophone literatures and what is the role –​if any –​played by articulations of cosmopolitanism in these portrayals of mobility? I  approach this question by contextualising three wider categories of mobility which are reflected in the structure of the study and which convey the idea of how mobility is a differentially accessed resource (Cresswell 2010, 21): the mobilities of affluent travellers; the mobilities of subjects who do not have unrestrained access to the socio-​cultural and economic

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6 Introduction capital of the privileged classes; and finally, severely underprivileged mobilities characterised by abjection. These three different categories reflect not only the differences in the accessibility of the mobility resource but also the positioning of the mobile subjects vis-​à-​vis the concept of cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism is frequently understood as ‘world citizenship’, or, to quote Tim Brennan’s (1997) widely cited formulation, a condition of “being at home in the world”. The concept of cosmopolitanism is notoriously complex and slippery in the sense that it can be invested with many different, and sometimes even conflicting, meanings. Cosmopolitanism has traditionally been associated with the travel of white affluent classes, and even with the colonial project (Bridet et al. 2018, 5), but its more recent reformulations criticise the elitist, Eurocentric and colonial roots of the concept and widen its scope so as to include non-​Western and not necessarily privileged expressions of ‘world citizenship’(Vertovec & Cohen 2008, 5). As the idea of cosmopolitanism as an identity or a lifestyle of “frequent travellers” has become subject to criticism (Calhoun 2008, 89), the concept has been reformulated as an active ethical engagement in the world and in the Other (Appiah 2006), a “planetary consciousness” (Gilroy 2005, 290), or as a political movement favouring global solidarity (Cheah 2006, “Cosmopolitanism”). There is also a certain tension between the aspirational and the practical dimensions of the concept (Amit & Gardiner Barber 2015). While some scholars understand cosmopolitanism as an “actually existing” condition (Robbins 1998) that can be seen to manifest itself at the level of practice in the contemporary globalised world (Beck 2006; Mazauric 2018; Mbembe 2008, 109; Quayson 2017), others claim that cosmopolitanism is a utopian condition that does not exist in the present (Spencer 2011, 3). Closely linked to this ethico-​utopian understanding is an approach that focuses on the failures of cosmopolitan ideals in the present; this stance has been referred to as critical cosmopolitanism (Kurasawa 2011). My readings of the selected African and African diasporic literary texts attest to cosmopolitanism’s multiple, and sometimes conflicting, meanings by attracting attention to its privileged, practical, and critical aspects. The structuring of the study in three parts, revolving around affluent, underprivileged/​popular, and abject forms of mobility respectively, reflects these various dimensions. The research material consists of Francophone and Anglophone African and Afrodiasporic literary texts from the 1990s to the 2010s. The text corpus includes the following texts: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2014) and “Transition to Glory” (2006); Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes:  A Love Story (1991); Sefi Atta’s “Housekeeping” (2010) and “Twilight Trek” (2010); NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (2013); Brian Chikwava’s Harare North (2009); J.R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du nord (1996); Fabienne Kanor’s Faire l’aventure

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(2014); Liss Kihindou’s Chêne de bambou (2013); Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-​toi et meurs (2012) and Lumières de Pointe-​Noire (2013); Marie NDiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes (2009); Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore (2000); Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps (1996); and Véronique Tadjo’s Loin de mon père (2010). The works analysed have been selected on the basis of their relevance with respect to the mobility theme and their appropriateness for an analysis tackling the concept of cosmopolitanism. This study focuses on representations, not on the material conditions of production of the texts,2 or the historical or sociological aspects of African literary mobilities.3 Cosmopolitanism is discussed as an idea(l) which is articulated by the texts in one way or another, although it is not taken as a characteristic of the novels (as in ‘the cosmo/​Afropolitan novel’)4 or the authors (‘cosmo/​Afropolitan writer’) as such. The title of the study, alluding to African and Afrodiasporic literatures in the plural, highlights the diversity of the field. Most of the authors of the texts under discussion represent contemporary African diasporas that have resulted from migration, but there are also writers who do not fit into the category of ‘African literature’ in any unproblematic way. For instance, while Fabienne Kanor and Caryl Phillips are certainly not ‘African authors’, they can be seen to belong to the historical African diasporas generated by the transatlantic slave trade, in addition to which their positions are also defined by contemporary migrations. In terms of the global publishing industry and book market, the meaning of the politics of location for (the study of) African literatures cannot be emphasised enough. The most famous and internationally awarded African authors are those living in the diaspora and publishing with major Western editors –​to the extent that diasporic literature has become representative of African literature in general (Harris 2020, 9; Krishnan 2014, 2–​3; 166–​167).5 The text corpus analysed here includes works by internationally awarded authors who enjoy global readerships (e.g., Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sefi Atta, Alain Mabanckou), but 2 In the 2000s and 2010s, the field of African literary studies (and postcolonial literary studies in general) has seen a ‘material turn’ in which traditional close reading of literary texts has been challenged and complemented by methodologies including archival research, interviews, and ethnography. For studies of the material conditions of production of African literatures, see, e.g., Bush 2016; Davis, Creating, 2013; Ducournau 2017; Krishnan 2014 & 2018; Suhr-​Sytsma 2017; Umezurike 2019; Wallis 2019. 3 See, e.g., Gueye 2001; Ducournau 2011; Thomas 2013. On fictional portrayals of African intellectuals in Paris, see Garnier 2012. 4 On the ‘cosmopolitan novel’, see Schoene 2010. 5 The hegemony of diasporic African literature is problematic as it overshadows texts published by local African publishers both on the global book market and in academia (see, e.g., Harris 2020; Krishnan 2014).

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8 Introduction also authors with closer ties with the African continent (e.g., Ama Ata Aidoo, Véronique Tadjo) as well as authors who may not occupy a very central position in the African literary canon (J.R. Essomba, Liss Kihindou). If the attempt to categorise authors or texts as African is a complex question, then Africa as represented in the writings of African writers and those of its old and contemporary diasporas is equally heterogenous and attests to “multiple identitarian configurations” (Tunca & Ledent 2015, 4, 7–​8). In the texts analysed in this study, Africa is often present as a setting, but many of the texts also address Africa’s diverse entanglements with Europe.6 Indeed, the diversity of the text corpus conveys the mobile character of African and Afrodiasporic literatures and indicates that “Africa is no longer solely in Africa”, as Alain Mabanckou (2011, 87; emphasis original) has suggested. Many of the chapters offer comparative readings of two or more texts. Comparative readings tend to be illuminating in the sense that, by placing texts in a dialogue with each other, recurring patterns, tropes, or narrative strategies are revealed. This idea of enhancing dialogue also motivates my approach vis-​ à-​vis the transgression of linguistic borders. Francophone and Anglophone African literatures tend to be discussed in separate realms, but such pigeonholing along conventional language barriers is artificial (De Meyer & Kortenaar 2009, xix; Gyssels & Ledent 2010, 13)  and “reinforc[es] the false notion that [Anglophone and Francophone] literatures are inherently different” (Nfah-​ Abbenyi 1997, x). By discussing Francophone and Anglophone African texts side by side, this study contributes to enhancing dialogue between the two fields and, by extension, establishing a dialogue between (Anglophone) postcolonial and Francophone studies (see Forsdick & Murphy 2003, 7). 1

Mobility and Cosmopolitanism: Complex Relations, Shortcomings, and Unease

One of the key motivations of this study has been the observation that both ‘mobility’ and ‘cosmopolitanism’ are concepts that have been used vaguely and that the relation between the two is often taken for granted: mobility is equated with migration and seen to generate cosmopolitan aspirations and engagements with the world beyond one’s immediate milieu. Illustrative of this is the traditional understanding of frequent transnational travellers as axiomatic

6 For studies on the entwinements between Africa and Europe, see, e.g., Bekers, Helff & Merolla 2009; Espinoza Garrido et al., 2020; Hitchcott & Thomas 2014; Olaussen 2009.

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cosmopolitans. Similarly, the transnational mobility of people –​in the form of migration  –​and the cultural encounters it entails are frequently seen as generating cosmopolitan spaces; this is the case of multicultural metropolises in particular. Such straightforward associations of mobility and cosmopolitanism are extremely problematic as they rely on a superficial, reductive understanding of cosmopolitanism as not much more than a passive by-​product of transnational mobility. While remaining wary of any too easy equating of mobility with cosmopolitanism, it has to be acknowledged that there is, in effect, a link between the two. For if cosmopolitanism is understood as an attitude informed by such ideals as openness to alterity, and an understanding of one’s own positionality in a wider global context, and as an ability to cross cultural borders without being limited by the constraints of one’s own cultural and national background and affiliations, then it is clear that mobility –​be it physical or non-​physical –​does indeed play an important role in what cosmopolitanism is. An understanding of the self, the world and the Other that exceeds the boundaries of the local and the national necessitates some form of mobility simply because mobility is an element that has the potential to expose people to transcultural encounters (Matereke 2011). Such encounters beyond the boundaries of the local, the national, and the familiar, may, in turn, ideally lead to cosmopolitan awareness and aspirations. In this sense, it can be argued that “mobility is the essence of cosmopolitanism”, as Mimi Sheller (2011, 349) suggests. This said, mobility alone is certainly not enough to generate cosmopolitan consciousness, ethics, or aspirations. The stereotypical conception of the tourist as a mobile subject who transgresses national boundaries without really engaging in any sort of substantial transcultural dialogue is probably the most obvious example of how mobility does not automatically lead to cosmopolitan consciousness or approaches (Petzold 2017, 169). On the other hand, it is also clear that not all migrants become ‘cosmopolitans’ simply by being on the move: migrants may end up producing somewhat uneasy forms of locality and parochialism in Western metropolitan spaces, as Simon Gikandi (2010, 23–​26) has argued. Such situations challenge unproblematised associations between mobility and cosmopolitanism, and attest to the failure of cosmopolitan ideals  –​or the shortcomings of cosmopolitan conviviality (Mendes 2019)  –​in the highly mobile, globalised, postcolonial present. Indeed, as recent crises of cosmopolitan conviviality in the form of the rise of antagonistic, xenophobic and fundamentalist discourses suggest, mobility not only has the potential to enhance cosmopolitan attitudes but may also “lead to an anxious, defensive, and on occasion violent policing of the boundaries” (Greenblatt 2010, “Cultural”, 7). As the notion of conviviality –​which is closely associated with

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10 Introduction cosmopolitanism –​suggests, the realisation of cosmopolitan ideals depends on interaction. In the words of Vered Amit and Pauline Gardiner Barber (2015, 545), “If it is to be more than a passive or even grudging accommodation of diversity and interdependence […], then cosmopolitanism requires an element of mutual willingness for engagement”. Indeed, the failure of certain mobile subjects, immersed in milieus that seem to promote the possibility of transcultural encounters, to adopt cosmopolitan orientations does not necessarily result from their lack of “cosmopolitan competencies” and cosmopolitan cultural capital (see Igarashi & Saito 2014, 225) but from different forms of social marginalisation that deny them their claims to world citizenship. This may be the case of underprivileged, racialised mobile subjects such as refugees and clandestine migrants in particular, as the chapters in the third part of this study demonstrate. Another manifestation of the problematic and too easy equating of mobility and cosmopolitanism can be identified in the controversial figure of the Afropolitan. In the fields of African (diasporic) literary and cultural studies, the Afropolitan has in recent years become a popular but also a criticised re-​ interpretation of the figure of the cosmopolitan. The notion of Afropolitanism has mostly been associated with the diasporic author Taiye Selasi and her essay “Bye-​Bye Babar” (2005), in which Selasi introduces her ‘Africanised’ reformulation of the figure of the cosmopolitan: an elite Afrodiasporic subject for whom transgressing cultural and topographical borders does not pose any particular problems. In other words, in Selasi’s formulation, Afropolitanism is a marker of the identity of privileged, diasporic Africans. In this sense, Afropolitanism can be seen as a form of cosmopolitanisation from above (Bridet et al. 2018, 9). Its inbuilt elitism, its disconnection from African ‘material realities’ and its theoretical shallowness have made Afropolitanism a highly criticised concept (see, e.g., Dabiri 2016, 2017; Harris 2020; Musila 2016; Toivanen 2017). Reduced to a mere identity position and lifestyle of the mobile elite, Afropolitanism is a very limited reconceptualisation of the concept of cosmopolitanism and resonates with traditional understandings of cosmopolitanism as the position of the travelling elite. The main problem with the idea of cosmopolitanism as an identity position –​as the cosmopolitan –​is that the ethical and political ramifications that inform most contemporary formulations of cosmopolitanism seem to become entirely lost there. The fact of reducing cosmopolitanism to an identity position and a consequent ethical shallowness, together with the unproblematised equating of mobility with cosmopolitanism are the main reasons why I avoid using the notion of Afropolitanism in analysing the potential manifestations and failures of cosmopolitanism in the texts under scrutiny –​except when using it in a critical sense to highlight its limits (as in

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Chapter 7) or as a tool for exposing the shallowness of the alleged ‘cosmopolitanism’ of certain fictional characters (as in Chapter 1). The idea that multicultural loci would somehow automatically be cosmopolitan is equally problematic, for many of the same reasons as the notion of the Afropolitan. Excessively straightforward conceptions of specific places as ‘cosmopolitan’ promote a reductive understanding of cosmopolitanism as not much more than a by-​product of mobility-​enhanced –​and often merely cosmetic  –​diversity. Many visually multicultural metropolises also entail ethnic enclaves and ghettos, and the symbolic borders inside metropolitan spaces may be unsurmountable in a way that prevents genuine transcultural encounters and thus hinders the realisation of cosmopolitan ideals (Werbner 2015, 570). In other words, cosmopolitanism should not be confused with multiculturalism since, as Emily Johansen (2014, 12; emphasis original) suggests, inhabitants of allegedly cosmopolitan metropolises “may encounter difference whether they choose it or not through its very omnipresence”. For an approach or a sensibility to be qualified as cosmopolitan, there has to be an active, dialogic engagement with alterity and the non-​familiar. It can, of course, be argued that cosmopolitanism is not much more than a utopian ideal and that cosmopolitanism does not even exist in the present world –​except perhaps in imperfect, partial forms (Spencer 2011, 3). Indeed, this notion is central to my own understanding of the concept. As Aleksandar Stević and Philip Tsang (2019, 1, 3; emphasis original) argue, cosmopolitanism “can be more productively studied through its limits” for the simple reason that “reality is not cosmopolitan”. As Stević and Tsang argue, in practical terms –​ as embodied in Ulrich Beck’s (2006) concept of “cosmopolitanization” –​the 21st century world seems cosmopolitan in the sense that globalisation and the increase in different forms of mobility are prone to generate transcultural encounters with people with whom “we share little in terms of origin, culture, and language” (2019, 3; see also Nyman 2017, 3–​4). While this sort of practical cosmopolitanism certainly shapes the globalised and increasingly interconnected postcolonial present, it is simultaneously clear that this does not mean that cosmopolitan ideals –​that is, the aspirational, utopian aspects of the concept –​would be achieved in the present. In this sense, I subscribe to Stević’s and Tsang’s (2019) argument that cosmopolitanism in the present can only be studied from a critical perspective through its shortcomings. According to Kurasawa (2011, 279), cosmopolitanism designates a worldview which consists of the idea of being a world citizen, an ethos of worldliness, and a “belief in human unity”. Since these ideals, or “normative aspirations”, are far from being realised in the present, the role of critical cosmopolitanism is to pay attention to “the structural obstacles and relations of domination preventing such ideals

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12 Introduction from being presently achieved”, and to envisage “alternative perspectives and practices by which cosmopolitan principles can be grounded in the material world” (Kurasawa 2011, 280). While there are certainly literary texts that can be seen to articulate such cosmopolitan perspectives, aspirations and even practices (see, e.g., Shaw 2017, 4; Spencer 2011, 11), my own readings of selected African and Afrodiasporic literary texts are more focused on the negative than a reconstructive critique. The idea of the shallowness, incompleteness or outright failure of cosmopolitan ideals permeates all the following chapters, and this is particularly manifest in the third part of this study, which consists of readings that map out the limits of cosmopolitanism in the context of clandestine Afroeuropean migrant mobilities. While my approach to cosmopolitanism is characterised by cosmopolitanism’s present failures, the utopian or aspirational dimension of the concept is equally present in the analysis. The simple reason for this is that the ethical content obviously motivates any critical reading of the shortcomings of cosmopolitanism. In effect, it is also important to acknowledge even the ephemeral, fragile, and partial manifestations of cosmopolitanism, as captured in the words of Nina Glick Schiller and Andrew Irving (2017, 3): “Cosmopolitanism is neither inevitable nor impossible”. This idea embodies both the critical, processual, and aspirational aspects central to my understanding of cosmopolitanism (see also Stacey 2017, 163). In my understanding, the key element in the concept of cosmopolitanism is that it should involve an ethical engagement with the world, with the Other, and an understanding of one’s own positionality. While the notion of world citizenship does have an elitist ring to it, I would also argue that the fact of being able and willing to claim the world beyond the local and the national as one’s home is an important aspect of cosmopolitanism. For a position or an approach to be qualified as cosmopolitan, there has to be an active engagement with elements beyond the already known and familiar, and an ability to understand others’ perspectives. As my analysis of the literary texts under scrutiny suggests, manifestations of cosmopolitanism that entail an active ethical engagement are also necessarily imperfect. For this very reason, the question of whether a fictional character is or is not a cosmopolitan is not of much relevance for my analysis: I am more interested in the potential manifestations of cosmopolitan aspirations –​and the lack thereof –​which the literary texts articulate. This idea runs throughout this study, including in chapters in which I focus on fictional characters or narrators who could qualify as Afropolitans. Cosmopolitanism should not be used as a qualifier of a literary text or a fictional character without serious analysis of the potential articulations of cosmopolitan engagements and aspirations.

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If the notion of failure or shortcoming characterises the manifestations of cosmopolitanism in the texts analysed in this study, the portrayals of mobility are equally marked by a sense of unease. In effect, it can be stated that one of the central elements that defines my readings of the selected African and African diasporic literary texts and their representations of mobility is the ideas of anxiety and interruption. This attests to the way in which the idea of the global era, as defined by smooth ‘flows’ of people, is in many respects idealised, and the fact that “mobilities are often failed, unrealised, and unachievable” draws attention to immobility as the unavoidable underside of mobility (Matereke 2016, 114). Despite the fact that the fictional characters or narrators are on the move in one way or another, their mobilities always seem to be shaped by an unease or suspension of some sort. The anxious or interrupted qualities of the analysed African literary mobilities characterise the analysis of all categories of mobility, starting from the seemingly care-​free travels and displacements of mobile subjects who may come across as privileged ‘Afropolitans’. Moreover, anxieties and interruptions equally shape the mobilities of non-​elite travellers for whom the ideal of world citizenship is harder to achieve; they culminate in representations of the underprivileged and mobility-​poor travellers such as asylum seekers and clandestine migrants. Anxieties that relate to mobility have to do with the transformative capacities of mobility. As Ingo Berensmeyer and Christoph Ehland (2013, 22) argue, “Studying mobility […] means first of all coming to terms with the changeable, the fleeting, the alienating in one’s understanding of culture and society”. In contemporary postcolonial writing, travel and mobility not only entail “the promise of transculturation” but also uneasy feelings such as melancholia that spring from the experience of displacement (Nyman 2017, 2). Naturally, the anxieties that range across the three different mobile positions as outlined in the parts of the study (elite, popular, and abject) take different forms and manifest themselves in varied ways. In the case of privileged mobilities, as represented in the analysed texts, mobility-​related anxieties are mostly metaphysical. The mobilities of travellers that could be ironically referred to as business class cosmopolitans are characterised by their relative ease: their socio-​economic privilege enables them to choose comfortable hotel rooms for their stays; travel from Lagos to London for a tourist trip, and return to their former home countries for short holidays without experiencing any particular problems with travel documents and border procedures. In other words, the premises of their mobilities are such that their physical displacements are rather easy-​going and smooth. However, as my analysis suggests, the privileged mobilities are simultaneously troubled by issues related to identity, belonging, and, occasionally, guilty awareness of personal privilege. Post-​independence

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14 Introduction elites seem disturbed by their own hypermobility as they get involved in the process of becoming modern mobile subjects, as in Aidoo’s novel (Chapter 1); diasporic business class travellers and affluent lovers in adulterous relationships long for stability and home instead of spaces of transit, as in Atta’s and Adichie’s short stories (Chapter  2), while privileged, high-​flying returnees struggle with questions of unbelonging, nostalgia, and feelings of guilt, as in Mabanckou’s return travelogue (Chapter 3). As my analysis suggests, the narratives of privileged forms of mobility do not necessarily subscribe to the idea of mobility as a form of freedom (see Glick Schiller & Salazar 2013, 190; Sheller 2008), but emphasise that the transformative nature of mobility may, in some cases, cause anxiety (Berensmeyer & Ehland 2013, 13; Cresswell 2006, 17). In so doing, the texts complicate the evaluative binary that exists between mobility and immobility: mobility does not necessarily have an empowering, positively transformative effect on those on the move. In the case of less privileged mobilities, which are often characterised by popular, everyday adaptations of cosmopolitanism, the anxieties shaping the travellers’ mobilities start to have more material dimensions that tend to translate into concrete, material interruptions and deviations in the physical movement itself. The travellers whose mobilities embody elements of popular cosmopolitanism are often those whose ‘world citizenship’ is not entirely secured. These mobile subjects of the global era may be connected to the world beyond the local and the national through (not always entirely functional) technological devices, as in the texts by Kihindou, Bulawayo, Tadjo, and Adichie (­chapter 4). Or they can be newly arrived migrants who do their best to navigate the complex mobility systems of the postcolonial metropolis in order to become modern mobile subjects, as in Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s novels (Chapter  5). The anxious and interrupted aspects of mobility are also illustrative of clandestine migrants’ time-​consuming and risky journeys between Africa and Europe, as suggested by my analysis of Kanor’s novel (Chapter 6). Besides oscillating in the limbo between mobility and immobility, these travellers suffer from a specific form of melancholic unease that is caused by the unreachability of the destination that they pursue. Here, the physical sense of stagnation translates into a psychological, paralysing, melancholic condition. And finally, abject forms of mobility are those in which the metaphysical mobility-​related anxieties of the ‘business class cosmopolitans’ come across as a luxury that only privileged travellers can afford. The mobilities of these ‘citizens of nowhere’ are informed by very concrete forms of setbacks that easily result in states of stagnation, immobility and non-​arrival. The obstacles in the way of clandestine migrants’ and asylum seekers’ mobilities are such that their destinations turn out to be totally out of reach, not only symbolically but also

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15

Introduction

in a very concrete way. As the chapters in the third part of the study suggest, these are mobilities that are haunted by a constant risk of death:  in all the texts discussed here, one or more of the central characters end up or are at risk of losing their minds and then dying a violent death. In this sense, the repercussions of abject mobilities become very concrete and physical indeed. In so doing, the texts attest to the often violent character of postcolonial mobilities and the fact that they “cannot be idealised as a practice of liberation” (Upstone 2014, 44–​45). The mobilities of underprivileged travellers are constantly jeopardised by the risks of interruption and captivity, and even when they reach the destination that they pursue, they may not be able to return to where they came from when they want to, as, for instance, the protagonist in Chikwava’s novel finds (Chapter 7). For these abject travellers, the status of an illegal immigrant would be an achievement, since it implies that they have made it across the border. Instead, they are condemned to a state of stagnation in migrant camps, like the clandestine travellers in Atta’s short story and NDiaye’s novel (Chapter 8). Furthermore, these narratives often entail erroneous ideas about the destination: Europe is seen as a safe haven that can save the travellers from the mobile limbo to which they are condemned, as my analysis of Essomba’s and Phillips’s novels demonstrates (Chapter 9). The ideas of the destinations produced through imaginative and virtual travel do not have much in common with the realities accessed through physical travel. It can be argued that, besides drawing attention to the limits of cosmopolitanism in various contexts of mobility, the texts analysed in this study also challenge conventional ideas about the empowering and liberating effects of mobility, and underline its uneasy aspects instead. Moreover, rigid juxtapositions between mobility and immobility are questioned since mobile pursuits may turn into a state of stagnation at any moment, and those who are on the move may in fact desire stability and a sense of belonging that is symbolised in the notion of immobility. 2

Mobilities, Representation, and the Literary Form

While mobility studies have mostly been associated with the social sciences (human geography and sociology in particular), scholars in the humanities and arts have also made significant contributions to the formation of the field (Aguiar, Mathieson & Pearce 2019, 4–​5; Merriman & Pearce 2017, 493–​494; Pearce 2019, 27–​29). The increasing dialogue between the social sciences and the humanities currently happening in the field of mobility studies produces complex understandings of mobilities in a way that takes into account the

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16 Introduction different “relational moments” of mobility, that is, real-​life mobilities, and the representational and embodied/​experienced aspects of mobility (Cresswell 2006, 3). Postcolonial studies, which have not yet been affected by the ‘mobilities turn’ (Lagji 2019, 229), would greatly benefit from a dialogue with mobilities research in order to develop a more complex understanding of the concept of ‘mobility’. Such an understanding would help the critical reader not only to see postcolonial mobile subjects more than simply migrants but also to acknowledge different and often overlapping modes of mobility that also constitute postcolonial mobile subjects. By this I  am referring to the potential recognition of “the proximities and overlaps that exist between exiles, migrants, expatriates and travellers” (Averis & Hollis-​Touré 2016, 4) and various other mobile subjectivities in a very tangible way that would consider how concrete mobility practices define the position of the paradigmatised migrant figure. Furthermore, widening the scope of what ‘mobility’ can actually mean in postcolonial scholarship would also constitute an important step forward in the process of paying more attention to mobilities in the context of postcolonial nations, which have been overshadowed by issues of transnationalism and migration (Upstone 2014, 39). Moreover, it is clear that interdisciplinary dialogues between mobility studies and postcolonial literary studies work in two ways: mobilities research can gain new insights into the meaning-​making processes of different mobilities through postcolonially-​oriented analyses of literary texts. Social sciences-​oriented mobility studies have been primarily interested in real-​life mobilities and the politics of mobility that informs them. Literary texts obviously deal not with real-​life mobilities but with textual representations of mobility, which may vary from realistic to fantastic registers. Literature can be seen as a realm that renders mobility ‘representable’ –​indeed, mobility is an element which is often seen to escape representation (Cresswell 2006, 47; Murray & Upstone 2014, “Mobilising”, 5). I would argue that, in effect, literature is an extremely rich territory for studying the multiple and complex meanings of mobility. As aesthetic articulations of movement, literary texts not only draw on real-​life mobilities and embodied experiences of mobility but also intensify, complicate, and question the meanings that are attached to them. As Emma Bond (2018, 7) suggests, literary texts are helpful for understanding the differential dimensions of mobility, but also as “creative forms of expression [literary texts] can themselves have a mobilizing, or moving effect, as fictionalized and semi-​fictionalized accounts both hold great potential to recount the lives of those affected by mobility”. Representations of mobility contribute to making sense of real-​life mobilities by “actively provid[ing] sensations and feelings of mobility in its multiple forms and dimensions”

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(Kabelik 2019, 143). In a way, then, mobilities become “illuminated through representation” (Murray & Upstone 2014, “Mobilising”, 8). It is important to understand that the role of literary (and other forms of creative) representations of mobility is less instructive or utilitarian than the role played by producing new knowledge (Kabelik 2019, 144). In other words, the role of literary texts in the process of making meanings out of mobility is not to passively reflect real-​life mobilities but to “actively produce them in a range of contexts” (Murray & Upstone 2014, “Mobilising”, 3; see also Berensmeyer & Ehland 2013, 22). Literary representations may even challenge the very idea of what constitutes ‘the real’ (Merriman & Pearce 2017, 497) and actively engage in imagining the future as, for instance, in the case of science fiction (Aguiar, Mathieson & Pearce 2019, 22–​25). While literary texts cannot be reduced to mere sociological proofs, that is, ‘reflections’ of reality or recordings of the past, they are not entirely detached from the ‘real world’, either. Literary texts spring from specific contexts or are “worldly” (Said 1991), so that “when a text’s overtly symbolic use of cultural phenomenon is placed in its proper historical/​cultural context it often becomes clear that it was chosen as a trope on account of its topicality” (Aguiar, Mathieson & Pearce 2019, 8). Acknowledging the entanglements of the “brute fact” of mobility (Cresswell 2006, 3) and representations of mobility deconstructs the conventional, artificial binary established between the perspectives of social sciences and humanities in the study of mobilities (Murray & Upstone 2014, “Mobilising”, 18). Such a conception of the relation between literature and society does not reduce literature to a passive mirror but acknowledges its key role in understanding the complexities, contradictions, and ambiguities of the social (Quayson 2003, xvi, xviii). According to Ato Quayson (2003, xxii), “It is not so much that the real engenders representation and acquires priority over it or vice versa, as that reality itself acquires its texture only by way of the repetitions of its various representations of reality”. In a similar vein, in their discussion addressing ‘real’ borders and their representations, Mireille Rosello and Stephen F. Wolfe (2017, 6) state that while there certainly is a difference between a reality of “the border ‘itself’ ” and the representation thereof, “the ‘itself’ of the border is a product of the aesthetic laws that format the realm of the social and the political”. In short, aesthetic practices, such as literary representations, play an active role in people’s ways of relating to the real (Rosello & Wolfe 2019, 15). In line with these ideas, my starting point is that literary representations of mobility allow for a deeper understanding of the complexities and contradictions of ‘real life’ mobilities, and that representations of mobility also inform our understanding of the meanings of mobilities as “brute fact” (Cresswell 2006, 3).

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18 Introduction I approach the texts in the text corpus as expressions of artistic creation which allude to real-​world contexts –​contexts that they simultaneously construct discursively. ‘Context’ is not a mere ‘background’ from which literary texts ‘spring’ or ‘against’ which they are supposed to be interpreted. Rather, literature takes part in producing the context itself: Context does not exist before the author or the text, neither does it exist outside them. True to their literal meaning, “con-​texts” are fellow texts which always exist together with the texts for which they are contexts. Moreover, this togetherness often means being inside the text, as part of it. lehtonen 2000, 111; emphasis original

Contexts are unavoidably “open-​ended and heterogenous”, and “every social context identified as providing the ‘background’ to the representation is already saturated with the interests and perspectives of the analyst” (Quayson 2003, xxix). Discussing literary texts that focus on different forms of mobility further complicates static, geographic and national understandings of the notion of the context. Some texts may be more explicit in their entwinement with ‘real’ socio-​historical contexts, and some are more overtly political than others. Whatever the balance, as literary texts, they contribute to the construction of the ‘real’. When reading mobilities from a postcolonial studies perspective, the notion of a politics of mobility (Cresswell 2010) and the way in which power structures inform and produce mobility is relevant. As Nina Glick Schiller and Noel B. Salazar (2013, 188) argue, the study of mobilities must be able to simultaneously normalise an array of forms of mobility but not minimise the ways in which legal status, as well as global racialising categories, can make a world of difference in terms of the ease of travel, the repercussions of trying to move, and whether or not the traveller gains or loses status from being from elsewhere. However, when adopting mobility studies theories in the analysis of literary texts, it is not sufficient to pay attention simply to the texts’ articulations of the politics of mobility but also to the literary means that the texts use in order to convey the mobility theme. In other words, when reading mobility in literary texts the question of literariness cannot be ignored. Postcolonial literary studies is an overtly political field that often considers aesthetics to be little more than a luxury that it cannot really afford (Boehmer 2010, 172). Yet any literary research that does not pay attention to the features of a text’s literariness will

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lose sight of what makes literary texts special and does not accord them any other function than to passively reflect and comment on real-​life phenomena. Elleke Boehmer’s (2018) conception of postcolonial aesthetics refers to a reading method that pays attention to elements such as narrative structures and the uses of tropes while simultaneously acknowledging the worldliness of the texts. Indeed, as Boehmer (2018, 1–​2) argues, considerations of the literary form of postcolonial texts do not “obscure” scholars’ or readers’ attention from pressing political ‘real world’ issues but, rather, increase our understanding of the world in which we are living. Following Boehmer’s ideas, this study establishes that for a fruitful dialogue between mobilities research and postcolonial literary studies, proper attention to the question of literariness, together with (post)colonial power structures, is essential. Some of the ways in which mobility can affect literary form have been discussed in the context of different literary traditions, genres, and movements. One of the most typical examples can be seen in modernist and ‘experimental’ literatures that “reveal the extent to which mobile practices and experiences (e.g., ‘speed’, thrill-​seeking) have become part of the historical zeitgeist in their representational and/​or metaphorical applications”, as Lynne Pearce (2019, 3; emphasis original) states (see also Berensmeyer & Ehland 2013, 13). Some examples of such studies are Andrew Thacker’s Moving through Modernity: Space and Geography in Modernism (2009), which explores the links between the aesthetics of modernism and the emergence of modern transport, and Emma Short’s (2019) study of mobility and the hotel in modern literature, which pays attention to the way in which the hotel space shapes the narrative structure and the literary form. Interest in the relation between mobility and literary form is not limited to modernist aesthetics. Chris Ewers’s Mobility in the English Novel from Defoe to Austen (2018) focuses on 18th and early-​19th century English literature, with the specific aim of demonstrating how new forms of mobility translate into literary form in terms of narration and literary genre. Ingrid Horrocks’s Women Wanderers and the Writing of Mobility, 1784–​1814 (2017) addresses textual forms of wandering in a wide set of literary genres ranging from travelogues to poetry and sentimental novels. Roman Kabelik (2019), for one, has analysed ways in which narrative perspective and rhythm contribute to the meanings of mobility in Goethe’s and Fontane’s texts. In his article, entitled “Mobilities of Form”, Ian C. Davidson (2017, 548) argues that the increase in mobility in the 20th and 21st centuries also manifests itself in literature –​not only in thematic terms but also in the ways in which “the [literary] form and genre […] [are] influenced by mobility practices”. The use of mobility-​related metaphors constitutes a literary strategy that can be seen as a potential manifestation of a poetics of mobility (see, e.g., Lothmann & Schumacher 2013;

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20 Introduction Strasen, Lothmann & Wenzel 2013). The interweaving of the mobility theme and literary form is also a crucial element of certain literary genres. One example of this is travel writing, where narratives invariably revolve around a representation of a journey which structures the narrative. Another case in point is crime fiction, where mobility is not only an essential part of plot and character construction but also of consumption (see, e.g., Ewers 2016; Gulddal, King & Rolls 2019; Huck 2012). As these different examples suggest, the study of different forms of mobility is not uniquely a question of how literary texts represent real-​life mobilities but also of how they actively produce mobilities in the textual realm and in so doing, make sense of a world on the move. The formal features to which the texts analysed in this study resort in their representations of different mobilities obviously vary according to the texts’ internal aesthetic logics. In other words, there is no single ‘poetics of mobility’ that would manifest itself consistently throughout the text corpus. While it is impossible to point out general features that the text corpus would share in their formal representations of mobility, some elements that contribute to the production of their respective ways of translating mobility into the literary form include, for instance, generic issues, narratives styles and structures, and the use of mobility-​related tropes. As already mentioned, some literary genres are profoundly motivated by the notion of mobility. Cases in point are the travelogue and the thriller, as my analyses of two different texts by Alain Mabanckou suggest (Chapters 3 and 5). In Lumières de Pointe-​Noire, the author-​narrator’s return journey to his native country defines the structure of the entire narrative, whereas the author’s thriller Tais-​toi et meurs resorts to portrayals of urban mobility in order to create a sense of suspense that is characteristic of crime fiction. The articulation of mobility through variations in narrative speed can also be seen as a way of rendering the mobility theme in literary form. This type of formal strategy can be identified not only in Tais-​toi et meurs but also in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes: A Love Story, where the oscillation of the narrative speed between hypermobility and immobility reflects the life cycle of an initially adulterous and potentially transgressive love affair that turns into a prison made up of a polygamous marriage and the domestic space (Chapter  1). The poetics of mobility may also spring from a text’s setting:  in Atta’s short story (Chapter  2), the hotel room in which the events occur can be read as a chronotope of globalised postcoloniality through its articulations of global inequalities and diasporic unbelonging. The poetics of mobility can also be seen in operation in texts that draw their inspiration from modern communication technologies such as email, as demonstrated in my discussion in Chapter 4. Here, the influence of mobile technologies on the literary form not only reflects the increasing role played by these technologies

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in Africa’s connections with the rest of the world but also articulates the communication gaps that these connections often encounter. Narrative gaps and silences can also be well-​adapted literary strategies for conveying the idea of traumatising experiences of travel, as in the case of Fabienne Kanor’s novel Faire l’aventure, where clandestine maritime migrant journeys are mostly addressed in the form of scattered and short narrative flashbacks or laconic lists of place-​names (Chapter 6): in other words, the traumatising mobilities are ‘written out’ of the narrative. The recurrent use of specific mobility-​related imagery such as passports, shoes, and different vehicles can be considered to be a way of conveying the idea of mobility in the literary form (Chapter 8). Affective, embodied experiences of mobility may be articulated through the choice of specific narrative styles. Examples of narrative strategies that express an intensified experience of mobility in literary form are the disturbing aspects of mobility captured in the use of the uncanny in Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps (Chapter 5), or the broken English of Brian Chikwava’s protagonist in Harare North (Chapter 7), which carries the meaning of his abject mobile position, parochialism, and outsiderness. The mobile aspects of literary aesthetics may also be teased out by adopting for reading an analytical tool that itself embodies the idea of cultural mobility. An example of such a reading method is the figure of the zombie that I  use in highlighting the parallels between J. R. Essomba’s and Caryl Phillips’s portrayals of clandestine migrant mobilities with Middle Passage journeys (Chapter 9). In brief, while adopting very different formal strategies in their representations of mobility, the texts discussed here attest to the fact that mobility is not only a relevant theme in contemporary Francophone and Anglophone African and Afrodiasporic literatures but also that these literary texts contribute crucially to the understanding of the diverse meanings of mobility through their literary strategies and formal choices. 3

Outline of the Book and Chapter Summaries

This study is structured in three parts, each of which contains three chapters. The main research question pertains to representations of different forms of mobility and the potential manifestations of cosmopolitanism in the text corpus. In individual chapters the main focus between representations of mobility and the question of cosmopolitanism may vary, so that in some cases the analysis of cosmopolitanism is subordinated to the mobility theme or vice versa. The first of the parts, entitled “Trouble in the Business Class”, focuses on the mobilities of members of the African and African diasporic middle class and

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22 Introduction elite. These are travellers who could easily qualify as Selasian Afropolitans: their socio-​economic privilege enables them to transgress national, cultural, and linguistic borders with ease. And yet there are uneasy aspects to their mobility that pertain to questions of identity, belonging, and the supposedly empowering, liberating effects of mobility. The first chapter focuses on Ama Ata Aidoo’s novel Changes: A Love Story (1991). The novel’s characters are constantly on the move:  tropes of mobility recur throughout the text. Cars, hotels, business and leisure travel, modern technologies, and the figure of what can be referred to as the Afropolitan avant la lettre play a pivotal role in embodying meanings that pertain to class, gender, globalisation, and consumerism marking the postcolonial African condition and give the novel a pronouncedly contemporary character. This chapter adopts a wholesale understanding of mobility in order to explore the ways in which Aidoo’s characters employ different mobility practices in their processes of fashioning themselves as modern African subjects. The analysis draws attention to the anxiety that informs the processes of the self-​fashioning of the African urban elites, caught as they are between the tensions of the traditional and the modern. The second case study involving privileged travel and the anxieties of the mobile elite analyses short stories by Sefi Atta and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “Housekeeping” (2010) and “Transition to Glory” (2006). Both short stories feature the figure of the African leisure traveller, tourist, and, in particular, hotel guest. The hotel articulates different dimensions of a site that is frequently conceived, both in fiction and in theory, as a place and symbol of in-​betweenness, deviance, and displacement. In “Housekeeping”, the hotel serves as a setting for the exploration of the socio-​economic differences between migrant travellers and symbolises a sense of diasporic unbelonging. Here, the entanglement of the different forms and modes of mobility becomes articulate:  the short story actively weaves everyday mobilities together with the wider contexts of globalisation and migration. In “Transition to Glory”, the hotel room is used as the setting and symbol of an adulterous relationship. It comes across as a space of deviance that is not properly inscribed in either the private/​domestic or the public sphere. While set in spaces of in-​betweenness and transit, both texts articulate different metaphorical senses of longing for home and challenge the conventional ideas of mobility as empowering and desired. The third and last chapter of Part 1 discusses privileged mobilities from the perspective of postcolonial travel writing and, more specifically, non-​fictional narratives of return. Alain Mabanckou’s Lumières de Pointe-​Noire (2013) is a travelogue in which the celebrated Los Angeles-​based author returns to his

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native Congo-​Brazzaville after twenty-​three years of absence. As is typical in postcolonial travel writing, Mabanckou’s text foregrounds the traveller’s identity dilemmas. The ‘homecoming’ is marked by a sense of unease. Firstly, this unease manifests itself thematically in the way in which the text negotiates the traveller’s identity along the axis of native versus tourist and in the oscillation between nostalgia and loss. Secondly, unease marks the representation of ‘homecoming’ as witnessed by the text’s attempts to destabilise the centrality of the travelling I/​eye and the confinement of the white female photographer in the margins of the narrative. These elements betray the author-​narrator’s struggle to claim that he belongs to the present tense of his childhood city, the tensions that his socio-​economic privilege generates, and the complexities relating to the narrator’s centrality and authorship with regard to a literary genre that is marked by its white/​colonial roots. The second part, “Budget Travels, Practical Cosmopolitanisms”, addresses the concepts of mobility and cosmopolitanism from a practical, popular, and everyday perspective. The chapters of the second part explore the potentials but also the limits of practical forms of cosmopolitanisms with respect to the mobile practices of those who do not necessarily belong to the mobile elite. These mobilities may include some form of irregularity, but they do nevertheless attest to certain cosmopolitan aspirations and even to partial manifestations of cosmopolitan ideals. The chapter that opens Part 2 addresses the non-​physical aspects of mobility by focusing on literary portrayals of technology-​enhanced communicative travel. The analysis promotes a practical understanding of cosmopolitanism by arguing that in the era of globalisation the world beyond the local becomes accessible not only through physical human mobility but also through imaginative, virtual, and communicative forms of travel. The chapter focuses on the communicative dimensions of mobility by discussing the ways in which the contemporary African and African diasporic authors Liss Kihindou, NoViolet Bulawayo, Véronique Tadjo, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie address the topic on the thematic and formal axes contained in their novels. The recurring trope of a communication gap suggests that, while the geographical distance caused by human travel can often be surmounted with the help of communication technologies, the relations between those who leave and those who ‘stay behind’ are marked by a schism that translates into an emotional, epistemic, and cultural distance that may be much harder to reconcile. Chapter 5 traces popular cosmopolitanisms in novels that portray African migrant newcomers’ urban everyday mobilities in the axiomatic postcolonial metropolis of Paris, namely Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps (1996) and Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-​toi et meurs (2012). The focus of the analysis is on the

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24 Introduction protagonists’ use of urban public transport and the ways in which the narratives produce urban cartographies as a means of inscribing the newly arrived African migrants in the metropolis. Through their representations of the characters’ (intra-​urban) mobilities the texts articulate a practical cosmopolitanism to which I refer here as débrouillardise cosmopolitanism: the French term alludes to resourcefulness in situations that may pose severe limitations on one’s agency. The texts’ poetics of mobility –​manifest in their uncanny and thrilleresque qualities  –​and the protagonists’ journeys to peripheral dead-​ ends convey the anxious aspects of their attempts to claim Paris as their city through mobility. Chapter  6 addresses the limits of practical cosmopolitanisms in the context of clandestine migrant mobility by discussing the novel Faire l’aventure, by the Franco-​Caribbean author Fabienne Kanor. My analysis follows two lines of inquiry. Firstly, it focuses on the representation of the protagonist’s clandestine travels from Senegal to European insular locations which, from a central European perspective, are peripheral:  the Canary Islands and another currently widely mediatised insular ‘gateway’ to Europe, Lampedusa. The novel portrays the insular settings as unsatisfactory substitutes for the ‘real’ Europe that the protagonist keeps striving for. Secondly, I discuss the novel’s conceptualisations of popular cosmopolitanism, to which, as in Chapter 5, I refer as débrouillardise (French term for resourcefulness) cosmopolitanism in order to highlight its qualities as a practical survival strategy that has been adopted by an ‘adventurer’, that is, a clandestine African traveller. Through its analysis of the manifestations of practical cosmopolitanism in Kanor’s novel, this chapter pays attention to the limits that the concept faces in the context of clandestine Afroeuropean migrant mobility. The third part, “Abject Travels of Citizens of Nowhere”, takes the theme of the limits of cosmopolitanism a step further by focusing on the mobilities of underprivileged African travellers such as clandestine migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. These mobilities resonate with the Afroeuropean context of what has become known as the ‘migrant crisis’, during which aspiring African migrants engage in risky mobile pursuits to reach Europe. The chapters of this section attest to the abjection of clandestine migrant mobilities and to the ultimate failures of cosmopolitanism in the context of such precarious journeying. Chapter 7 addresses the question of the shortcomings of cosmopolitanism and defines it as a failure to cross (national, cultural, linguistic, etc.) borders smoothly. The chapter discusses Brian Chikwava’s novel Harare North (2009) and argues that through the unnamed protagonist’s inability and unwillingness to cross different material and symbolic borders, the novel articulates the failure of such cosmopolitan ideals as openness to Otherness, acknowledgement

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of one’s own position in the world, and active engagement in transcultural encounters. Chikwava’s protagonist seems to be constantly on the ‘wrong’ side of any border that he encounters. As such, he is the unwanted abject figure upon whose exclusion different normative subjectivities are constructed. By addressing the problematics of border crossings and cosmopolitan ideals, this chapter draws attention to the interwoven issues of mobility and the processes of transculturation that mobility should ideally entail. In so doing, the chapter criticises simplistic tendencies to equate cosmopolitanism with transnational mobility and reduce cosmopolitanism to a mere identity position. Chikwava’s novel points to the fact that crossing boundaries and adopting a cosmopolitan approach or sensibility is not always easy nor necessarily even desired by those on the move. Chapter  8 explores the precarious and time-​consuming form of mobility exemplified in aspiring Sub-​Saharan African migrants’ clandestine odysseys across the Sahara towards the Mediterranean. These journeys are characterised by insecurity in the sense that the itinerary is subject to continuous revision, and reaching the destination is never obvious. The chapter analyses Sefi Atta’s short story “Twilight Trek” (2009) together with the third part of Marie NDiaye’s triptych Trois femmes puissantes (2010) and their representations of these vulnerable and fragmented African journeys in which the climax of the migratory endeavour –​arrival in Europe –​remains beyond the protagonists’ reach. By focusing on tropes pertaining to identity, mobility, and slavery, this chapter draws attention to the way in which Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts convey the idea of the precariousness of the arrested migratory endeavour and exclude the underprivileged travellers from the orbit of cosmopolitanism from the very outset. The final chapter continues to explore the issue of abject African mobilities by drawing parallels between the history of the mobilities related to the transatlantic slave trade and the ‘European migrant crisis’. During the so-​ called migrant crisis, clandestine African migrants and asylum seekers have frequently been represented as invaders trying to enter Europe in order to destroy its cultural, social, political, and economic integrity. The figure of the clandestine migrant shares similarities with that of the zombie: both represent a contagious alterity that should be excluded from the community. In order to fully understand the migrant/​zombie parallel, it has to be acknowledged that, unlike its contemporary popular culture adaptation, the Haitian zombie is a product of slavery and hence not a perpetrator but itself a victim. My analysis of J. R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du nord and Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore draws on the different aspects of the zombie figure in order to elucidate the texts’ representations of contemporary clandestine migrant mobilities. My reading

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26 Introduction traces the links in the texts between clandestine migrants’ mobile conditions and the zombie figure through imagery revolving around the loss of identity and emotion, hiding, confinement, darkness, and death. The roots of zombified mobilities lie in the travellers’ precarious lives in their failed postcolonial states, and the Europe they pursue is a destination of non-​arrival unable to save them from zombification.

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pa rt 1 Trouble in the Business Class



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­c hapter 1

Anxious Mobilities of Afropolitans avant la lettre Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes: A Love Story

Mobility is a condition that shifts focus away from stasis and boundaries: it is seen as a form of critique directed at essentialism and hegemonic structures of maintaining order (Cresswell 2006). In the postcolonial context, transnational mobility is embraced as a condition that destabilises methodological nationalism (Quayson 2013, 140–​141). Given that current theoretical discourses promote a critical outlook on nationhood, transnational mobilities have received much attention in contemporary African literary scholarship. In this context, mobility is most often understood in terms of global migration movements. However, mobility is not limited to migration, and African literatures do address different aspects of the mobility theme. While transnational mobility is a key element in so-​called third-​generation African fiction, which consists of authors born in the post-​independence period and often living outside the continent (Adesanmi 2004; Ojaide 2008),1 the theme has inspired earlier writerly generations as well. A  case in point is Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes:  A Love Story, published in 1991, which is an ironic romance novel about affluent, urban Ghanaians whose lives are marked by the tensioned co-​existence of the ‘traditional’ and the ‘modern’. Because of her age and publication history, Aidoo cannot be counted among third-​generation African writers. In terms of her explicitly feminist engagements, she belongs rather to the second generation, which writes back to often biased masculine fictional representations of women in much the same way as authors such as Ken Bugul, Mariama Bâ, Flora Nwapa, or Buchi Emecheta (d’Almeida 1994; Stratton 1994). Nevertheless, there is a profoundly contemporary element in Changes with respect to its emphasis on a wide range of different forms of mobility. The story takes place mainly in urban Accra, but through the frequent use of tropes of mobility, such as modern communication technologies, travel agencies, business or leisure trips, and 1 The concept of third-​generation African writing often implies an emphasis on diasporic identity and transnationality, as well as a rupture from preceding generations’ concern with colonisation and nation-​building. While this characterisation may in many respects be relevant, scholars have also criticised the idea of clearly identifiable writerly generations for rigidity (see, e.g., Dalley 2013; Krishnan 2013). On the changing perspectives and paradigms of African literatures beyond a diachronic frame, see Wilson-​Tagoe 2009.

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30 Chapter 1 hotels, the novel articulates an understanding of elsewhere beyond the local and the national that is of a cosmopolitan character in a rather articulate way. In short, Changes conveys the idea of how Africa’s past and present are marked by a “paradigm of itinerancy, mobility, and displacement”, as Achille Mbembe (2013, 227; my translation) puts it in his formulation of Afropolitanism. Thus, in Changes, tropes of mobility not only “drive the plot” and “place gender roles and expectations in conflict […] in the national context” as argued by Kwabena Opoku-​Agyemang (2013, 70) in his reading of Aidoo’s short story “Birdsong”, but also importantly extend the scope of the novel towards the transnational and the global, and demonstrate the links between local and global mobilities. Because of its focus on marriage in the lives of modern African middle class women, Changes has been widely analysed from the perspective of gender and feminist politics.2 While also touching upon gender issues, the primary subjects of inquiry of my analysis are the novel’s tropes of mobility –​which are, one could add, gendered. Aidoo’s representations of one specific subgenre of mobility, namely automobility, has been discussed by Lindsey Green-​Simms from a feminist perspective in her Postcolonial Automobility:  Car Culture in West Africa (2017), and, less extensively, by Maria Olaussen (2002) and Kwabena Opoku-​Agyemang (2013) in their respective articles. Green-​Simms’s (2017, 192)  central argument is that automobility fails to claim its promises of freedom for African women drivers. In my reading, the focus is less on the “women in traffic” (Green-​Simms 2017, 161) aspect than on the anxieties that inform the novel’s conception of modern African mobilities on a general scale. In other words, instead of analysing automobility in isolation from other forms of mobility as Green-​Simms does, my reading of the novel promotes the idea buttressed by mobility studies scholars that “mobilities need to be examined in their fluid interdependence and not in their separate spheres” (Sheller & Urry 2006, 212). Such a wider understanding is useful in appreciating the novel’s complex and wholesale vision of how different forms of mobility contribute to the characters’ troubled processes of self-​fashioning as modern African subjects. My reading of the novel also highlights the crucial role that mobility plays in the production of romantic relationships (see Pearce 2018, 2019). The central characters of Changes belong to a class of urban, educated postcolonial African elites, that is, modern “enlightened subjects” as creations of what was initially a colonial modernity, as David Scott (2004) has written. As Scott (2004, 21) argues, for the postcolonial subject, there is an essentially tragic element in colonial enlightenment: 2 See, for instance, Curry 2011; Elia 1999; Fubara 2014; Olaussen 2002; Simpson 2007.

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The tragedy of colonial enlightenment […] is not to be perceived in terms of a flaw to be erased or overcome, but rather in terms of a permanent legacy that has set the conditions in which we make ourselves what we make and which therefore demands constant renegotiation and readjustment. While Aidoo’s narrative emphasises that these “enlightened subjects” do indeed enjoy a privileged status in the postcolonial urban environment, there is also a downside to their privilege. The novel foregrounds an intensively tensioned discrepancy between, on the one hand, modern urban African lifestyles and the values of the new generation and, on the other, those of the preceding generations  –​tensions that the novel explores against the backdrop of heterosexual romantic relationships and marriage. This anxiousness that informs Aidoo’s representations of modern mobilities is generated by the complexities that characterise the self-​fashioning of modern African subjects in a post/​ colonial/​independence context –​a condition of hybridity that, according to Aidoo’s heroine, Esi, is “so absolutely lunatic and so ‘contemporary African’ ” (109). In other words, in their self-​fashioning as modern African subjects and in their attempts to adapt Western modernity to their local settings in order to make it their own, Aidoo’s characters are obliged to struggle with the heritage of colonial superiority that informs Western modernity (see Ashcroft 2009, 84–​ 85) –​and modern mobilities as one of its products. This struggle, as I argue, lies at the core of the anxiety-​ridden mobilities of the novel. At one point, the voice of the narrator suggests that “the only solution to […] restlessness was to keep busy” (94). These words capture Aidoo’s characters’ strategy of trying to cope with their anxieties by resorting to mobility. By drawing attention to the problematics of urban, postcolonial Africans’ self-​fashioning as modern subjects, Changes challenges the often taken-​for-​granted idea that associates mobility with freedom (see Cresswell 2006, 151; Sheller 2008) and that perceives it as a liberating condition for transgressing fixed identities, affinities, and structures of power. Aidoo’s characters’ problematic processes of becoming modern mobile subjects should be understood in the context of the continuum of post-​ independence disillusionment as previously articulated in works such as Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968). As Madhu Krishnan (2018, 118) observes, Changes attests to the effects of the neoliberalisation of the world market and “the devastating impact of structural adjustment policies aimed at a privatisation and liberalisation of the national economy”, opening Ghana up “to the predatory policies of international finance”. In effect, the novel’s affluent main characters’ mobilities are often contrasted with the everyday struggles of less privileged classes of the postcolonial nation-​state.

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32 Chapter 1 Besides its extremely rich representations of concrete forms of mobility, Aidoo’s novel also features characters that can be easily classified as what I would refer to as ‘business class cosmopolitans’. Moreover, and with reference to the recent discussions on what is supposed to be a specifically African form of cosmopolitanism, it can be argued that Aidoo’s characters are Afropolitans avant la lettre. They belong to the kinetic elite whose socio-​economic privilege enables them to transgress national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries without any particular effort, as the concept is outlined by Taiye Selasi in her controversial text Bye-​Bye Babar (2005). Selasi’s Afropolitan relies on the figure of the cosmopolitan world citizen and re-​contextualises it in the African diaspora. Conceived as an identity position of a privileged –​and, to a certain extent, self-​proclaimed –​world citizen, Selasi’s Afropolitan is a concept that lends itself well to the analysis of one of the dimensions of mobility to which Aidoo’s characters resort in their self-​fashioning.3 However, as argued in my analysis, the anxiety that informs the characters’ mobilities also disturbs the construction of their celebratory, carefree (pre-​)Afropolitan identities. This suggests that Aidoo’s characters are not quite at ease with the complexities that the ‘Afropolitan’ identity implies. In effect, they are still actively involved in coming to terms with the tensions between the traditional and the modern, and the colonial and the postcolonial –​conflicting elements that the 21st century Afropolitan at least seems to have managed to integrate as a part of their complex identity more successfully. In what follows, I analyse the anxious aspects of mobility in Changes as conveyed through the tropes of automobility, the hotel, modern technology, and finally, through the figure of the (pre-​ )Afropolitan world citizen or what I  ironically refer to as the business class cosmopolitan. 1

Automobility: Undecidedness in the Streets of Accra

I start my analysis with some remarks on how automobility contributes to the theme of anxious mobility in Aidoo’s novel through an imagery pertaining to erring and undecidedness. These are tropes that Green-​Simms’s (2017, 3 The concept of Afropolitanism has also been addressed by Achille Mbembe in Sortir de la grande nuit (2013). For Mbembe, Afropolitanism captures the phenomenon of transculturation that has defined the African continent throughout its history. My interest here is in the processes of the self-​fashioning of Aidoo’s characters, which is also the reason why Selasi’s account of the Afropolitan as an affluent identity position suits better the purposes of my analysis than Mbembe’s formulation.

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161–​177) otherwise extensive and inspiring analysis of gendered automobility in Changes does not address explicitly. As Green-​Simms (2017, 166) observes, Changes “is a novel full of the minutiae of driving”. In effect, while the narrator claims that “mature people cannot talk about a car forever” (179), the narrative itself does not seem able to get enough of automobility. The novel not only opens with a scene in which the protagonist’s car plays a key role; allusions to the car and different banal activities related to it recur practically throughout the narrative. The unique exception is the novel’s ending, which is characterised by the protagonist’s increasing physical immobility as she fails to live up to her ideal of an independent, modern African woman. Indeed, automobility is an important element of the novel thematically, in addition to which it also structures the form and drives the plot. According to John Urry (2007, 118), automobility is “a self-​organizing autopoetic, non-​linear system that spreads world-​wide and includes cars, car-​drivers, roads, petroleum supplies and many novel objects, technologies and signs”. In Africa, the system of automobility has colonial roots in the sense that it was introduced to the continent by European colonisers. The car was initially imported to Africa for practical reasons and to underpin colonial superiority, and it continues to be unequally distributed throughout the post-​independence period (Green-​Simms 2010, 210, 213; Hart 2016, 5).4 Ato Quayson (2014, 131) writes that in Ghana the automobile “became a key emblem for modernization” as early as in the late 1950s. In her study of the history of Ghanaian entrepreneurial mobility, Jennifer Hart (2016, 3) argues that “Ghanaians engage in what Rudolf Mrazek calls a ‘language of asphalt’ –​a discourse of modernization and technological development which uses the language of technology, speed, and progress to evaluate the present and to envision the future”. This “language of asphalt” is connected to the “narratives of aspirational modernity” that inform automobility (Hart 2016, 3). It can therefore be argued that driving in Ghana has been widely conceived as “a means of becoming modern” (Hart 2016, 117). While Aidoo’s characters want to see themselves as modern subjects, there are problems in the system of automobility itself that are beyond their control. Economic, infrastructural, and technical issues have contributed to the way in which automobility’s promises of modernity in Ghana have been subjected “to the precarity and risks of the road”, as Hart (2016, 188) writes. This idea can also be seen in Aidoo’s novel’s 4 As scholars working on African automobilities have demonstrated, African automobililists have adopted the initially colonial technology in creative and transgressive ways. This has enabled them, among other things, to challenge hierarchies, claim agency, and navigate in instable and precarious situations (see, e.g., Grace 2013; Hart 2016; Melly 2017; Stasik & Klaeger 2018).

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34 Chapter 1 allusions to pot holes and traffic jams as a state of stagnation-​in-​mobility in passages that describe “the tired traffic hum[ming] and crawl[ing] itself home” (40) in the streets of Accra. In short, because of its colonial roots and the postcolonial failures of infrastructure, automobility in Africa can be characterised as a “haunted infrastructure” (Savonick 2015, 686). While infrastructural problems disturb the “aspirational modernity of automobility” (Hart 2016, 3), the drivers’ own actions also contribute to this failure, as the novel’s recurrent scenes of troubled itineraries and mindless driving suggest. For instance, Esi drives on the empty streets of Accra one New Year’s Day in the brand new car that her new husband Ali has offered her. This car replaces Esi’s old car, the unreliability of which is cast in relief throughout the narrative, starting with the very opening paragraph of the novel, in which the car has just broken down in the middle of the traffic, with “taxi drivers shout[ing] the usual obscenities about ‘women drivers’ ” (3). Previous readings addressing the gendered aspects of automobility in the novel have highlighted that the new car that the protagonist receives from her lover/​new husband can be seen as a “reward” that “instrumentalizes the relationship” and puts an end to Esi’s dreams of having “a sexual life free from the idea of female sexuality as a commodity” (Olaussen 2002, 68; see also Green-​Simms 2017, 174). When it comes to smooth mobility, however, with the new car and empty streets on the New Year’s Day, all of the prerequisites for imperturbable movement are present. Esi begins to “get that special feeling of power that a solid car always gives its driver” (181). In the end, however, this sense of ease proves to be shallow, and Esi soon becomes disturbed by restlessness, which is embodied in the question “Where would she go?” (181), capturing the lack of orientation typical of practically all the novel’s hypermobile, affluent main characters. Not only does the new car cause itinerary problems; similar issues also characterise Esi’s mobility with her old car. The unreliability of her car is just one side of the problem; another issue is the driver’s undecidedness in terms of what she should do with the alleged freedom of movement that the system of automobility is supposed to give her. Indeed, Esi has constant trouble in deciding where to go, as conveyed by the words: “She kept being sure and not being sure” (172). There is a scene in which, in this undecided state of mind, Esi performs a roundabout-​like gesture by first packing all of her things, getting them into the car and then she starts it, only to turn off the engine and go back into her home. This interrupted mobility bespeaks not only her doomed struggle in what has become an unsatisfying relationship but also her failed itinerary as an enlightened postcolonial African subject (see also Green-​Simms 2017, 168). Significantly, in the passage in which Esi packs and unpacks her car, she tries to decide whether she should drive to her home village for Christmas to see

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her relatives. This highlights the fact that the mobility-​related restlessness that she experiences is caused by the conflicting demands of modern, urban and traditional, rural lifestyles. It should also be underlined that the “strange restlessness” (96) from which Esi suffers is neither exclusively typical of her nor is it strictly gender-​specific. Ali and his first wife Fusena are portrayed in similar situations in which itineraries become subject to sudden, seemingly impulsive revisions. Their troubled itineraries symbolise their attempts to balance between the conflicting exigencies of the traditional and the modern impacting on their marital lives. When Fusena confronts Ali for having an affair with Esi, she first drives to the kiosk where she works, and once she has reached her destination and is getting out of the car, she suddenly changes her mind and drives back home to ask Ali one question without even getting out of her car. Then she drives back to the kiosk. In a similar vein, Ali is also represented making U-​turns: on his way home to Fusena, he suddenly decides to return to Esi’s place. On the way, he almost hits some children who are crossing the street, and he feels the need to pull over “to pull himself together” (144). After this incident, he once again spontaneously changes his mind and goes back to his office to “pick up a bottle of champagne for Esi” (144). As the allusion to champagne suggests, these mindless, impulsive turnabouts are caprices that not everyone in the community can afford: users of public transport could not make such sudden, individual changes to an itinerary as what Hart (2016, 187) refers to as “elite ‘myself’ drivers”. The mindless driving and impulsive U-​turns disturb the smoothness and linearity of the narrative, and, in so doing, contribute to a somewhat disturbed poetics of mobility in the novel by creating a sense of abrupt turns of the plot. The mindless, impulsive driving and changes in itinerary in Changes suggest that the characters are trying to use mobility as a somewhat unsuccessful means to reconcile the conflicting demands of the traditional and the modern. These demands are also generated by the inherently contradictory system of automobility itself. Urry’s (2007, 120) characterisation of the automobile as the “ ‘iron cage’ of modernity” seems particularly pertinent here. According to Urry (2007, 120), the automobile embodies simultaneously the ideas of freedom and coercion as it “extend[s]‌the individual into realms of freedom and flexibility whereby inhabiting the car can be positively viewed and energetically campaigned and fought for, but also constraining car ‘users’ to live their lives spatially stretched and time-​compressed ways”. The very term “automobility” embodies this contradiction:  “auto” refers simultaneously to “the humanist self” and machines with the capacity to move (Urry 2007, 118). “This double resonance”, as Urry (2007, 118) suggests, “demonstrates that the ‘car-​driver’ is a hybrid assemblage of human competences and will, and machines, roads,

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36 Chapter 1 buildings, and signs”. In Changes, this non-​humanising aspect of automobility is particularly flagrant in passages in which Esi is at home and someone arrives at her gate. In such contexts, the caller is, first and foremost, described as a car, not as a person. In so doing, the narrative equates people with the cars they drive, and underlines the central role that automobility plays in their construction of themselves as modern African subjects. This complex hybridity surpassing subjective intentions is even more pronounced in the African context because of automobility’s roots in colonial modernity. 2

Hotels as In-​between Spaces

In addition to cars, another recurring trope of modern and initially colonial mobility in Changes is the hotel. In mobility studies, hotels are seen as transfer points or places of in-​between-​ness “involved in being mobile but immobilized” (Sheller & Urry 2006, 219) or as moorings that play a role as enablers of mobility (Hannam, Sheller & Urry 2006, 3). This transfer-​point character of the hotel is obvious in Changes: the characters go to the hotel by car to see whether a foreign colleague has already checked in or to have a drink in the lobby after work. In this way, the narrative also draws attention to the interconnected nature of different forms of mobility, and highlights the way in which modern mobilities are deeply embedded in capitalist consumer culture. Besides being an “important gateway space between the local and the global”, the hotel “embod[ies] the grey zone between public and private” (Davidson 2006, 169). The oscillation between the private and the public is relevant from the perspective of gender that is so central in Aidoo’s novel. With its ultimately deceptive claims of being “a home away from home”, the hotel problematises the gendered space of the domestic as it calls into question “a woman’s presumed role” (Ng 2004, 95). As a mobile space, the hotel has become an iconic setting for cultural products (see, e.g., Bates 2003; van Herk 2014; Matthias 2006; Short 2019), where it often serves as a “narrative backdrop and symbolic space” (van Herk 2014, 142). According to Charlotte Bates (2003, 71), as its literal and figurative meanings entwine, “the hotel […] constitutes a certain milieu which renders it an apt setting for representations of the restless modern mind”. Such a definition resonates with Aidoo’s representation of postcolonial urban elites, who can be seen as hybrid inheritors of modern existential estrangement to which the complexities of the postcolonial condition add their own particular twist. In terms of narrative space, the hotel is certainly not an unimportant setting in Changes. Two consequent, extensive chapters are set in the hotel. The narrative weight given to the hotel betrays Aidoo’s interest in exploring

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‘modern’ mobile spaces beyond the scope of the domestic and the traditional. The Hotel Twentieth Century features in a chapter in which Esi goes there to check whether a Kenyan colleague of hers, attending a conference in Accra, has arrived. This gesture highlights the hotel’s role as a gateway to the global beyond the local as well as its embeddedness in the operations of global capitalism. Simultaneously, however, the fact that the colleague has not arrived as expected is yet another manifestation of the troubled quality of postcolonial mobilities, similar to the unreliable cars, traffic jams, and dysfunctional elevators that also feature in the novel. In short, the motif of disturbed mobility reoccurs once again. Esi’s reason to be at the hotel underlines her professional identity as a mobile, highly skilled worker who attends conferences in “Geneva, Addis, Dakar one half of the year; Rome, Lusaka, Lagos the other half” (12). On her way to the hotel, Esi is impressed by a beach view that has a touristic appeal to it: there is “so much gold, golden red and red filtering through the branches of the coconut palms” (38). This passage positions Esi as a carefree tourist who seems to be entirely detached from the realities of the people who live in the proximity of the beach. Indeed, Esi, parking her car near the hotel, admires the landscape and wonders what it would be like to live by the sea. Esi’s privileged musings are quickly contrasted by the narrative voice with the activities of fishermen, “busy packing up their boats”, and probably “amused if they had heard her thoughts” (38). As attested by this passage, Aidoo’s novel’s ironic narrative voice and the text’s use of “generic mix of narrative strategies” (Simpson 2007, 157) allow the narrator to maintain an emotional and epistemic distance to her characters, and invite the reader to see them in a broader context and through critical lenses. By juxtaposing the elites with the practisers of traditional professions, Changes highlights the gap between formally and informally educated sectors of the postcolonial African society. In so doing, the novel can be seen to suggest that the anxiety informing the elites’ self-​fashioning as modern subjects is indeed in itself a marker of privilege. As James Clifford (1997, 32–​33) observes, there is a strongly nostalgic and elitist inclination to the hotel image. This also holds true for Africa, where, throughout the continent, tourism was “developed primarily by colonialists for the benefit of other colonialists”, black Africans possessing neither “the financial nor the cultural capital to compete with European domination” of the industry (Harrison 2000, 49). As suggested in Aidoo’s novel, in the post-​ independence period, touristic establishments such as hotels were claimed by national elites. In this sense, the image of the hotel embodies complex meanings of colonised modernity and its post-​independence legacies. The hotel’s function as a marker of “social hierarchy and economic class” (van Herk 2014, 143)  is highlighted in a passage which compares the hotel to a

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38 Chapter 1 nearby fishing district. While “the Hotel Twentieth Century was blazing with light, consuming enough electricity to light up the whole of the nearby fishing district” (52), the fishing community’s only knowledge of electricity are “the huge pylons that stood in their vegetable patches, and the massive cables passing over the roofs of their homes as these bore the electricity to the more deserving members of society” (52). The ironic tone in the narrator’s voice further underpins the socio-​economic gap between Esi and the fisher community by talking about “the more deserving members of society” (52) when referring to the elites. Whereas the people in the fishing district would certainly not be admitted to the premises of the luxurious hotel, Esi and Opokuya are described rather mockingly as “users of hotel lobbies” (52). The nearness of the fishing district (as a traditional profession) to the luxurious hotel (as a modern, capitalist establishment) points to the co-​ existence of “different spatial ecologies” that inform the cityscape of Accra, as Ato Quayson (2014, 4, 12) has pointed out in his study of the dynamics of Ghana’s capital city. Indeed, Changes conveys the idea of Accra as a city that bears the marks of the presence of colonial and post-​independence periods as well as those of globalisation and transnationalisation (see Quayson 2014, 4; Quayson 2017). While Esi can be said to “assert her identity in a hotel setting through economic power” (Ng 2004, 97), the gender issue persists. Once Esi has finished her business at the reception desk, where she arrives with “her shoes beating out the determination in her mind” (39), she thinks about leaving. Yet again, after the initial burst of determination, her actions are marked by an uncertainty that allows her neither to stay nor to go: She paused for a while and moved a step or two, towards the entrance. But she changed her mind about going back out. It was clear that she was uncertain as to what to do next. She could go and sit down to have a beer. But she knew this was not really done. A woman alone in a hotel lobby drinking alcohol? It would definitely be misunderstood. (39; emphasis original) She chooses to confront the risk of potential misunderstanding of being taken for a ‘promiscuous’ woman in the potentially deviant space of the hotel and orders a beer. Besides drawing attention to the restrictions of traditional gender roles and Esi’s attempts to transgress them, this passage highlights the link between modernity, mobility, and capitalist consumption: African elites’ self-​ fashioning as modern subjects is performed by consuming drinks in a luxurious lobby bar.

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The hotel trope figures in other contexts as well. At the start of their relationship, Ali takes Esi out to dinner at restaurants “that were hidden deep in the belly of the city, or far from the city centre and the arteries that led motorists to other towns” (88). These sort of “dimly lit” places on the peripheries of the urban space, where “couples could get keys” (88) are less hotels than motels, which, according to Meghan Morris (1988, 3), “demolish sense regimes of place, locale, and history [and] memorialize only movement, speed, and perpetual circulation”. With their monotonous and shabby connotations, these motels or rooms-​by-​the-​hour that “complicate […] linear accounts of progress, family, and history” by offering “cheap deals, sour regrets, and nights of pleasure” (Treadwell 2005, 215)  might have been more transgressive sites for romantic encounters from Esi’s viewpoint (see also Short 2019, 135, 159). As Olaussen (2002, 68) argues, in Changes, adultery represents “the ultimate possibility of exploring a relation free from utilitarian aspects” and that once the relationship becomes officialised through marriage, it also becomes institutionalised and instrumentalised. It is for this very reason that the fact that “Esi and Ali reserved their love-​making for the comfort of Esi’s bed” (88) is problematic: it represents Esi’s loss of independence as it inscribes her in the realm of the domestic. From the perspective of the private/​public binary and the transgressive potentials of such in-​between spaces as the hotel, it is significant that Esi meets Ali for the first time at a travel agency. Later, Esi approaches him in the hotel lobby. The choice of such non-​domestic spaces as scenes for the budding romance may seem encouraging in terms of the relationship’s transgressive potentials. Neither of these sites, however, becomes the central stage of the illegitimate romance: this role is granted to the domestic. It is not, then, simply Ali buying Esi a new car that marks a turning point in their relationship from something potentially liberating into a prison, as Olaussen (2002, 68) argues. Well before that incident, the fact that Esi starts to sleep with and cook for Ali in her own home signals Esi’s complicity in the construction of her own ‘captivity’ and loss of independence. Home, in contrast to mobility-​related spaces such as the hotel, becomes the symbol of stagnation where power structures do not allow for negotiation. For Ali, however, the domestic represents an ideal setting for the adulterous relationship as it “free[s]‌[him] from the ordeal of having to find a place to be with a woman who was not his wife” (90). Once the romance with Esi loses its appeal in Ali’s eyes, the narrative suggests that he engages in a new affair. He asks Esi to drop him at the Hotel Twentieth Century on a New Year’s Day to check in on one of his customers –​obviously a pretext that fails to convince Esi. Here, the hotel again becomes invested with deviant, transgressive meanings as a potential stage for another adulterous

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40 Chapter 1 relationship, while Esi herself has become a captive of the domestic and her role as a second wife. The hotel trope features again when Ali takes Esi to meet his relatives in Bamako in Mali. Ali has booked “the most modern hotel in town” (159–​160) for their visit. There is, however, a moral obligation that prevents the newly-​wed couple from staying at the hotel: to not stay at Ali’s aunt’s for the first night in Bamako would have been bad manners. Yet again, the narrative gives voice to the tension between conflicting desires, embodied in the booked, yet eventually uninhabited, hotel room. The choice of accommodation also suggests that the couple is unable to escape the demands of the traditional. This has an effect on their relationship, because since “the introduction to his roots”, Esi becomes “more of [Ali’s] wife” (167). In effect, it is in this context that, so to speak, routes start to transform into roots for Esi –​a development that is also conveyed on the narrative level. In this part of the novel, the narrative speed increases and culminates in Ali’s escalated travel, while Esi’s mobility is essentially reduced until it finally stops in the final two chapters with Esi’s depressive retreat from the failed relationship. Such transitions in the narrative speed translate the mobility theme into form and in so doing, contribute to the novel’s poetics of mobility. 3

Transnational Business Class Travel: Afropolitans avant la lettre

Similar to the hotel, the travel agency that Ali heads widens the scope of mobility from the local to the global. Mentioning the detail that Ali has established the travel agency just after independence draws attention to how marginally nationhood is treated in the text. While there are allusions to the challenges that a new, postcolonial nation-​state faces, and an explicitly articulated concern about “these independences [that] have proved to be nothing more than a trick” (32), Aidoo’s perspective is marked by cosmopolitanism that sees the local in connection with the global instead of promoting a strictly nation-​based, monologic perspective (Beck 2002, 27). In other words, the novel’s conceptualisations of mobility place postcolonial Africa in a wider, global context that underlines the continent’s connections with the rest of the world (Mbembe 2013, 227). In addition to the novel’s cosmopolitan perspective, the central characters themselves could be described as business class cosmopolitans whose mobilities across national, cultural and linguistic borders are facilitated by their socio-​cultural and economic statuses. On a superficial scale, the figure of Ali embodies an elite cosmopolitan position: he is “a son of the world” (27) who holds several passports. His image as

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a “very good looking” (27), socially and spatially mobile postcolonial African subject, himself “the most effective advertisement for Linga HideAways”(27), evokes Selasi’s admittedly superficial and commodity-​ oriented (Bosch Santana 2012; Dabiri 2016) portrayal of Afropolitans as “beautiful, brown-​ skinned” and “gorgeous” Africans of the world who “belong to no single geography, but feel at home in many” (Selasi 2005). It should be underlined that Selasi’s Afropolitan relies on the figure of the cosmopolitan and much less on the concept of cosmopolitanism (Toivanen 2017, 193). In so doing, Selasi’s formulation resonates with some earlier, elitist understandings of cosmopolitanism as a privileged identity position. The concept of cosmopolitanism, in contrast, cannot be reduced to a mere identity. As David Hansen (2008, 213) aptly expresses it, “a cosmopolitan sensibility is not a possession, a badge, or settled accomplishment. It is an orientation that depends fundamentally upon the ongoing quality of one’s interactions with others, with the world, and with one’s own self”. While cosmopolitanism has indeed sometimes been thought of as an elite travelling position  –​and this approach is echoed in Selasi’ reformulation –​the concept is currently more often understood “as a fundamental devotion to the interests of humanity as a whole” (Robbins 1998, 1). To put it in other words, cosmopolitanism involves a complex set of ethico-​ utopian ideals such as openness to Otherness, global responsibility, and understanding of one’s own positionality in a global context (Spencer 2011, 4). In this respect, Selasi’s reformulation represents a rather limited and shallow interpretation of cosmopolitanism. However, despite –​or maybe exactly because of –​its limits, Selasi’s idea of the Afropolitan suits well the analysis of Changes, since the cosmopolitanism of Aidoo’s characters is, above all, a question of identity construction that is partly performed through consumerism and that seems devoid of any deeper philosophical or ethical content. Simultaneously, it should be highlighted that, while Aidoo’s characters cannot really be seen to embody any deeper ethical meaning of cosmopolitanism in their interactions with the world beyond the local, the ironic narrative tone through which the characters are represented places their actions and feelings in a wider context. This ironic narrative voice and the critical distance and contextualisation that it generates do entail a cosmopolitan, ethical perspective: it provides the reader with a critical understanding of the characters’ positionality that the characters themselves are unable to articulate –​or even to acknowledge. Whereas Selasi’s (2005) Afropolitans are affluent “21st century Africans” who live in diaspora while claiming a link to the African continent, Aidoo’s characters –​Ali and Esi in particular –​can be perceived as Africa-​based, 1980s’ avant la lettre Afropolitans. However, unlike Selasi’s (2005) “Africans of the

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42 Chapter 1 world”, who feel at home not only in the world but also in their hybrid identities and affinities, Aidoo’s 1980s’ pre-​Afropolitans are not equally at ease. Aidoo’s characters are the generation preceding the “21st century Africans” (Selasi 2005), born around independence and living in a society struggling with post-​independence issues. Their self-​fashioning as modern African subjects can be read as a reaction to colonial modernity. More distanced from the colonial period and the demands of tradition in both temporal and spatial terms, contemporary diasporic Afropolitans, as portrayed by Selasi, do not seem to suffer from their hybrid positions, but celebrate their complex affinities and belonging instead.5 As Chielozona Eze (2016, 117) argues in his first-​ person plural account of Afropolitanism: “We are Afropolitans […] because we are capable of occupying several cultural spaces and relations from which we define who we are”. Eze’s words are interesting in the sense that they reveal the dilemma of Aidoo’s avant la lettre Afropolitans: they seem unready to cope with the hybrid heritage imposed on them. The disturbed, anxious mobilities of Aidoo’s characters betray their unease with the processes of post-​independence and postcolonial self-​fashioning as modern African subjects. Contemporary Afropolitans, on the other hand, represent the logical next phase of African self-​fashioning, as Amatoritsero Ede (2016, 89) suggests. Moreover, despite Aidoo’s novel’s relatively cosmopolitan motivations and recurrent allusions to the world beyond the national and the local, the characters still attach themselves to the postcolonial nation. Ali, as common to the members of postcolonial elite, has studied abroad, but has returned ‘back home’ to benefit from the economic and professional opportunities of the newly independent postcolonial Ghana. This is also where Aidoo’s characters differ from contemporary Afropolitans who, due to the relative lack of viable future prospects in many African countries, are more likely to pursue their professional careers in diaspora. In any case, it can be argued that Aidoo’s 1980’s pre-​Afropolitans’ troubled self-​fashioning as modern African subjects has paved the way for 21st century Afropolitans who are (at least ideally) more at ease with the complex legacies and locations upon which their identities are constructed. Travelling, both for business and leisure, is a central aspect of postcolonial elites’ self-​fashioning as modern subjects. Travel involves a close link to capitalist consumerism. This feature is highlighted in the long listings of souvenirs that Ali brings to Esi from his travels:

5 This celebrative aspect of being an ‘affluent Afro/​cosmopolitan’ can of course be challenged, as the following two chapters demonstrate.

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[An] elegant piece of Makonde sculpture; several huge bottles of her favourite perfume; a dyed damask shawl; a pair of outrageously big and gorgeous Sub-​Sahelian gold earrings which she definitively didn’t have adequate holes in her ears ever to wear … (112) By buying ‘exotic’ local products from around the world, Ali seems to be acquiring the identity and style of the “suave and debonair” cosmopolitan (Calhoun 2017, 192), which is based on consumption (see Calhoun 2008, 89; Calhoun 2017, 192–​193). Moreover, by mentioning the ‘exotic’ appeal of other cultures and their cultural products, the link between cosmopolitanism and the empire becomes clear (see Calhoun 2008, 88). Ali is constantly travelling outside the country, making him “hardly a resident here” (62) as Esi puts it, with a slight undercurrent of accusation in her voice, articulating a nationalist idea of Ali as not a ‘properly’ committed national subject because of his constant transnational mobility. Indeed, the narrative overtly questions Ali’s national affinity and loyalties by asking: “Ali’s country? Which one was that?” (27). For Ali, such complex affinities do not seem to be a problem. Indeed, to be able to embrace a cosmo/​Afropolitan position is based on the luxury of having a place to belong to, as Simon Gikandi (2010, 23) has pointed out. This is the case with Ali’s uprooted cosmopolitanism: for him, “Bamako was home” (29). Ali’s affluent Afropolitanism is contrasted with Esi’s friend’s Opokuya’s sense of homelessness, her state of being a native of another region of Ghana than Accra, where she currently lives. The gender aspect here is obvious: Opokuya’s sense of belonging is tied to her husband as she wonders: “If anything happened to Kubi, where was she going to go?” (67). The question of feeling at ease in unbelonging is a luxury that only an affluent and educated man such as Ali can afford. Significantly enough, while Ali is represented as “a son of the world” (27), Opokuya is simply “a native of nowhere” (67). It is, however, noteworthy that, later in the novel, Ali’s hypermobility becomes symptomatic of the anxiety informing his seemingly comfortable position of a cosmopolitan world citizen or an Afropolitan avant la lettre. Ali’s travel agency represents for him an in-​between space in which he can escape the exigencies of the domestic and the traditional. During the early stages of the illegitimate romance, he stays there pretending to work after office hours. In reality, he thinks about Esi. Later, he uses his office as a space of transit between the two conflicting domestic spheres represented by Esi’s bungalow and the home he shares with Fusena. The very name of the travel agency, Linga HideAways, gains its entire ironic meaning when Ali literally starts to use it as a fort which he escapes to, away from his two wives’ conflicting demands. When Ali and Esi become involved, Ali starts to escape to his office under the

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44 Chapter 1 pretext of checking to see if he has received messages on his telex machine. The machine represents mobile technology that enhances the travel of ideas by interweaving the global with the local (Sheller & Urry 2006, 212). The telex machine also embodies other meanings:  the real reason for Ali to go to his office after seeing Esi is his desire to be available in case Fusena happens to phone him in order to check on his whereabouts. In this sense, technology and the mobility it entails become an essential part of the relationships in the novel, embodying changes in the understanding of intimacy brought about by technological developments (see Khunou 2012, 172; Pearce 2018; Pearce 2019). As Ali’s driving back and forth to his office to check his telex machine suggests, technology not only becomes a pretext for the characters’ mobility, but it also, in a way, enslaves them. When Esi and Ali start to become emotionally distanced from each other, mobility and technology come to represent the insurmountable hindrances that eventually drive them apart: Ali phoned regularly to announce his imminent departures. He phoned from the different cities and towns inside and outside the country to which he travelled. He phoned to report his arrivals. In between his travels, he phoned regularly when the telephone lines permitted. He and Esi always had good telephone conversations. (188) The last sentence about “good telephone conversations” has a pronouncedly ironic ring to it, drawing attention to how Esi no more sees “the skin of the man behind the phone calls” (189). Yet, it should be underlined that it is not the technology itself that is responsible for the growing distance; it simply exposes a discord that has already established itself between the couple. During the latter part of the novel, Ali’s mobility escalates. His hypermobility is conveyed in the literary form by referring to the out-​of-​breath telephone conversations that he and Esi have while Ali is in different spaces of transit: “[H]‌e was ‘terribly rushed’, he ‘simply had to run’, and ‘darling I shall phone as soon as I land’ wherever he was going, or ‘back home’ or go and see [Esi] ‘straight from the airport’ ” (168). The final part of the novel opens with a telephone dialogue, which is represented in an unbalanced way so that Esi’s lines are non-​existent: “Hello, yes … hello, yes, yes, yes, it’s Ali … Hi … yes. Oh, but I have missed you! Fine, fine. And how are you? “Yes, oh yes. About four o’clock this afternoon. “Yes, fine. “Okay. But exhausting as usual …

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“Yes, this time, properly worn out … “Eh … eh … I … well … eh … actually I am going straight home to wash out all this travel dirt … and … nothing at all. Just jump into bed to try and recover from my jet-​lag … “Esi, please try to understand … “Darling, it’s not like you to be unreasonable … “Not today. (165) This narrative strategy not only “indicates Esi’s lack of an independent identity [and] her loss of a ‘voice’ ” (Simpson 2007, 168), but also conveys the idea of acceleration of speed: the narrative seems so overwhelmed by Ali’s hypermobility that it does not even have the time or space for Esi’s lines to be articulated in the text. In so doing, the passage demonstrates, on a formal scale, how mobility surpasses or overrides Esi. Ali’s mobility is so accentuated that it becomes his way of being. He seems to be mobile for mobility’s sake; destinations no longer matter, as suggested by the narrator’s words, “he returned from wherever he was going” (170). Ali’s hypermobility stands in contrast to Esi’s increasing immobility; she no longer seems to be the travelling businesswoman of the first half of the novel. Significantly enough, she has started to take tranquillisers to control her restlessness and to handle the disturbing realisation that “she was getting nowhere at all” (172). After their trip to Bamako, Esi buys a computer. Considering the temporal context in which Changes is set, the Internet was certainly not as widespread in Africa as it is nowadays  –​the novel does not mention this technology, either. Nevertheless, the computer represents a new form of technical innovation that allows Esi to perform distance work at home; she works a lot, just as when she was unmarried. Here, the use of technology, which transports Esi back to the time when she was unmarried, marks a rupture in her relationship with Ali. Technology again symbolises the problems that pull the couple apart. And yet, simultaneously, this new technological devise and the return to her unmarried life it entails may also symbolise a new start for Esi in her quest for “self-​consciousness as a modern African woman with progressive ideas” (Simpson 2007, 169). In the immediate narrative present, however, the distance work enabled by the computer highlights Esi’s decreased mobility: she often seems to be at home, observing cars –​not primarily people –​from her window as they enter and leave her field of vision. In the pre-​Internet era of the 1980s in which the novel is set, an unconnected computer can, in fact, be considered an accomplice in rendering the protagonist immobile. This, in turn, makes the computer yet another technological innovation with failed liberatory promises.

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46 Chapter 1 4

Conclusion: Freedom of Movement?

Aidoo’s affluent, urban characters of the post-​independence era are in the middle of the process of fashioning themselves as modern African subjects. Mobility plays a central role in the self-​fashioning of these 1980s avant la lettre Afropolitans:  the characters are constantly on the move in their attempt to shape colonial modernity as their own. Nevertheless, their mobilities are marked by a lack of orientation and various disturbances, which make the characters seem like captives of their alleged freedom of movement. Their captivity results from the inconsistent exigencies to which they become subjected through their hybrid position between the traditional and the modern. In this sense, the characters of the novel are “conscripts of modernity”, subjects whose becoming is enabled by the tragedy of colonial enlightenment, to quote David Scott (2004). According to Scott (2004, 168), the tragedy [of the enlightened colonial subject] inheres in the fact that, inescapably modern as [s/​]he is obliged by the modern conditions of his[/​her] life to be, [s/​]he must seek his[/​her] freedom in the very technologies, conceptual languages and institutional formations in which modernity’s rationality has sought his[/​her] enslavement. In other words, the promises of freedom that modern forms of mobility articulate are, from the very outset, of a contradictory character. This dilemma lies at the heart of the anxious mobilities in Changes.

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­c hapter 2

The Hotel as a Space of Transit in Sefi Atta’s and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Short Stories Racialised subjects have frequently been excluded from different categories of travel and mobility. The omission of non-​white travel and mobile subjects results from what James Clifford (1997, 33)  refers to as “the dominant discourses of travel”, which are motivated by differences pertaining to race and class. The word ‘travel’ itself connotes affluence, ease, and leisure, which do not correspond to the stereotypical idea of African mobile subjects primarily as underprivileged victims as in transatlantic slave trade or coerced migration.1 As Stephen Greenblatt (2010, “Mobility”, 251) suggests, while migration is commonly represented as a “serious” form of mobility and subject of inquiry, such “less serious” forms of mobility as tourism tend to receive only scant attention in scholarly discussions (see also Adey et al. 2014, 3). This lack of critical attention is particularly pronounced in the fields of postcolonial and African literary studies. The figure of the tourist seems incompatible with the coerced mobilities that are often associated with African subjects. Indeed, as Graham Huggan (2009, 3; emphasis added) has argued, the tourist/​traveller/​ cosmopolitan and the (im)migrant/​refugee are “the reverse figures for today’s conspicuously uneven global culture”. The ‘incompatibility’ of leisure travel and tourism and the mobilities of Global South or ‘postcolonial’ subjects is conveyed, for instance, in Anthony Carrigan’s (2011, 3) study on postcolonial tourism, in which the ‘postcolonial’ aspect alludes to “global tourism’s neo-​ colonial dynamics” –​not to tourism by ‘postcolonial’ travellers themselves. When it comes to African literatures, in addition to portrayals of coerced mobilities of underprivileged subjects  –​which have increasingly received attention in the postcolonial literary scholarship  –​African fiction also features a wide variety of descriptions of fictional characters’ leisure-​related mobilities which cannot be reduced to migration. In short, the concept of the 1 A similar pattern can be identified in the field of travel writing studies where, as Tim Youngs (2010, 72) observes, African American travel texts have received only scant attention. One reason for this, according to Youngs (2010, 72), is that African American writing is often seen to “aris[e]‌from coercion and suffering” –​experences that seem incongruent with the concept of travel.

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48 Chapter 2 African traveller, or even that of the African tourist, for that matter, is far from an oxymoron.2 In this chapter, my focus is on two diasporic Nigerian short stories, namely Sefi Atta’s “Housekeeping” (2010) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Transition to Glory” (2006). Both short stories represent African or African diasporic traveller figures whose mobility cannot be equated with or reduced to migration –​even if in Atta’s text the position of the leisure traveller is profoundly intertwined with her position as an African immigrant in the USA, attesting in this way to the “convergence between categories of movement” (Averis & Hollis-​Touré 2016, 4). The traveller figures that I am interested in here are hotel guests, tourists, and leisure travellers. The starting point of my analysis is the observation that in the texts’ portrayals of such privileged forms of travel, the hotel is an important setting. As mentioned in the previous chapter, from a mobility studies perspective, hotels, together with airports, motorways, stations and other mobility-​related places, are significant networks of mobility as transfer points and “places of intermittent movement” (Sheller & Urry 2006, 213, 219). In other words, hotels can be seen as places of transit or dwelling-​ in-​movement. The hotel is essentially a space marked by the overlapping of the local and the global and the public and the private (Davidson 2006, 169). Marc Augé (1995, 87) famously conceives of the hotel as a non-​place typical of supermodernity –​a space “in which neither identity, nor relations, nor history really make any sense”. As the previous chapter on Aidoo’s representations of privileged “users of hotel lobbies” (Aidoo 1991, 52) suggested, Augé’s claim that the hotel is a place where identity or relations no longer matter can, to a certain extent, be contested. It is, indeed, rather obvious that the hotel is, in effect, a space in which power relations pertaining to class, race, and gender are enacted. The importance of these markers of difference is also prominent in the short stories by Atta and Adichie discussed in the present chapter. Simultaneously, however, while power relations and differences are enacted in the hotel, there are also aspects of the hotel that make it a depersonalised space. The nexus between money, space, and time that informs the hotel business “makes it impossible for the guest to break out of his or her anonymity and be recognized as a unique human being”: it is in this sense that the hotel guest’s situation manifests the “existential estrangement” of modern man (Matthias 2006, 6–​7). This ‘estrangement’ is manifest in both Atta’s and 2 See also Aedín Ní Loingsigh’s book Postcolonial Eyes: Intercontinental Travel in Francophone African Literature (2009), in which she analyses literary representations of the figure of the African tourist in Bernard Dadié’s travelogue Un Nègre à Paris and Calixthe Beyala’s ‘migrant novel’ Maman a un amant.

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Adichie’s portrayals of the hotel and hotel dwelling. This estrangement attests to the way in which the representations of even the most privileged African mobilities tend to be affected by a sense of anxiety, as suggested by my reading of Aidoo’s novel in the previous chapter and Alain Mabanckou’s return travelogue in the next chapter. According to Emma Short (2019, 1), as a “space of mobility”, the hotel is “the ideal literary setting, enabling authors to bring disparate characters together, and often acting as a microcosm of society as a whole”.3 Due to its associations with mobility and transit, the hotel is a paradigmatically modern space (Short 2019, 3), and therefore it is particularly well-​adapted “for represent[ing] the restless modern mind” (Bates 2003, 71). This idea of unbelonging and restlessness remains topical in postcolonial and diasporic literary contexts as well. Diasporic subjects tend to cherish a “homing desire” (Brah 1996, 190–​195), and as postcolonial “conscripts of modernity” (Scott 2004), educated, urban African elites can be seen as hybrid inheritors of modern existential estrangement. While the hotel trope has not received as much critical attention in the African and postcolonial literary scholarships as in studies of European and North American literatures, it is nevertheless clear that as an integral part of modern mobilities, literary analysis of the hotel trope contributes to a more complex understanding of postcolonial African and Afrodiasporic mobilities. I discuss the meanings that Atta’s and Adichie’s short stories attach to the hotel, and how this space of mobility and transit contributes to the production of very specific mobile subjectivities in local African and African diasporic settings. The texts use the hotel trope to explore issues related to diasporic unbelonging, socio-​economic difference and inequalities (as in Atta’s short story), and the interplay between the alleged stability and authenticity of the domestic/​ conjugal and the deviant, unstable and ‘false’ character of an extramarital relationship (as in Adichie’s short story). The hotel trope functions as a symbol for the protagonists’ concrete or more metaphorical states of in-​between-​ness: the immigration limbo of a highly skilled Nigerian migrant worker in Atta’s text and in Adichie’s story, the illegitimate romance confined in the hotel room –​a space that is neither properly private/​domestic nor public. Neither of the texts romanticises the hotel as a space and symbol of transit and unbelonging, nor do they invest it with empowering or liberating meanings, which are often associated with mobility (see Cresswell 2006, 151; Sheller 2008). Instead, both short stories highlight articulations of longing for homeliness and stability in characteristically mobile situations that deny the materialisation of such desires. 3 See also Allan 2016; Bates 2003; van Herk 2014; Matthias 2006.

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50 Chapter 2 The protagonists in “Housekeeping” and “Transition to Glory” qualify for what I would refer to as ‘business class cosmopolitans’ –​much like Aidoo’s central characters in the previous chapter. As Shola Adenekan and Helen Cousins (2014, 1)  have observed, class is a question that has been largely ignored in African literary studies. In particular, this is the case of the African middle class, which seems to be a sort of analytical blind spot in the field (Adenekan & Cousins 2014, 1). Yet, as Adenekan and Cousins (2014, 1) argue, “if we are to investigate modern […] African identities shaped and transformed by globalizing and localizing tendencies, the question of social class cannot be ignored”. While Adichie’s “Transition to Glory”, with its theme revolving around an illicit romantic affair is seemingly ‘non-​political’ in its approach, the narrative nevertheless articulates the idea of class privilege through the effortlessness of the central characters’ local and transnational mobilities. The anxieties that Adichie’s short story articulates have to do with ideas and expectations concerning an illicit, middle class romance whose existence is inscribed in various patterns of mobility (see also Pearce 2018; Pearce 2019). Compared to Adichie’s text, Atta’s short story is more overtly political in its treatment of the entwinement of class privilege and mobility, as the text primarily conceives of the hotel as a space that embodies the uneven logic of global capitalism. Furthermore, the mobility-​related anxieties and articulations of cosmopolitanism that the text conveys can be read in the light of Simon Gikandi’s discussion of the concept of Afropolitanism. In an interview with Eva Rask Knudsen and Ulla Rahbek, Gikandi has addressed the question of privileged diasporic Africans’ –​or ‘Afropolitans’, as they are referred to in the text –​feelings of unease and unbelonging. Gikandi distinguishes two different groups of African ‘cosmopolitans’ according to their socio-​economic statuses and access to mobility. According to Gikandi (Knudsen & Rahbek 2016, 49), non-​elite Afropolitans access the world beyond the boundaries of the national and the local through imagination  –​that is, through what mobility studies scholars frequently refer to as imaginative and virtual travel enabled by different mobile technologies (Larsen, Urry & Axhausen 2016, 4). Their challenge, according to Gikandi (Knudsen & Rahbek 2016, 49), is that the world to which they are connected through imaginative and virtual travel is not based on reality. With respect to the challenges of the affluent ‘cosmopolitans’, Gikandi argues that “this elite group of Afro-​cosmopolitans has adopted Afropolitanism, not as a celebration of living a global life, but as an anxiety” (Knudsen & Rahbek 2016, 49). This anxiety, according to Gikandi, betrays their failure to be at home in the world in which they are living, and it is generated by the multiplicity of conflicting affinities that define the position of diasporic Africans.

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THE HOTEL AS A Space of Transit

Gikandi’s point is interesting in the sense that discussions around the figure of the Afropolitan have mainly focused on criticising the concept because of its elitist biases (Dabiri 2017; Harris 2017; Musila 2016). While these critiques are entirely understandable, the implied idea that the notion of Afropolitanism is an ‘unusable’ concept because it excludes underprivileged, uneducated, and mobility poor Africans is problematic in the sense that it assumes that the concept was supposed to be somehow inclusionary in the first place –​when obviously this is not the case. Indeed, the Afropolitan, as conceptualised by Selasi, clearly describes a very limited class of diasporic Africans and the problematics of their identity work and their way of being in the world. As such, it does not have much to do with the concept of cosmopolitanism as an ethico-​ utopian ideal but, rather, can be seen as part of the continuum of the figure of the cosmopolitan as a citizen of the world. Gikandi’s comments on the anxiety that the elite ‘Afropolitans’’ experience is a welcome call for understanding Afropolitanism as a legitimate category for a specific class of privileged diasporic Africans while acknowledging the elements of the unease that characterises this position. 1

Atta’s Hotel: A Chronotope of Hypermobility, Inequality, and Unbelonging

In Atta’s “Housekeeping”, the protagonist Abiodun Ogedengbe is a Nigerian er doctor who lives and works in Mississippi. In the opening of the short story she has just arrived at her hotel in Atlanta. It is Memorial Day weekend, and she is in the city to attend a party thrown by her cousin. The hotel plays a crucial role in structuring the narrative as the story in its entirety is set in the hotel. In this way, the hotel setting itself contributes to the short story’s poetics of mobility: while the story is somewhat ‘eventless’ in the sense that the protagonist is mostly portrayed resting in her hotel room, her ‘immobility’ in the transit space of the hotel throws the hectic mobility of the world around her into relief. The story opens with the narrator’s statement that the hotel is not the one in which the protagonist usually stays; her regular one was fully booked. The protagonist’s habit of booking the same hotel points to her longing for the “illusion of the ‘home away from home’ ” that hotels frequently promote to their customers (Matthias 2006, 42). The condition of being at home in a hotel is, of course, illusory from the very outset: the hotel is not properly either public or private, but a hybrid setting “between the space of the city and that of the home” (Short 2019, 5–​6). Being obliged to opt for another establishment underlines the protagonist’s sense of displacement and unbelonging, and symbolises her mobility-​related unease. This is further

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52 Chapter 2 emphasised by the suggestion that the choice of the hotel may have not been that successful: “the linoleum floor in the kitchenette is sticky and the microwave stained with popcorn butter” (24). The food stains convey the spectral presence of former guests and undermine the idea of privacy and aspirations to feel at home. For the protagonist, the dinginess of the room itself is an issue: the narrative states that according to her former boyfriend she is “obsessive-​compulsive” (24) because of her habit of cleaning hotel rooms when she arrives. This feature contributes to the key event of the story: a Latina cleaner is discharged as a corollary of the protagonist’s complaints about her hygiene standards. Cleaning the room herself also suggests that the protagonist may not be totally at ease with the identity of an affluent tourist: instead of making a complaint about the cleanliness of the room and to have a cleaner –​very probably a migrant like herself –​do the job, she does it herself. While the reason for the protagonist’s travel is leisure, her profession is so strongly present throughout the short story that the reader could easily believe that she is on a business trip. This suggests that work is the main content of the protagonist’s life in the USA. The emphasis on the protagonist’s occupation becomes further foregrounded in her interactions with the hotel employees in the course of the episode during which she witnesses the Latina cleaner using the same brush for the toilet and the sink. “I’m sorry, but I’m a doctor and that is an E. coli epidemic waiting to happen” (26), the protagonist says to the receptionist on the phone in order to underpin her authority. As her complaint is filed by the housekeeping manager, the protagonist introduces herself as “Dr.  Ogedengbe” (27). Failing to pronounce her surname, the manager addresses her back simply as “doctor” (27), which not only underlines the protagonist’s professional identity, but also, through the ‘unpronounceability’ of her surname, highlights her unbelonging in the USA. In short, the narrative suggests that for the protagonist, her profession functions as an anchor that ties her to the society in which she lives: as an immigrant, her belonging is not that evident. At work, she is made aware of her foreignness by patients who look “suspiciously at her” (26) and colleagues who mispronounce her name, shortening Abiodun to Abi. “Abi”, the narrative voice claims, “takes some time getting used to” (24). Whereas the first part of the narrative refers to the protagonist as “she” while she is alone in her hotel room, the name “Abi” starts to surface in passages in which the narrative voice describes the protagonist’s interactions with her patients and colleagues and the hotel personnel in the narrative present. “Abi” is the migrant identity imposed on her by Americans unwilling to take the trouble of learning how to pronounce her name. “Abi” is the name of a highly skilled professional who does not quite belong. Her unbelonging is highlighted by

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the state of in-​between-​ness to which she is confined as an immigrant who will not be able to apply for a permanent residence permit for another five years. The hotel, as a place of transit and temporary dwelling, symbolises this diasporic state of in-​between-​ness of a highly educated African worker in the USA. In accordance with the conventional hotel lexicon, the protagonist also presents herself as “room 218” when she calls the reception desk. The identity of a hotel guest and a traveller as “room 218” can be read as liberating in all its anonymity, at least in the sense that it enables the protagonist to escape the patronising and ‘adaptable’ identity of Abi-​the-​Immigrant, or the unpronounceability of her foreign surname. This said, while the anonymity of being “room 218” enables the protagonist to escape the identity of the assimilated, ‘manageable’ Abi, it also underlines the fact that her ‘true’, ‘foreign’ and ‘unpronounceable’ identity as Abiodun Ogedengbe is equally erased in the process of becoming “room 218”. Food is a recurring element in Atta’s short story. Not only is the hotel room covered with food stains, but also the smell of curry penetrates the room from the corridor, preventing the exhausted protagonist from sleeping. It is the curry smell that motivates the protagonist to call the reception desk for the first time. “It might not get better” (24), states the receptionist, and asks whether the protagonist wishes to have another room. The curry smell comes from next door, a room which, according to the receptionist, is occupied by Indian long-​stay guests taking an it course. The smell of curry is overwhelming, and the protagonist “buries her head under her pillow” (24) to lessen its effect. With the stains and the smell, food becomes invested with negative meanings: it connotes dirt and nuisance entering the hotel room. Moreover, while the popcorn and ketchup stains in the hotel room allude to the omnipresence of Western fast food culture, thus underlining the non-​place supermodernity character of the hotel (Augé 1995), the curry has non-​Western, ‘ethnic’ connotations. That a Nigerian immigrant would complain about the smell of ‘ethnic’ food in a Western hotel has an ironic twist to it, for, as Jopi Nyman (2009, “Cultural”, 83) has pointed out, in multicultural contexts, food is often conceived of as a question of identity and “a marker of difference that separates the immigrant from the host”. Atta’s protagonist comes across as a sort of black immigrant parody of a stereotypical, parochial, white, middle-​class person who suffers from the smell of ‘ethnic’ food and who questions the hygiene standards of migrant workers. The events of “Housekeeping” are entirely set in a hotel room, which is the most ‘private’ of the different spaces of the hotel. The text does not, for instance, mention the hotel lobby, which has traditionally been a popular stage for encounters and interactions between hotel guests in literary hotel stories (Matthias 2006, 55). The lounge or the dining room, which often serve

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54 Chapter 2 as “spaces offering a vital sense of community to those isolated by the hotel lifestyle” (Short 2019, 24), are totally absent from the narrative. This underlines the protagonist’s isolation and her desire to withdraw from any sort of interaction. The only explicitly more public setting outside the hotel room is the corridor in a passage in which the protagonist reluctantly exits her room during the housekeeping incident. The text’s way of prioritising the hotel room as a setting conveys a certain aesthetics of privacy –​privacy which, as suggested by such elements as the food stains of former guests, the penetrating curry smell from other rooms, and the cleaner’s knock on the door, is merely illusory. Atta’s text portrays the hotel room as a solitary space lacking personality, and allusions to fast food and global tv channels highlight its non-​place character as a “space[…] in which solitude is experienced as an overburdening or emptying of individuality” (Augé 1995, 87). Besides symbolising the protagonist’s state of in-​betweenness as a Nigerian immigrant in the USA, the hotel room is also, in a more concrete manner, a place of transit between the protagonist’s home and her cousin’s Memorial Day party. As such, its most important quality is as a place for rest. Before falling asleep, the protagonist’s thoughts wander from her patients to her cousin and colleagues. The digital clock –​a typical, albeit increasingly obsolete piece of impersonal hotel room decoration –​on her bedside table reveals that it is 8:38 pm after her complaint about the curry smell, and when she wakes up at the cleaning lady’s knock on the door, it is 11:27 am. Most of the narrative present, then, is spent sleeping or waiting for sleep, which is in itself a state of transition. Sleeping is also a state of vulnerability during which the hotel room’s privacy is supposed to protect the guest from the world outside the hotel room door (Matthias 2006, 61). Yet, as the cleaner’s knock on the door while the protagonist is still at sleep suggests, the room fails to claim its promises as an “ultimate protective shell” (Matthias 2006, 61). At the end of the story, after the incident with the cleaner, the protagonist returns to her bed, and the narrative voice states, “She has been tired since she moved to America” (27). This draws attention to the wearying effect of being an African immigrant in the USA, doomed to immigration limbo and annoyingly familiar with “days when she wants to pack up and leave” (26).4 Before returning to the bed, she also tries sitting on the sofa, but “misjudges how low and hard it is” (27). The sofa’s lack of comfort symbolises the protagonist’s failure to feel herself at home in the hotel room and, symbolically, in her migrant life, and suggests that she uses 4 In this, the protagonist greatly resembles the protagonist Deola in Atta’s novel A Bit of Difference (2014). Deola is also a highly educated diasporic Nigerian, tired of living abroad and constantly playing with the idea of returning to Nigeria.

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sleep as a refuge from this reality defined by metaphorical homelessness. In addition to being tired, the protagonist is also angry. If sleep is a state of vulnerability that must be hidden behind the hotel room’s door, anger is equally a feeling the protagonist wants to hide. When she perceives an Indian man passing next to her in the corridor during the incident with the cleaner, she is worried that she may “appear angry” (26), and in the telephone conversation with the housekeeping manager, she uses the word “concerned” to “show […] she is serious but not angry” (27). Given that the events of the short story are set in the USA, the protagonist’s concern with not being seen as angry in the eyes of others points to her awareness of the stereotype of the angry black woman that is often attached to African American women. While the protagonist is not African American, her eagerness to suppress her anger betrays her urge to avoid being classified according to this racist and misogynist stereotype. In short, the text suggests that she struggles with the unpleasant feelings of tiredness and anger that betray her frustration with her immigrant life and her suppressed longing for home. While the entire story is set in the hotel room with the protagonist mainly lying on her bed in search of sleep, the alleged immobility of the setting is deceitful: different forms of mobility constantly animate the text. The narrative refers to the protagonist’s trip to Atlanta; depicts her in telephone conversations with receptionists; draws attention to her immigrant status; mentions that she would like to visit Cuba as a tourist; and contrasts this form of leisure travel to the mobilities of underprivileged Nigerians who “had been known to hide in the wheel wells of planes flying from Lagos to London” (25). In short, Atta’s short story captures the mobile essence of the global era.5 The principal character’s present physical immobility is just a phase of transition before she joins the ever-​continuing movement around her: the hotel room is a temporary space of retreat from the hypermobility characteristic of the age of globalisation. Recurrent allusions to different forms of mobilities convey the idea that the protagonist is not really isolated or withdrawn from the world, and give the short story a speedy narrative pace even when the protagonist

5 The era of globalisation is characterised by the increase in migration, different forms of travel, and the rise of new technologies (see Appadurai 1996). In this sense, globalisation is marked by the escalation of mobility. Of course, mobility is not limited to contemporary, globalised postcoloniality. For instance, Achille Mbembe (2007, 27), notes that Africa’s past attests to a “phenomenon of worlds in movement” and that the history of the continent cannot be properly understood without acknowledging the role played by different forms of mobility. On African mobilities beyond the colonial paradigm, see also Mavhunga 2011, 2012; Mavhunga, Cuvelier & Pype 2016.

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56 Chapter 2 is portrayed as lying in her bed in the privacy of her hotel room. Indeed, the protagonist’s current state of immobility in the transitory space of the hotel room further underlines this hypermobility. Moreover, the hotel room in Atta’s short story can, in effect, be read as a chronotope of globalised postcoloniality. The chronotope, according to Mikhail Bakhtin (1981, 84), is a literary trope in which “spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-​ out, concrete whole. Time, as it were, thickens, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history”. As a chronotope, the hotel room setting itself becomes a narrative strategy that conveys the idea of the entanglement of mobility and immobility in the literary form. Besides the hypermobility of the global era, the hotel room as a chronotope also conveys the unequal effects of globalisation as well as a sense of diasporic unbelonging. The story ends with the smell of bleach preventing the protagonist from sleeping. Bleach conveys the idea of a depersonalised environment. The smell of bleach also reminds the protagonist of the fact that, just like the guests before her, her presence in the temporary abode will, or at least should, be wiped out. As Matthias (2006, 41) puts it, “the transitory nature of a hotel stay denies the guest the option of leaving a lasting trace”. The smell of bleach also functions as an uneasy reminder of the protagonist’s “concern” (27) about the cleaner’s hygiene standards, for which the latter is fired. This key moment highlights the discrepancy between the socio-​economic statuses of the two migrant workers. The Latina cleaner does not speak very good English, and the moment when the protagonist hands her a twenty-​dollar bill and thanks her in Spanish, is a moment that captures the imbalanced power structures between them. The twenty-​dollar bill also reveals the “capitalist foundation” that the hotel as a modern economic phenomenon tries so hard to disguise with its discourses of hospitality and homeliness (Matthias 2006, 3). This moment highlights the protagonist’s position as a well-​off leisure traveller instead of portraying her uniquely as a migrant worker. The protagonist’s attempts to compensate the cleaner for being discharged by giving her a tip and speaking one word of the cleaner’s native language is an absurd, clumsy gesture that troubles the protagonist as she returns to bed after the cleaner has left. Ironically enough, the protagonist’s interaction with the cleaner is her unique, slightly more substantial encounter with another person during her stay at the hotel. The protagonist’s flagrant unease generated by her realisation of her own privilege compared to that of the cleaner can be seen as an expression of cosmopolitan consciousness. This instance of cosmopolitan ethical consciousness is manifest in the ironic tone of the narrative voice  –​much like in Aidoo’s novel. However, it should be underlined that this consciousness does not really have any substantial repercussions as the cleaner loses her job because of the hygiene issue. The

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cleaner’s discharge draws attention to the way in which the hotel represents a place of transit also for migrant workers in low-​skilled and low-​paid jobs: they can be easily replaced. The ease with which migrant workers can be replaced further underlines the hotel’s character as a depersonalised space without identity. Indeed, the text highlights this feature by leaving the hotel employees unnamed: the housekeeping manager refers to the cleaner as one of “them” with her words, “We train them” (27). The protagonist’s encounter with the cleaner and the latter’s dismissal add another twist to the hotel room as a chronotope for globalised postcoloniality: on the underside of global hypermobility one finds exploitation and structures of inequality. 2

Adichie’s Hotel Room: Adulterous Space between the Domestic and the Public

Unlike in Atta’s “Housekeeping”, in Adichie’s “Transition to Glory” the hotel room is not the unique setting in which the events take place. In effect, the narrative present of the story does not involve hotel stays: the hotel belongs to the protagonist’s near past where it served as a scene for secret, adulterous encounters between her and her older, married lover. In so doing, the short story articulates the traditional association of the hotel room with illicit sexual activity (Short 2019, 159). The narrative shifts from the present to the past, representing the young female protagonist’s life in a sort of a sugar daddy/​girlfriend relationship (see Dinan 1983) and in the aftermath of the lover’s fatal car accident. The passages depicting the narrative present portray the protagonist in the domestic sphere; first in her own house, then at her childhood home in Nsukka, where she travels in order to find solace and mourn the loss of her lover, and finally, in her late lover’s house in the company of his widow. The passages that focus on the past are set in a hotel room, with the exception of the last passage, in which the lovers meet at the protagonist’s place for the first and last time. The transitory space of the hotel room, embodying the in-​between space between the private and the public (Davidson 2006, 169) and “haunted by domestic illusion” (van Herk 2014, 143), is the space dedicated to the illegitimate romance. Because of its extramarital nature, the relationship is banned from both the domestic and the public spheres. The romantic relationship can exist in the public sphere outside the hotel room only when the lovers are travelling, as the couple’s trip to London and the man’s request to the protagonist to accompany him on a business trip to Ibadan suggest. In their daily lives in Lagos, the romantic relations cannot go out in public, so to speak, which is why the couple meets uniquely at the hotel. The man tells his

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58 Chapter 2 wife that he goes to a tennis club when, in reality, he meets the protagonist at the hotel  –​his movement between the domestic/​private, the public, and the in-​between space of the hotel room is captured in this adulterous pattern. As a place of in-​between-​ness (Sheller & Urry 2006, 219), the hotel provides “a lexicon of displacement” (van Herk 2014, 141)  which is required and generated by an adulterous relationship: it is properly neither a domestic nor a public space. As Sarah Treadwell (2005, 215, 216) suggests in her discussion of the image of the motel6 in different cultural products, the motel challenges discourses of family as it “collects deviancy and accommodates the domestically resistant”. Hence it is not surprising that (budget) hotels and motels are “favorite locations for behaviors related to cultural taboos: sex, drugs, crime, and death” (van Herk 2014, 145; see also Allan 2016, 167; Treadwell 2005, 215). In “Transition to Glory”, the hotel room clearly occupies the place of the deviant and the “domestically resistant” (Treadwell 2005, 215, 216) as it serves as a space for a secret, adulterous affair. As such, the hotel room can also be seen as a potential space of resistance and sexual freedom that “provide[s]‌an escape from gendered alignments of femininity and domesticity” (Short 2019, 135). Just as in Atta’s “Housekeeping”, the most important single element of the hotel room in Adichie’s story is the bed. This is obviously not for the same reasons as for Atta’s exhausted protagonist, although it should be mentioned that Adichie’s hotel scenes do allude to post-​coital sleep and rest. Unlike in Atta’s short story, Adichie’s hotel room seems almost entirely disconnected from the rest of the establishment: the text does not once refer to hotel workers or other guests. In one of the flashback passages, however, it is mentioned in passing that the protagonist’s lover has ordered them a meal from room service, but other than that, all of the elements of the hotel infrastructure, with the exception of the hotel room itself, are absent from the text. By practically erasing the most explicitly public elements of the hotel, Adichie’s text constructs the hotel room as an isolated universe containing the lovers: from a romantic perspective, it is a space that only the lovers can inhabit, but also, simultaneously, from a more deviant perspective, it is the only space in which their relationship can exist in the first place. The short story is constructed on the tension between these romantic and deviant aspects of the hotel room. Furthermore, the strategy of representing the hotel room as a realm that excludes the public 6 As such, hotels and motels cannot be equated, since class plays a different role in them. Notwithstanding, Treadwell’s (2005, 216) conceptions of the motel as a space that “accommodates the domestically resistant” is relevant and applicable to Adichie’s hotel story. Moreover, Treadwell’s (2005, 215)  idea that motels “collect deviancy” is echoed in van Herk’s (2014, 145) article on cultural representations of hotels.

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space conveys the protagonist’s desperate and essentially futile aspirations to inscribe the romance in the alleged stability of the domestic. However, the allusion to room service draws attention to the fact that the hotel room is never simply a private/​domestic space either: it merely ‘fakes’ the domestic. Indeed, as Maria Noëlle Ng (2004, 94) writes, the “hotel guest is constantly living in the public”. This feature becomes obvious when one enters or leaves a hotel and checks in or out, or even in the hotel room itself when staff members enter to bring food ordered from room service or to clean the room during or after the stay (Ng 2004, 95). The narrative’s allusions to room service indirectly draw attention to the question of the intertwinement of gender and class. The protagonist and her lover order and eat food cooked and served by someone working at the hotel. When the couple meets at the protagonist’s place, she cooks for her lover herself. In other words, staying at the hotel and ordering food from room service frees her from traditionally ‘feminine’ housework routines: the task is relegated to a hotel worker –​the reader may easily imagine a woman from a more modest background than that of the protagonist. The erasure of the hotel staff from the narrative gives “Transition to Glory” a somewhat non-​political impression compared to Atta’s short story, in which the narrative climax is the incident with the cleaner. Indirectly, however, the erasure of the hotel staff points to the question of class privilege and the fact that the employees are the ones “whose labour makes possible the leisure of their guests” (Short 2019, 177). The protagonist seems unable to appreciate the hotel room’s deviant character as a space of transit. She cannot resist bringing up the domestic and the conjugal by alluding to her lover’s wife almost every time they meet. “Was it your wife?” (36), she asks when her lover refuses to answer his phone; “would [your] wife have wanted pigeons on her head?” (41), she wonders when the lovers are in London and an “Indian-​looking man” (41) in Trafalgar Square tries to persuade them to buy a photograph with pigeons on the protagonist’s head; and “tell me about your wife” (42) she requests during a dinner in a restaurant in London. This suggests that the transitory space of the illegitimate affair that the hotel room (and other spaces of transit during the couple’s weekend holiday in London) symbolises is not satisfactory for the protagonist, who, in effect, “practise[s]‌her first name and Agha’s last name in front of her bathroom mirror” (46) and longs for something that would make “all seem more real” (39). Adultery, in a context in which marital life for women so often equals social and economic dependency on men, can be seen as a possibility to “explor[e] a relation free from utilitarian aspects”, as Maria Olaussen (2002, 68) suggests in her analysis of Aidoo’s Changes: A Love Story. It is against this backdrop that the transitory qualities of the hotel room could be appreciated: it is a space

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60 Chapter 2 that enables women to flee the taken-​for-​granted domestic roles of the wife and the mother (Ng 2004, 95; see also Short 2019, 135–​136, 148). However, unlike Aidoo’s more mature, experienced, and equally adulterous female protagonist Esi, Adichie’s protagonist fails to see the adulterous relationship’s potential –​ symbolised by the hotel room –​for her gendered freedom, and instead dreams of the institutionalised and inevitably utilitarian role of the good wife. She strives for stability and security, not the “absence of responsibility” (Short 2019, 154) that the hotel room as a mobile space of transit has to offer. The idea that the romance is impossible outside the hotel room manifests itself in a passage depicting the lovers in a post-​coital scene that is not set in the hotel but, exceptionally, at the protagonist’s house. As a manifestation of her ‘good wife’ aspirations, the protagonist has prepared a meal for her lover, and afterwards observes him while he sleeps in her bed. When the lover wakes up, he has “a strange expression as he looked around her tiny room, at her dressing table crowded with creams, her mirror plastered with photos, her shelf lined with books” (46). He says, “I shouldn’t have come […] Being here, where you live, makes me want something more. It makes me want more than I should” (47). Here, it is the domestic sphere as an adulterous romantic setting that becomes problematic, as it seems to impose meanings that are incongruent with the “lexicon of displacement” (van Herk 2014, 141) that the hotel room setting generates. The narrative conveys the utter impossibility of turning the domestic into the scene of the adulterous romance in the abrupt ending of the relationship: the protagonist’s lover dies in a car accident directly after the first occasion on which he has come to her home for a romantic/​sexual encounter. As in Atta’s story, Adichie’s text draws attention to a variety of different forms of mobility. In the first flashback passage, the protagonist is on her way to the hotel to meet her lover. In the passage, the protagonist is portrayed as being in a state of stagnation-​in-​movement. She sits in her car, stuck in a traffic jam, with her car’s air conditioner broken, street hawkers circling around the car, horns blaring, and people swearing. These elements symbolise the protagonist’s sense of being stuck in a romance that, due to its illegitimacy, so to speak, is going nowhere. Simultaneously, the contrast between street hawkers, thieves, and the protagonist points at the fact that the protagonist is a relatively affluent African mobile subject. The protagonist has her own car, which suggests that she is an independent woman, since, as Olaussen (2002, 67) states in her analysis of the role of the car in romantic heterosexual relationships in Aidoo’s Changes, “the men in control of the cars are usually also the ones who control the women’s sexuality”. In this sense, Adichie’s protagonist is unlike those Lagos women whom she describes standing “on roadsides […] as if they were waiting for taxis when they were really waiting for men to give them rides –​men who were stupid enough not to realise

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that the women wanted to save transport money and were not interested in them” (38). Despite being in a relationship with an older, affluent and powerful man, the protagonist’s mobility is not dependent on anyone else; in addition to driving her car, she is also portrayed as travelling alone while catching a bus and a taxi on her way to her old hometown and to her late lover’s home to meet his widow. Her relative freedom of movement is clearly connected to her socio-​economic status. The smoothness that characterises the protagonist’s mobility both locally and transnationally is symbolised in the narrative’s constant, fluent shifting between narrative flashbacks and the narrative present. In this way, Adichie’s short story not only draws attention to the link between gender, class, and mobility, but also articulates the idea of unimpeded mobility in the literary form. In one passage, the lovers become tourists as the man invites the protagonist to go on a weekend trip to London. In the next flashback passage, they are sitting “on the roof of the London tour bus” (40). There are no allusions to passports, visas, or immigration officers at the airport that are present in much African fiction depicting less privileged Africans’ intercontinental travel. This implies, yet again, that the couple’s mobility is marked by ease: it could be said that as business class cosmopolitans, they cross national borders without any particular difficulties. The couple enjoys banal “touristy things” (41), and, for once, they have the opportunity to express their feelings in public. Curiously enough, for the protagonist, the caring attentions of her lover come across as a “public display” (40–​41), “as if he were acting a film” (42). This suggests that she experiences the tourist trip as something inscribed in the domain of the unreal or the fake. As Matthias (2006, 43)  observes, the hotel and touristic practices often have a certain theatrical character as they provide “a relief from the everyday life”. In a similar vein, according to Ng (2004, 96), the hotel, a space “ ‘free’ from daily routine and commitments also introduces the illusion that one has acquired another persona”. The idea of acting or falsity features again in the London passage in a description of the man “pretend[ing] to speak poor English to the cab driver” (41) and in how he now “seem[s]‌a different person, as if something that had fit just right back in Lagos was now a little loose” (42). In this way, Adichie’s protagonist conceives (romantic) subjectivities generated in in-​between spaces or while travelling as theatrical, ‘unreal’ performances. ‘Genuine’ identities and relationships, in contrast, are associated with immobility and the domestic sphere. This sort of ‘authenticity’, however, is beyond the scope of the illegitimate romance that can only exist in movement and spaces of transit. Nevertheless, while the protagonist feels that her lover is playing a role during their trip to London, others do not seem to spot any ‘false’ elements. At one point during their holiday in London, the lovers come across a Ghanaian

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62 Chapter 2 couple. The Ghanaians immediately identify them as “real West Africans” (42), thus differentiating them from “Londonised West Africans” (42), whom they seem to think of in a somewhat problematically essentialist way as ‘culturally inauthentic’ Africans. The Ghanaians take it for granted that “[the protagonist] was his wife, and it didn’t help when Agha said, ‘Ozioma and I live in Lagos’ ” (42). The fact that the Ghanaian couple is “slightly drunk” (42), however, diminishes the credibility of their observations and further underlines the theatrical, carnivalesque effect that the trip and the idea of being on the move or in transit casts on the adulterous relationship. For the protagonist, the tragedy of the hotel room as the scene and symbol of the illegitimate romance lies in the fact that, in their daily lives in Lagos, it is the unique space –​however ‘non-​genuine’ and transitory –​in which the affair can actually exist. Furthermore, when the romance ‘goes public’ outside the hotel room, as during the trip to London, its ‘falsity’ –​or its existential impossibility –​is exposed. Indeed, according to Matthias (2006, 7), the hotel is a space in which “dreams can be acted out but not taken outside the hotel’s walls into ‘real life’ ”. 3

Conclusion: Being in Transit, Longing for Home

Atta’s and Adichie’s short stories feature the figures of the African leisure traveller, tourist, and, above all, hotel guest. In so doing, the texts draw attention to the diversity of African mobilities and challenge the prioritisation of migrancy over other less ‘serious’ forms of mobility. These texts also highlight the question of class and the problematics that pertain to the mobilities of the African and Afrodiasporic upper and middle classes. Atta’s story explores the hotel as a space of transit that generates uneasy encounters not only with Others, but also with one’s own privilege. It addresses the illusory privacy of the hotel room and highlights the ways in which the hotel articulates the socio-​ economic differences between different mobile subjects in the global era. In “Housekeeping”, the hotel functions as a symbol of the protagonist’s state of in-​between-​ness as an immigrant. The text articulates a longing for a home in terms of an unquestionable sense of belonging that is beyond the protagonist’s reach both as a hotel guest and also as a Nigerian immigrant in the USA. The hotel room setting itself plays a key role in the short story’s poetics of mobility, and can be read as a chronotope of globalised postcoloniality as it embodies not only the hypermobility typical of globalisation but also its unequal effects and the feelings of (un)belonging that life in the diaspora may generate in an African migrant. While Atta’s hotel story is set in a diasporic context and the hotel trope is used to explore explicitly ‘postcolonial’ political issues, Adichie’s

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“Transition to Glory” represents the hotel in a less overtly political light as a setting for a sort of a sugar daddy/​girlfriend relationship mostly in a local, Lagosian environment. However, the question of class privilege and the gendered dimensions of mobility are equally present in the margins of the narrative. Here, the hotel room is a space of in-​between-​ness in the sense that it serves as an abode for a relationship that can exist neither in the domestic nor the public sphere. The protagonist does not know how to appreciate the transgressive, potentially liberating (in terms of gender and sexuality) aspects of the hotel room, and longs for stability and symbolic immobility of the conjugal/​ domestic instead. The relatively unimpeded mobilities of socio-​economically privileged classes to which Adichie’s short story’s characters belong is conveyed in the literary form in the smooth narrative transitions between the past and the present on the one hand, and between different loci, on the other. In both texts, the hotel is invested with mainly negative meanings. Its transitory and anonymous character is associated with diasporic unbelonging and the ease with which migrant labour can be replaced in the global economy, as Atta’s short story suggests. In Adichie’s story, the hotel room as the setting for and the symbol of an illegitimate romance is conceived of as an unsatisfactory state of transit by the protagonist, who clearly associates the domestic as the ‘true’ scene for a romantic relationship. Adichie’s protagonist is metaphorically homeless in a romance that can only exist in the hotel room. The two short stories, with their hotel guests and leisure travellers, contribute to literary imaginings of the hotel as a space of transit, in-​between-​ness, and metaphorical homelessness set in different contexts of globalised postcoloniality and from the perspective of affluent, mobile Africans.

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­c hapter 3

Uneasy ‘Homecoming’ in Alain Mabanckou’s Lumières de Pointe-​Noire Alain Mabanckou, an acclaimed Francophone novelist and poet, left his native Congo-​Brazzaville at the age of 22 in order to pursue studies in France. Currently, Mabanckou lives in the USA, where he is a professor at the Department of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California Los Angeles. Besides fiction, Mabanckou’s work includes non-​fictional texts such as Lettre à Jimmy (2009), which is a tribute to James Baldwin; Le Sanglot de l’homme noir (2012), which addresses questions of black identity; and Le Monde est mon langage (2016), in which the author reflects his position as a Francophone African author affiliated to three continents. In addition to these non-​fictional works, Mabanckou’s oeuvre includes a text that can be seen to belong to the genre of travel writing, namely Lumières de Pointe-​Noire (2013), which narrates the author’s return to his native Congo-​Brazzaville after a long absence. As is typical of travelogues, the journey structures and motivates the narrative, making it an inherently mobile text. By narrating a diasporic subject’s journey back to his home country, the text also draws attention to a form of mobility that represents a deviation from the much-​studied South-​North mobilities as movement away from Africa and towards Western metropolises. That said, it should also be noted that, in the end, the returnee travels back to his diasporic home. The historical emergence of travel writing as a typically white and often colonial genre has resulted in the exclusion of non-​white travel texts and authors from the category (Forsdick 2005, 202). While the African continent itself has served as a popular setting for travel texts, most commonly it has been represented as an exotic Other outside modernity by authors who are not from the continent themselves (Moynagh 2015, 281). African-​authored travelogues, on the other hand, have mostly focused on intercontinental travel from the African continent to Europe or the USA (see Ní Loingsigh 2009). Recently, however, a new trend and critical interest in African-​authored travel writing has arisen that focuses on African travellers’ journeys to and across the continent (Ní Loingsigh 2016, 192–​193; Moynagh 2015, 286; Jones 2019).1 While Mabanckou may not be considered to be a travel writer per se, Lumières de 1 The trend of Africans’ travels on the African continent manifests itself in the work of writers such as Noo Saro-​Wiwa, Sihle Khumalo, Binyavanga Wainaina, and Ivan Vladislavić (Ní

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Pointe-​Noire (2013), invites itself to be read as a travel text, and can, therefore, be seen to be part of this trend. Lumières de Pointe-​Noire represents the travel of the narrator (identified as Alain Mabanckou) to Pointe-​Noire, the city of his childhood and youth, after twenty-​three years of absence. As such, the text corresponds to the conventional understanding of the travel book as “a narrative characterized by a non-​ fiction dominant that relates […] in the first person a journey […] that the reader supposes to have taken place in reality while assuming […] that author, narrator and principal character are but one or identical” (Borm 2004, 17). In addition to a textual representation of the return, the travelogue contains both old photographs and more recent ones taken during the journey. Through its themes, Lumières de Pointe-​Noire sets itself in a dialogue with Mabanckou’s other works. The book betrays Mabanckou’s interest in the intertwinement of Africa with the world, and his attachment to Pointe-​Noire and its people, some of whom have inspired Mabanckou’s creation of fictional characters. The question of the author’s complex identity between various locations is also present, as well as allusions to texts from different literary traditions and their meaning for Mabanckou’s authorship. In other words, there is a pronouncedly cosmopolitan approach in Mabanckou’s oeuvre and his authorial image, and this cosmopolitan posture is also articulated in Lumières de Pointe-​Noire –​ although mostly in slightly darker shades. Because of its central theme of revisiting a former home country, Lumières de Pointe-​Noire represents a specific subgenre of travel writing: the narrative of return (see Palmer 2002, 245). The work underlines such typically postcolonial concerns as identity, belonging, and class-​related elements of travel. Contemporary postcolonial travel writing, as María Lourdes López Ropero (2011, 72) points out, is often characterised by “a personal urge to solve inner conflicts about home and belonging”  –​a definition that resonates with Mabanckou’s text.2 López Ropero (2011, 73) writes that postcolonial travel texts tend to be marked by “the awakening of social consciousness”. This is certainly the case for postcolonial travelogues with an explicitly political approach, such as Caryl Phillips’s The Atlantic Sound (2000), on which López Ropero (2011)

Loingsigh 192; Moynagh 287–​288). Online publishing is also a growing trend in African travel writing. 2 Many of the uneasy aspects pertaining to ‘homecoming’ are obviously not exclusively postcolonial phenomena per se; nostalgia, for instance, is certainly an impulse common to narratives of return in general. What is typically postcolonial here, however, is the context in which the travel narrative is embedded –​a context marked by the complex aftermath of the colonial project on both a local and a wider global scale (see Quayson 2000, 93–​94).

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66 Chapter 3 focuses in her article. Mabanckou’s text, however, is not as openly concerned with topical socio-​political issues, historical injustices, or the postcolonial imperative of ‘writing back’. While there are allusions to the inequalities generated by the colonial past, social consciousness in Mabanckou’s case is filtered through the personal: it pertains to the authorial persona’s awareness of his diasporic privilege and to the way in which it affects his ways of narrating his ‘homecoming’. In this chapter I  discuss the complexities and contradictions that give the ‘homecoming’ of the privileged ‘business class cosmopolitan’ returnee an uneasy character. The first two manifestations of unease are thematic:  I start by analysing the ways in which the text constructs the returnee’s identity as a native and a tourist (belonging vs. unbelonging). Next, the focus will be on the narrative’s oscillation between nostalgia and loss, which nourishes a ‘dark return’ aspect of the travelogue. Narratives of dark return, according to Srilata Ravi (2014, 296), are travelogues in which “expatriated writers represent their travel to disadvantaged postcolonial urbanscapes, ‘failed cities’, where they once belonged”, struggling with the feelings of nostalgia and loss that their encounter with their former homes is liable to generate. These feelings of unease are instances of self-​awareness that can be seen as manifestations of cosmopolitan ethical consciousness. Besides the thematic axis, in Mabanckou’s text the sense of unease also relates to the representation of the ‘homecoming’ and, in a way, comments on the genre of travel writing. These representational aspects pertain, firstly, to the attempts in Lumières de Pointe-​ Noire to disturb the centrality of the travelling I/​eye through the trope of returned gaze and the use of dialogue. Secondly, they involve the figure of ‘the white woman’ –​a photographer and Mabanckou’s travelling companion/​partner –​whose presence is curiously pushed to the travelogue’s margins. Together these aspects testify to an unease that marks Mabanckou’s ‘homecoming’. They betray the narrator’s struggle to claim belonging to the present tense of his childhood city, as well as the tensions his socio-​economically privileged mobile position generate. In terms of genre and representation, the unease pertains to the fact that postcolonial travel writers have to struggle with the white and colonial roots that inform the genre. These thematic and representational manifestations of unease are illustrative of the mobile African elite’s “anxiety about the difficulties of being African and cosmopolitan”, as Simon Gikandi formulates it in an interview with Eva Rask Knudsen and Ulla Rahbek (2016, 49). According to Gikandi, the anxieties that privileged African cosmopolitans experience are “connected to mobility and travel and to location and belonging” as multiple affinities result in “a certain kind of excessiveness about signification” (Knudsen & Rahbek 2016, 49, 50). Hence, much as in the two

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preceding chapters, this chapter addresses issues that generate trouble in the African business class. 1

Returnee: A Tourist-​Native

I start with the thematic analysis of the uneasy elements of Mabanckou’s ‘homecoming’ by discussing how Lumières de Pointe-​Noire constructs his (un) belonging on the tourist-​native axis. In addition to the journey motif, postcolonial travel narratives concentrate on “mapping the traveller’s own subject positions and sites of enunciation” (Schoroder 2011, 117) as well as their “personal urge to solve inner conflicts about home and belonging” (López Ropero 2011, 72). Identity issues are probably all the more accentuated in such postcolonial narratives of return like Mabanckou’s travelogue. Narratives of return have a long history in Afrodiasporic literatures. Return to Africa has been a central theme in Harlem Renaissance and the Négritude movement.3 For diasporic Africans, going back to the continent has often represented “a quest for a remembered past […] undertaken to reaffirm a lost identity” (François 2011, xv). With its longing for a “lost unity and coherence”, the return to Africa as conceived by the Négritude movement can be seen as a manifestation of restorative nostalgia (Walder 2009, 940; see also Boym 2001, 41). Contemporary narratives of return, however, tend to represent return as “an emotional crisis, the end of a nostalgic dream, or a harsh encounter with a reality of continuing social and political hardship” (Boehmer 2005, 192). Contemporary diasporic literatures are more sceptical about ‘natural’ affiliations and aware of the “fragmented subjectivities” that life in diaspora generates (Ravi 2014, 297). Such contemporary diasporic narratives as those produced by France-​based, Francophone African authors often “refuse to construct Africa as a site of salutary return” (Adesanmi 2013, 321–​322). In short, ‘homecoming’ narratives today “have become transformed into discourses problematizing the very concepts they had earlier sought to idealize” (Ravi 2014, 297). If contemporary return narratives are marked by a nostalgic impulse, this is more often a form of reflective nostalgia, which, in contrast to restorative nostalgia, acknowledges the irrecoverability of the past (see Boym 2001, 41). 3 The Harlem Renaissance movement in the early 1920s, and also the Négritude movement between the 1930s and the 1960s, “drew much of [their] strength from the idea of a mythical or cultural reconnection with the African past” (François 2011, ix). The idea of returning to Africa forms the core of the writings by Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Léon Gontran Damas, who were the key figures of the Négritude movement (François 2011, ix).

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68 Chapter 3 Lumières de Pointe-​Noire is typical of contemporary return narratives in the sense that it does not nurture unrealistic hopes about homecoming. The return is not motivated by a search for a ‘lost’ identity or community. That said, the text is, nevertheless, marked by a certain nostalgic impulse. Mabanckou has said that the reason for delaying the return for over twenty years resulted from his fear that the memory he had of his home would no longer correspond to the reality (“Livre”). Return narratives by authors of the older African diasporas are not entirely comparable with return narratives by Africans of contemporary diasporas such as Mabanckou. The personal histories of Africans of contemporary diasporas tie them more closely to the African continent. Because of this, their ideas about the ‘homes’ to which they are returning are often more realistic (see Ledent & Tunca 2014, 113). This realism is echoed in Mabanckou’s fear that by going back, he might destroy a memory of home that he has nurtured. Return travel is a very particular form of mobility. Because of the traveller’s personal history, the journey is often emotionally charged. Sabine Marschall (2015) refers to this sort of travel as “personal memory tourism”. According to Marschall (2015, 36), personal memory tourism involves “people who travel in pursuit of memories of their own past and retrace journeys undertaken earlier in life”. Because of the traveller’s “emotional connection” to the destination, personal memory tourism is an individualistic phenomenon and may be motivated by a search for identity or self-​discovery (Marschall 2015, 37). While the journey represented in Mabanckou’s book qualifies as personal memory tourism, it should be emphasised that even if the ‘homecoming’ drives the author-​narrator to ponder on identity-​related issues, the purpose of his return is, above all, professional: literary meetings and writing. Even though working with identity is not explicitly recognised as the primary purpose of Mabanckou’s journey, the author-​narrator’s identity is under constant negotiation. The question of the authorial persona’s identity and his (un)belonging to Pointe-​Noire articulates itself on the native versus tourist axis. The length of his absence, twenty-​three years  –​of which the reader is frequently reminded –​is central to the narrator’s identity dilemma. After such a long absence, the question of whether the returnee is a mere tourist with no connection to local realities or whether he can still claim belonging has no simple answer. The narrator continuously oscillates between the conflicting identities of a native and a tourist. In order to underpin the narrator’s ‘nativeness’, the text uses specific narrative strategies to anchor him to the city. Lumières de Pointe-​Noire opens with a chapter in which the narrator dwells on a memory of how he and his friends were afraid of a legend of an old woman who lived on the moon. As is typical of

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much of contemporary travel writing where the physical travel part of the journey is left unaddressed (Pettinger 2012, 127), in Lumières de Pointe-​Noire there is no mention of physical travel that would inform the reader about the journey to the destination: there are no vehicles, no itineraries, no arrival; the narrator simply mentions that he has returned home. Other than this quick allusion to displacement, the nature of his travel comes across as plainly temporal: the narrative rhythm is slow and not defined by physical mobility, but by nostalgia. Indeed, the beginning of the book reads more like a memoir than a travelogue. The preoccupation with the past can be read as an attempt to “incorporate[…] the ‘I’ within the places described” (Uriarte 2011, 366). In his article on the impossibility of homecoming in the Countess of Merlin’s travel book La Havana, Javier Uriarte (2011, 365) demonstrates how narrative techniques that convey uncertainty and slowness delay the narrator’s arrival in the Cuba of her childhood in a way that turns the text into the writing of non-​arrival. By erasing the aspect of physical travel, Mabanckou’s text performs not so much a gesture of non-​arrival as one of non-​travel: it is as if the narrator had already arrived and that there was no need to question his belonging to Pointe-​Noire. In this way, the narrator portrays himself as a native, not a tourist. Interestingly enough, however, his departure from Pointe-​Noire is not left unmentioned in the same way as his arrival. Towards the end, the return flight’s departure time is given and the narrator is in a taxi heading to the airport, perplexed by the unanswered question, “quand reviendrai-​je encore à Pointe-​Noire?” (244) “when will I return to Pointe-​Noire again?” (199).4 By remaining silent about the arrival but alluding to the departure, the narrative highlights the complexity of the narrator’s position as someone who is simultaneously at home but whose life is elsewhere. From the perspective of the narrator’s oscillation between identities, it is symptomatic that the first ‘real-​time’ scene  –​as witnessed by a contemporary photograph  –​to which the text refers takes place in front of a hotel in which the narrator’s late foster father used to work. Unlike in the two previous chapters focusing on Aidoo’s, Atta’s and Adichie’s texts’ representations of the hotel as a space of transit, Mabanckou’s return travelogue invests the hotel with different meanings: for the narrator, the hotel marks his belonging to the place of return. The narrative underlines that the narrator’s link to the hotel is through his father’s former employment, not through the narrator being a customer. The narrator observes that the hotel has not changed since

4 English quotations from Mabanckou’s book have been taken from The Lights of Pointe Noire (2015).

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70 Chapter 3 his departure and he immerses himself in memories. Once back in the present, the narrator moves away from the hotel when he notices someone observing him from inside the premises, taking him for “un potentiel client qui hésite entre cet établissement et son concurrent” (54) “a potential client trying to choose between his hotel and the competitor” (37). This scene is significant in terms of the narrator’s identity dilemma. While the memory of his father connects the returnee to the present of the hotel as a ‘genuine native’, the gaze of a nameless hotel employee positions him as a potential client –​a tourist, that is. That he feels obliged to distance himself from the hotel signals the returnee’s unease with the tourist identity:  by quickly walking away from the hotel, the narrator physically moves away from any attempt to position him as a tourist. The hotel passage underlines the fact that the narrator has been constructing his identity as a native in the vacuum of his memories, not in real-​time interactions with others. Interactions and dialogues with other people  –​the narrator’s relatives in particular  –​form an important element in Lumières de Pointe-​Noire. During these dialogues, the narrator’s attempts to position himself as a native are challenged. While wandering in the city on foot as a sort of a returnee-​flâneur, he observes that people seem to think that he comes from elsewhere because he pays attention to things that no local people “en dehors des fous de la ville” (101) “besides the town madmen” (73) would find of interest. The narrator’s walks in the vicinity are attempts to claim his belonging to Pointe-​Noire through mobility as a variation of the figure of the postcolonial flâneur. The postcolonial flâneur, as Sofia Aatkar (2020, 31) argues, is a black urban wanderer whose position in the urban space is constantly informed by a sense of unease and acknowledgement of one’s marginality. The postcolonial flâneur –​unlike the hegemonic white flâneur ­figure –​is far from being in the position of claiming the urban environment as their home (Aatkar 2020, 33–​34). In Mabanckou’s case, the feeling of unease is not related to his racial difference but to the fact that, as a returnee, he seems to have lost touch with the place that he once claimed as his home. His way of paying attention to things that most local people find of no interest at all reveals his unbelonging and generates a very particular ‘returnee version’ of the figure of the flâneur. The narrator’s unbelonging is explicitly articulated in passages in which he is referred to as “l’Américain” (177) “Mr. American” (139) and “toi qui viens d’Amérique” (177) “you [who have] come from America” (139). His unbelonging is also conveyed in a passage in which he visits his late mother’s house, and observes that the neighbours have occupied part of her plot. The narrator says that he will take care of the problem, with some of his family members cheering him for this brave initiative. Later, one of his elderly relatives explains

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to him the background of the situation and persuades him to leave the land question as it is. The relative claims that the returnee seems “déconnecté de la réalité depuis que tu ne vis plus dans cette ville” (96) “out of touch with reality since you moved away” (70), and reminds him that when the narrator departs “en Europe ou en Amérique, et tu vas nous laisser des patates chaudes” (97) “to Europe, or America, and you’ll leave us with hot potatoes in our hands” (70). The text thus questions the returnee’s claims of belonging by suggesting that he is incapable of taking into consideration all the aspects of the land question because of his distance from his relatives’ everyday lives. The relative’s comments question the returnee’s claims of belonging and position him as a mere stereotypical tourist lacking moral consciousness regarding the consequences of his acts in a distanced destination. Of course, identities are never simply either/​or options. This is acknowledged in Lumières de Pointe-​Noire: the text does not construct the site of return as ‘authentic’ and disconnected from the rest of the world. The idea of cosmopolitanism as a manifestation of the global within the local is well articulated in passages in which the narrator focuses on the hotel in which his foster father used to work. In one of these passages, the narrator describes how his father sometimes brought him an apple from the hotel. For the narrator the apple represented northern, distant places, France in particular, and by eating it, he felt “pousser en moi des ailes qui me portaient loin” (65) “[that] I was sprouting wings that would carry me far away” (45). Besides apples, his father also used to bring home foreign newspapers that made the narrator think that “l’Europe, l’Amérique, l’Asie ou l’Océanie n’étaient plus des terres lointaines” (47) “Europe, America, Asia or Oceania ceased to feel like distant lands” (31). A similar idea of the presence of the world within the boundaries of the local is also conveyed in the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean and the port, with its Polish sailors and Beninese fishermen.5 These examples convey the idea of interconnectedness and the awareness of how different mobilities have informed the past and keep informing the present of the African continent (Mbembe 2013, 227). This sort of understanding of the mobility-​enhanced entwinement of Africa with the rest of the world is a trend that marks contemporary African travel writing: African-​authored travel texts are not simply “testimonies to the writers’ own comings and goings, but to a broader awareness of itinerance and displacement” (Moynagh 2015, 288). Indeed, much of Mabanckou’s production, 5 The idea of Africa’s entwinement with the rest of the world –​Europe in particular –​is discussed in Mabanckou’s short non-​fictional text Europe depuis l’Afrique (2009), which refers to the port of Pointe-​Noire and uses the image of the apple as a marker of the presence of the global in the local.

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72 Chapter 3 Lumières de Pointe-​Noire included, is informed by such a cosmopolitan perspective that acknowledges the complex intertwinements between the local and the global and the role of not only physical human travel but also that of imaginative travel in the construction of this ‘planetary’ perspective. It is thus important to note that while the work addresses the traveller’s identity in terms of belonging and unbelonging, it never constructs Africa as place that would be detached from the rest of the world. 2

Nostalgia and Loss

Another source of unease marking Mabanckou’s homecoming on the thematic axis manifests itself in the oscillation between nostalgia and loss. The title of the travelogue captures light and darkness, which is also characteristic of the way in which the text is torn between nostalgia and grief. While the narrator cherishes the idea of ‘homecoming’ through his constant recourse to his childhood memories, he is aware of the impossibility of recovering the past, which points to the reflective qualities of his nostalgia (see Boym 2001, 41). His feeling of unbelonging in a city that now comes across as a forlorn place associated with death seems to cast a shadow on his childhood memories. Indeed, Lumières de Pointe-​Noire can be seen as a narrative of “dark return” (Ravi 2014) –​a concept that draws on the idea of dark tourism (see Edwards 2016; Stone 2011). Narratives of dark return, according to Srilata Ravi (2014, 296), are texts in which diasporic writers return from their new, more privileged lives to their crisis-​and poverty-​ridden ‘homes’ in the Global South. In such return narratives, the “returning tourist-​natives have to cope, not only with their sense of estrangement, but also with the horror of the destruction of their home cities” (Ravi 2014, 298). Consequently, “to tourist-​natives travelling to ‘failed cities’ […] trying to make sense of the traumatic histories that constitute these abandoned sites which were previously their homes, can become a perilous negotiation of guilt, grief, and nostalgia” (Ravi 2014, 296). Mabanckou’s travelogue gives voice to these incongruent sentiments. While feelings such as guilt and grief are frequently associated with negative meanings, I would argue that, from the perspective of the cosmopolitan idea of self-​reflexivity, the unease they cause is not necessarily detrimental as it signals a potentially ethical understanding of one’s own positionality. The unease generated by guilt or grief as a form of self-​acknowledgement suggests that cosmopolitanism is less a question of celebrating a hybrid identity than “challenging, even hard work” (Bender 2017, 116).

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“Nostalgia”, writes Sveltana Boym (2001, xiii), “is a sentiment of loss and displacement, but also a romance with one’s own fantasy”. Boym’s (2001, xiv) idea of nostalgia as “a double exposure, or a superimposition of two images –​of home and abroad, of past and present” resonates with the relation of Mabanckou’s travelogue’s to the past. As such, there is nothing new in travel writing’s link to nostalgia: travel texts often articulate a “need to restore the imaginary site of a ‘simpler’ past” (Holland & Huggan 1998, 24). This sort of nostalgia relates to the idea of ‘discovering’ places that are considered “untouched by modernity” (Lisle 2006, 209) –​as in the case of imperialist nostalgia, characterised by the paradox of regretting something one has deliberately destroyed (Rosaldo 1989, 107–​108). In Lumières de Pointe-​Noire, the nostalgic impulse pertains to a lost childhood and the unproblematised sense of belonging it entails. In the aftermath of colonialism and the consequent increase in migration, the search for roots and home can be understood as a form of postcolonial nostalgia (Walder 2009, 935). In Lumières de Pointe-​Noire, the narrator’s personal history is omnipresent, and it is constantly “superimposed” (Boym 2001, xiv) on his perceptions of the present. He revisits places that formed his universe in his early years, trying to recognise anything that would remind him of his childhood wanderings in the vicinity and bring back his “paradis d’autrefois” (164) “erstwhile paradise” (128). The nostalgic impulse of superimposition characteristic of Lumières de Pointe-​Noire finds its visual culmination in a photograph of one of the narrator’s female relatives in which she holds a portrait of herself as a young woman –​“Je veux qu’on me photographie avec cette photo-​là!” (117) “I want to be photographed with that photo!” (87), she insists, wanting to be remembered for her beauty in the past. In a similar vein, Lumières de Pointe-​Noire is motivated by a hopeless search for the past in the present. This impulse runs through both the textual and visual representations of the city and its people: the present is meaningful only as a gateway to the past. The contemporary photographs of the travelogue portray places and people that were important to the narrator in his childhood and youth: not a single photograph is there to illustrate the city’s present for its own sake. While the narrative articulates a will to keep the past alive, an awareness of loss is equally manifest. As Debbie Lisle (2006, 215; emphasis original) states in her discussion of nostalgia, “travel writers confront the inevitable incongruity between their utopian fantasies and the present tense of the destination”. The narrator’s visit to a former cinema is telling of this incongruity. Cinéma Rex, which the narrator used to think was huge, now seems tiny, and when faced with the fact that it has been turned into a Pentecostal church, the narrator

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74 Chapter 3 says, “[je] contiens à peine ma déception” (174) “[I]‌can scarcely conceal my disappointment” (136). It is, however, the opening of Lumières de Pointe-​Noire that reveals the main ache around which the narrative revolves: the loss of the narrator’s mother and his refusal to grieve. His mother died when the narrator was living in France, and he did not come back for the funeral. His inability to accept her loss finds its expression in a passage in which he visits his former home yard. He does not enter the now ramshackle house, but nevertheless vehemently opposes the idea of having the shack destroyed. Yet he is troubled by the degrading state of his mother’s home, seeing it as “une tache” (91) “a blemish” (65) in the midst of other houses that are of a better standard and properly maintained. He also refuses to visit her grave before his departure. The narrator’s inability to handle the loss of his mother is motivated by a sense of guilt, the roots of which are buried in his initial departure. His mother experienced the departure of her only child as abandonment: she lost her child to the lures of the postcolonial metropolis. In effect, the narrator’s self-​portrait as a young man features a person fascinated with Europe, and France in particular, and inspired by the idea of travel (98). In the final meeting between mother and son, the mother claims, “Là où tu me vois, je suis déjà morte” (31) “Look at me sitting here now! I’m as good as dead” (19), suggesting that, by leaving, the son symbolically kills his mother. The guilty aspect of the narrator’s return makes him feel like “un criminel qui retourne sur le lieu du forfait” (101) “a criminal returning to the place of the crime” (73). If imperialist nostalgia is about mourning ‘authentic’ cultures that one has been complicit in destroying (Rosaldo 1989, 108), then postcolonial nostalgia, as manifested in Mabanckou’s travelogue, is marked by a sense of guilt about the loss of a home one has left behind in order to join the former colonial metropolis, which is frequently conceived as a centre and an Eldorado worth pursuing in the African literary imagination. What also adds to the postcolonial quality of nostalgia in Mabanckou’s book is the fact the childhood that the returnee wishes to revisit was defined by his mother’s struggle for livelihood. Occasional allusions to the hardships of his childhood underline the paradoxical character of postcolonial nostalgia as outlined by Erica L. Johnson (2013) in her analysis of Patrick Chamoiseau’s autobiographical novel Chemin-​d’école. According to Johnson (2013, 403), Chamoiseau’s text articulates the author’s longing for his childhood while simultaneously acknowledging the suffering that colonial education caused him as a racialised subject. In Mabanckou’s text, the distressing aspect of the paradox of postcolonial nostalgia pertains to his modest background. Meeting children of poor families reminds the narrator of his own childhood. What

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he highlights, however, is that the children are far from being in a “paradis de misère” (124) “paradise of poverty” (94) but that “ils étaient tout aussi heureux que je l’étais lorsque j’avais leur âge” (125) “they were just as happy as I was when I  was their age” (94) and that their/​his happiness derives from the ordinary things of life. This is illustrative of the text’s eagerness to hang on to a romanticised image of the narrator’s childhood while simultaneously acknowledging its hardships –​and those of the people currently living in the city. The returnee’s diasporic privilege is a generator of guilt in narratives of dark return (Ravi 2014, 304). The narrator’s literary career and his status as a ucla professor testify to his socio-​economic success, which results in financially motivated tensions. This casts light on how often different sums of money feature in the text: the narrator gives his relatives cfa (“Communauté Financière Africaine”; African Financial Community) bills that they either request or that the narrator himself proposes. Most of these requests are formulated in a way that does not jeopardise the recipient’s dignity or put the narrator in an uncomfortable position, but there are also examples of overtly abusive requests, to which the narrator reacts negatively. The recurring allusions to money not only put the returnee’s privilege into relief but also underline his unbelonging: he is no longer just any member of the family but one who has, so to speak, made it in the diaspora. Money also causes misunderstandings. At one point, an uncle comes to see the narrator at the French institute where he is staying. The uncle asks the narrator for a favour, and before he has time to say what he wants, the narrator says, “Ah, j’ai compris! Combien?” (156) “Ah! I get it! How much?” (121). This time, however, money is not what the uncle wants, and in order to rectify the narrator’s misinterpretation, the uncle states: “Neveu, ne me déçois pas, je sais que tu vis dans les pays où on ne parle que d’argent, eh bien sache qu’il n’y pas que ça qui compte dans ce monde” (156) “Nephew, don’t you disappoint me, I know you live in a country where money is everything, but believe me, it’s not the only thing that matters in this world” (121). This passage demonstrates that the returnee is entirely aware of his socio-​economic privilege and the way in which it may motivate people’s interactions with him. With his words, the uncle draws attention to the fact that the narrator has started to take for granted that people are interested in him because of his economic status, and challenges this assumption. Nevertheless, the complexities that the financial imbalance between the returnee and his relatives generate is conveyed by the text since, in the end, the uncle leaves with an envelope filled with money. Besides nostalgia, the narrative is also marked by the notion of loss. The recurrence of death-​related imagery in the text is notable. The narrator sees

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76 Chapter 3 himself in the eyes of a group of children as “une apparition, une ombre qui s’évanouira lorsque le soleil se couchera” (119) “an apparition, a shadow that will vanish with the setting sun” (89), and when he perceives a dog that resembles the pet he had in his childhood, the returnee wonders if the dog thinks he is a ghost. He also observes that he has returned to his former hometown “dix-​sept ans après la mort de ma mère, sept ans après celle de mon père et vingt-​trois ans après mon départ pour la France” (162) “seventeen years after my mother’s death, seven years after my father’s, and twenty-​three years after I left for France” (126), which conveys the idea of how he perceives the passing of time in terms of loss and absence. Death seems to accompany him on his visits to his relatives and to places meaningful to him. A  crow lands on the roof of a hospital in which one of his relatives is hospitalised –​referred to as “le mouroir” or as a place to die, by the locals –​as if the crow has come to announce bad news, looking straight at the narrator. During his visit to his uncle (a carpenter), the latter asks whether the narrator knows that he also constructs coffins, and, when the narrator goes to see his old school, a member of the staff comments on his potential next visit to the city by reminding him that if he comes back too late, “[o]‌n sera tous morts” (222) “[w]e’ll all be dead” (179). The omnipresence of death betrays not only the narrator’s guilt-​laden relation to his departure, return, and even his potential future returns but also to the way in which he perceives his environment as affected by a certain degree of desolation. He sees a terminally ill aunt in a degraded state, lying in a house that smells like “a stable” “[r]‌ecouverte de draps blancs à la propreté douteuse […] [comme] un cadavre qui attend son jour d’enterrement” (86) “[c]overed in white sheets of doubtful cleanliness […] she looks almost like a corpse awaiting burial” (62–​63). This sight shocks him, and it can be seen as one manifestation of “l’ampleur de la désolation de [s] a terre” (163) “the vast desolation of [his] country” (127), and his city that “Le Seigneur a abandonné” (177) “The Lord has forsaken” (139) –​a city with streets that “se terminent en impasses où des immondices déposées ça et là forment une montagne qui bouche l’horizon” (165) “wind up in blind alleys dotted with piles of rubbish, mountains that block the horizon” (129). Such a representation of the returnee’s former hometown resonates with the concept of a failed city, articulating the idea of how “uneven development in a globalized, neo-​liberal, postcolonial world has produced […] [sites] where infrastructure failure […] has created disrupted urban centres of […] extreme poverty” (Ravi 2014, 296). The forlorn images of poverty, degradation, and failed infrastructure disturb the returnee’s relation to the present tense of his hometown, portraying it as a city of death –​a strong contrast to

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his childhood memories of the same location. The imagery of death throws a shadow on the idea of homecoming, creating a “gap between the present and the past, between grief and nostalgia” (Ravi 2014, 299). The narrator is a tourist-​native caught in a limbo of oscillating identity in a city that is no longer exactly the one he used to know, and which does not enable him to establish a new relationship to it either. Illustrative of his paradoxical relation, the returnee finds himself looking for “des raisons d’aimer cette ville” (163) “reasons to love this town” (127) despite its forlorn qualities. 3

Returned Gazes, Unbalanced Dialogues

Unease also informs Mabanckou’s ‘homecoming’ on the representational level. One manifestation of this unease is betrayed by the text’s attempts to disturb the centrality of the travelling I/​eye. This strategy can be read as a comment on a generic feature that is characteristic of travel writing. “Travelogues are written by an observing subject about observed objects”, explains Debbie Lisle (2006, 40). The first person narrator, Lisle (2006, 40) continues, “uses all his […] senses to absorb and assimilate the surrounding data and makes sense of it during the act of writing”. The travelling ‘I’, then, is very often dependent on the travelling ‘eye’ (Lisle 2006, 40) –​to the extent that one can speak of “ocular-​ centric biases of the phenomenology of travel” (Forsdick 2015, 120). The I/​eye parallel, understood as a process of Othering that constructs a binary between the traveller and the Others s/​he observes, constitutes a key ethical issue in travel writing (see Forsdick, Fowler, and Kostova 2014, 3). This aspect is most obvious in travelogues in which the Western traveller’s identity is constructed in opposition to non-​Western “travelees” (Pratt 1992, 7) or “gazees” (Urry 2002, Tourist, 145). Being a narrative of return (Palmer 2002, 245) with an aspect of personal memory tourism (Marschall 2015), such ethical issues may not seem that evident in the case of Lumières de Pointe-​Noire. As Marschall (2015, 48) suggests, the “tourist gaze” (Urry, Tourist, 2002) in personal memory tourism is “not defined by difference, but by memory”. However, as demonstrated in Lumières de Pointe-​Noire, the awareness of the asymmetry of power between the “gazer” and the “gazee” (Urry 2002, Tourist, 145) inherent in the genre manifests itself in postcolonially attuned travel narratives as well. The narrator does not seem at ease with the position of the external, observing travelling I/​eye that the genre invites him to adopt. The dwelling on memories in several chapters can be read as the narrative’s attempt to avoid direct eye contact with the real-​time environment. The text also performs more explicit textual and visual gestures that

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78 Chapter 3 are motivated by an awareness of the unbalanced power relations between the travelling I/​eye and the travelees/​gazees. First of all, there is the question of the returned gaze. As Paula Amad (2013, 52–​53) points out in her article on the return-​of-​the-​gaze phenomenon, postcolonially attuned readings of the trope of “visual riposte” in colonial film are “aimed at recovering resistance or at least a trace of agency” of the observed. This is also how Mabanckou’s use of the trope of returned gaze invites to be read. The narrative highlights that not only is the author-​narrator the observer, but he is also the subject of others’ observations: “J’observe les lieux et ne me doute pas qu’ils me considèrent à leur tour avec de gros yeux” (163–​164) “I cast a candid eye on the places around me, and I know they look back at me in the same way, with big wide eyes” (127). The idea of a returned gaze surfaces in a chapter in which the narrator visits a prostitution district. While walking around, he seems intimidated by the idea of being observed by the prostitutes as if they were trying to discover what sort of client he is. Apart from one woman who approaches the narrator in order to share with him her story –​she mistakes him for a foreign journalist –​the prostitutes remain an anonymous group of “girls” gazing at the narrator from a safe distance. This distance generates an air of mystery around the prostitutes, which is probably not totally dissimilar to the way in which a sexually inexperienced boy like the narrator’s younger self might have perceived them. The narrator seems displaced during his visit to the area: he resembles a tourist who has mistakenly ended up in the wrong neighbourhood. Ultimately, the prostitutes’ gazes make him leave in a hurry. The photograph at the end of the chapter portrays what seems to be one female figure and two men and a heap of garbage in the foreground. The woman’s gaze seems to be directed back at the camera. In the photograph the returned gaze of the anonymous woman –​whom the reader has every reason to assume is a prostitute –​remains blurred because of her distance from the photographer. Consequently, this photograph does not convey the idea of a returned gaze as explicitly as some of the other photographs in the book. The portraits of the narrator’s cousin Grand Poupy and his uncles Mompéro and Matété resemble each other in terms of composition:  they are close-​ups with insignificant, identical backgrounds, with the portrayed persons looking directly at the camera. Such close-​ups seem to erase the “cultural context and intercultural distance between viewer and subject” (Topping 2016, 84). The technique also conveys the idea of the returned gaze: these figures can be interpreted as looking back not only at the photographer, but also, albeit illusorily, at the reader. In this sense, these photos convey the idea of an invitation to dialogue, and they challenge the prioritisation of

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the traveller as a unique observer. Yet, as Amad (2013, 56) points out, such an empowerment-​driven interpretation of the returned gaze motif is also problematic: it seems to offer an all-​too-​easy “compensation for the lack of photographic […] records made by people victimized by the camera”. This history of victimisation is also recognised by the author, who mentions the role of photographs in the maintenance of colonial civil registers. The problem with such a compensatory gesture, according to Amad (2013, 56), lies in how returned gazes “become the fetishized trace of our contemporary desire for […] the irrevocably reverse shot of the Other’s view of the world” –​that is, an act of “visual ventriloquism”. Amad (2013) talks about contemporary interpretations of ancient colonial films, which is a different context from that of the photographs portraying returned gazes in Mabanckou’s text. When the photographs are read from an iconotextual perspective together with textual representations of returned gazes and the use of dialogues, the effect of “visual ventriloquism” (Amad 2013, 56) is undermined.6 The composition of the close-​up photographs, however, may convey the idea of containment: the subjects are situated perfectly in the middle of the photographic frame. What is more, the photographs of the male relatives are identical in terms of their setting and background; the men even wear very similar white shirts. The similarity of the photographs creates the impression of mechanical copying, which, in turn, undermines the photographed persons’ subjectivity, turning them into mere variations on a theme. In this sense, the idea of the returned gaze finds a problematic visual realisation in the travelogue. It should also be noted that, on a general scale, the interplay between the photographs and the text in Lumières de Pointe-​ Noire is the conventional one of “mutual illumination” (Topping 2016, 83): the photographs are mere visual replicates of the textual representation of the journey. Therefore, a reading of the photographs together with the text does not reveal any interesting tensions or a “sense of disruption” between the two mediums but, rather, a “blemish-​free harmony”, which may be problematic in terms of the ethics of representation (Topping 2016, 86; see also Topping 2013). In this sense, there is a tremendous difference between the use of photographs in Lumières de Pointe-​Noire and Teju Cole’s semi-​fictional return travelogue Every Day Is for the Thief (2007). In Cole’s text, the dialogue between the text and the image is much more experimental and tensioned, and, as such, the work challenges the idea of the photograph as an unproblematic 6 On the iconotextual interplay of images and text in travel writing, see Topping (2013).

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80 Chapter 3 tool for representation (see Kappel 2017; Rippl 2018). With its non-​disturbing interplay between the textual and the visual, Mabanckou’s travelogue ends up prioritising the traveller’s perspective despite simultaneous attempts to undo its centrality. The harmony between the textual and the visual suggests that the author-​narrator is in total control of his travelogue. There is, then, an interesting tension that can be observed between the text’s aspiration to destabilise the narrator’s authority and centrality by giving room to the travelees’ voices and gazes, and the simultaneous refusal to accord authority to the photographs by not allowing any non-​conventional interplay between the two mediums. In addition to returned gazes, the text puts to use another strategy that aims at vitiating the conventional idea of the traveller as the omnipotent centre of the travelogue. This is the use of dialogue in order to make the voices of the ‘travelees’ heard. What is typical of these dialogues is their unbalanced character:  the narrator’s lines are almost absent from the discussions and the regular use of triple dots illustrates the interrupted nature of his speech. The narrator’s interlocutors express their views while the narrator’s lines are almost non-​existent, as a result of which the discussions tend towards monologues. When the narrator goes to see his uncle Mompéro, the uncle does the talking without the narrator saying a word: he only nods his head in order to let his uncle voice his “pensées qu’il a gardées depuis longtemps en attendant de me les souffler” (144) “thoughts he’s been saving up for a long time now, for the day he could whisper them to me” (110). During the narrator’s visit to the prostitution district, one of the prostitutes wants to tell him her story. When he tries to comment on something she has said, the woman exclaims, “Ne me coupez pas la parole, s’il vous plaît!” (189) “Don’t interrupt me, if you please!” (150). In effect, the passage consists almost exclusively of the woman’s monologue. Later, the returnee goes to a restaurant where an unknown man invites him to his table. The narrator ends up in a discussion in which his lines are restricted to interrupted sentences and nodding. When the interlocutor poses a question, he does not give the narrator the opportunity to express his thoughts. The interlocutor maintains a monologue, and, at one point, the narrator states, “Je n’écoute presque plus mon inconnu” (197) “I’m hardly listening to my stranger now” (158). Here, the strategy of destabilising the traveller’s centrality loses its purpose: the narrator is no longer listening to his interlocutor. The photograph at the end of this chapter features the blurred figure of the nameless interlocutor as he steps out of the restaurant, leaving the conned narrator to pay the bill for the stranger’s meal. This anonymous acquaintance destabilises the narrator’s centrality and control and escapes attempts of containment.

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Blind Spot behind the Camera: La blanche

Another manifestation of unease pertaining to the representation of the homecoming is the text’s relation to the presence and co-​authorship of the photographer. Caroline Blache, introduced in a journal article as someone who used to be Mabanckou’s reader and who became his companion, is a documentarist and photo researcher (Eduard 2013). In an interview, she has said that her initial idea was to make a film documentary about Mabanckou’s return to Pointe-​Noire, but she changed her mind and took photographs instead (“Les lumières”).7 This suggests that the collaborative aspect of the travelogue was not planned in advance. Her name does not feature on the book’s cover but is written only on the copyright page. In this respect, Lumières de Pointe-​Noire differs from such collaborative travelogues as François Maspero’s and Anaïk Frantz’s Les Passagers du Roissy-​Express ([1990] 2004), where the name of the photographer features on the cover. In the narrative itself, the photographer is present only marginally. When she is –​and this happens only a couple of times in passing –​her name is not mentioned. Instead, she is referred to by the narrator as “my companion”, or by others as “the white woman”. This reduces her to a mere extension of the narrator, on the one hand, and to an anonymous gendered and racialised subject on the other. That the narrative refers to her on a couple of occasions while for the most of the time ignoring her presence is a rather awkward strategy, which underlines her marginalisation. The nameless “companion” surfaces for the first time in a passage in which the narrator visits a sick female relative, the grandmother Hélène. Hélène has always been afraid of white people and believes that a white woman will appear to notify her when her time has come. When she sees the narrator’s companion –​“l’ombre qui est derrière toi” (87) “The shadow behind you” (63), as she says to the narrator –​she is frightened and asks the narrator to chase “the white woman” whom she believes has come for her. The narrator manages to soothe his agitated relative by explaining who the “white woman” is. “The companion” has no single line in this passage, which in turn throws her racial difference and unbelonging into relief. In effect, the text suggests that the white “companion” does not pass as invisible in the narrator’s old neighbourhood, as demonstrated by the words, “je vous ai aperçu de mes propres yeux hier, devant le cinéma Rex avec un type et une femme blanche” (189) “I saw you with my own eyes yesterday, outside the Cinema Rex, with a man and a white woman” (150). Thus, between

7 Blache’s photographs illustrating Lumières de Pointe-​Noire were exhibited at the Librairie-​ Galerie Congo in Paris in 2013 (Eduard 2013).

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82 Chapter 3 the lines, Pointe-​Noire is represented as a place where whiteness does not go unnoticed. In the eyes of many locals, whiteness seems to signify that the person is from elsewhere. “La blanche” is mentioned again when the narrator visits the former cinema. Here, the text specifies that “the companion” takes photographs, but other than this quick allusion, the woman does not play any specific role. In effect, with the words spoken by the owner of the premises, “Il est chez lui ici! Il peut photographier ce qu’il veut!” (176; my emphasis) “He belongs here! He can photograph whatever he likes!” (138; my emphasis), she is reduced to a mere extension of the author-​narrator who, unlike her, can rightly claim to belong to Pointe-​Noire. During his journey, the returnee stays at the French institute. For his relatives, this signals his social privilege: for them, “the white people” pay for his stay. These words capture the idea of social privilege associated with whiteness. From this viewpoint, it can be suggested that the presence of the narrator’s white partner signals that the narrator belongs to another space not only geographically but also socio-​ economically. He is from elsewhere, from the “white man’s country”, as many of his elderly relatives see it. The “white woman” in his company is a reminder of his unbelonging. The text’s tendency to marginalise the photographer is curious in light of the close attention that it pays to the memory of one specific photographic session and to the visual analysis of the outcome of that session. An entire chapter is devoted to remembering how a professional photographer portrayed the narrator in the company of his mother and stepfather. The narrator’s mother instructed the photographer, as well as her spouse and son, authoritatively in order to obtain the photograph that she wanted. After depicting the photographic session, the narrator moves back to the present to analyse the photograph. In this way the chapter points out the author’s awareness of the power of photographs in meaning-​making. Yet when it comes to his own travelogue, he acts just as his mother told him to during the photoshoot: “Fai[s]‌comme si le photographe n’était pas là!” (74) “Act as though the photographer wasn’t there!”(52). The marginalisation of the white female photographer is interesting in the sense that the text simultaneously struggles to undermine the individualistic qualities of the genre (see Youngs 2013, 102–​103) through the use of unbalanced dialogues and returned gazes. By marginalising the travelling companion/​photographer, the text performs a counter-​gesture that restores authority to the narrator as if to underline that Lumières de Pointe-​Noire is Mabanckou’s return narrative, not the travelogue of a ‘white woman’, to which she often seems to be reduced by the locals. In addition, by referring to her as the narrator’s “companion” instead of underlining her role as the photographer, the narrative

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undermines her role in the making of the travelogue. The secondary role of the photographer can also be observed in the way in which the visual representation seems to be subordinate to the text. The photographs are used as mere illustrations and they are practically always placed after the text at the end of each chapter. This feature may justify the fact that the photographer’s name does not feature on the book’s cover, but then again, the text refers to the companion-​photographer on a couple of occasions: this suggests that her figure is not entirely unimportant. A certain inconsistency and unease, then, marks the photographer’s (non-​)presence in the book. 5

Conclusion: Problematics of a Business Class Return

Lumières de Pointe-​Noire is a travelogue that captures several uneasy aspects of an affluent ‘business class cosmopolitan’s’ ‘homecoming’ to a Global South city to which he used to belong. These aspects of unease are symptomatic of the way in which allegedly cosmopolitan, privileged African travellers are not, in the end, as much ‘at home in the world’ as they may seem. ‘Homecomings’ of ‘business class cosmopolitans’ are illustrative of the problematic aspects of their ‘world citizenship’, and undermine the celebrative dimensions often associated with the concept of cosmopolitanism. In Lumières de Pointe-​Noire, the unease can be traced back to several aspects that pertain, first of all, to the text’s thematics, and, secondly, to the representation of ‘homecoming’. The first thematic aspect is the author-​ narrator’s identity dilemma, which articulates itself on the native-​versus-​ tourist axis. The text uses memories to anchor the narrator to Pointe-​Noire and to underpin his claims of belonging. Illustrative of this is the way in which several chapters focus almost solely on the past. The present-​day interactions with local people, however, challenge the narrator’s self-​portrait as a ‘native’: he is seen as an outsider, even a tourist. Another thematic dimension of unease is articulated in the text’s ways of balancing between nostalgia and loss. Practically everything in Mabanckou’s travelogue is seen through the prism of the past. The narrator’s childhood memories become overshadowed by his realisation of his former home city’s forlorn qualities; the striking poverty and failed infrastructure. Consequently, he finds himself in a futile struggle to claim a sense of belonging. His return is also marked by a sense of guilt that springs from his initial departure. These instances of unease that entail acknowledgement of one’s privileged positionality –​as manifested in the feeling of guilt  –​can be read as a form of cosmopolitan self-​reflective consciousness.

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84 Chapter 3 The representation of ‘homecoming’ is troubled by the position of the travelling I/​eye that the genre of travel writing invites the narrator to adopt. Together with the use of dialogue, the text uses the trope of returned gaze both visually and textually in order to destabilise the privilege of the traveller’s perspective. These strategies, however, are not always successful. The unease that marks the representation of the ‘homecoming’ can also be read in the marginalisation of the figure of photographer/​co-​author/​companion of the trip. This marginalisation has to do with her whiteness and the aspects of unbelonging and diasporic privilege that her skin colour entails in the place of the travel. By pushing the photographer to the narrative’s margins and reducing her to a “white woman”, the narrator of the travelogue comes to the forefront.

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pa rt 2 Budget Travels, Practical Cosmopolitanisms



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­c hapter 4

New Technologies and Communication Gaps in Novels by Liss Kihindou, Véronique Tadjo, NoViolet Bulawayo, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie While the preceding chapters addressed literary representations of privileged African mobilities, this chapter and the two other chapters in this part of this study focus on the mobilities of those who do not quite qualify as ‘business class cosmopolitans’ but who, nevertheless, cross physical and symbolic borders through mobility. In this process, fictional mobile subjects engage in “the negotiation of a more interdependent world” and may develop an openness to the world beyond the boundaries of the local  –​elements that form the core of everyday cosmopolitanism (Shaw 2017, 7). Indeed, in some cases, these mobile subjects can be seen as practisers of pragmatic, popular forms of cosmopolitanism. The notion of mobility in this chapter is understood from a slightly different angle than in the other chapters. As the previous chapters demonstrated, mobility informs contemporary African and African diasporic literatures in a profound way. While the most obvious subject of inquiry in the mobility theme is the physical travel undertaken by people, it should be emphasised that mobility is a concept whose meaning cannot be reduced uniquely to physical human travel. Indeed, the new mobilities paradigm highlights the multiplicity of forms that mobility takes (Sheller & Urry 2006). Besides the physical travel of people, these include the physical movement of objects, imaginative travel (images and memories seen in texts, on tv, computer and so on), virtual travel (Internet), and, finally, communicative travel in the form of person-​to-​ person messages through different media (Larsen et al. 2006, 4). As mobility studies scholars underline, these different aspects of mobility are overlapping and intertwined (see, e.g., Urry 2007, 47). In the case of information and communication technologies (ict), mobility is less a matter of physical travel than of interaction (Adey 2010, 210). Such forms of mobility may sometimes even replace physical travel as they enable a virtual presence and proximity regardless of geographical or social distance (Urry 2002, “Mobility” 256). The focus of this chapter is on the communicative aspect of mobility and the ways in which it has been represented in recent Anglo-​and Francophone

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88 Chapter 4 African and African diasporic writing. The texts analysed include Liss Kihindou’s Chêne de bambou (2013), NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (2013), Véronique Tadjo’s Loin de mon père (2010), and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2014). The Internet-​mediated communication technologies that feature in these novels consist of email (in Kihindou’s, Tadjo’s and Adichie’s novels) and Skype (in Bulawayo’s novel). While the other novels focus on email, I regard Bulawayo’s novel as seeing Skype as a logical continuum of email communications. In referring to Skype and instant messaging, We Need New Names is best synchronised with current developments in which email is being challenged by other technological innovations. Bulawayo’s and Adichie’s novels also frequently evoke the virtual world by referring to online services, smartphones, and the social media, which signals the authors’ eagerness to address Internet phenomena in their multiple forms. By exploring the communication technology theme, my analysis contributes to a new research agenda focusing on “Africa’s contribution to the fashioning of thought and practice around issues of technology, its production, consumption and mobilities” (Zegeye & Muponde 2012, 127). Addressing the topic of new communication technology in contemporary African literatures can also be read as a logical continuation of the analytical body of work discussing the fictional representations of modern communication technologies:  letter-​writing and epistolary novels in particular (see, e.g., McElaney-​Johnson 1999; Mutembei 2016; Niang 2011). As I argue throughout this study, the figure of the migrant is a rather reductive metaphor for the contemporary postcolonial condition, which is profoundly marked by globalisation and different forms mobility.1 The travel of objects, images and ideas tie geographically distanced places closer together in a way that does not necessitate physical human travel. As underlined by scholars of the new mobilities paradigm, in the global era all places are connected in some manner to others so that there are no ‘islands’ (Sheller & Urry 2006, 209). In this sense, global networks of mobility such as new communication technologies can be seen as “backbone[s]‌of the cosmopolitan society” (Beck 2008, 33), as they may, at best, contribute to the generation of a cosmopolitan vision. This pragmatic kind of cosmopolitan vision entails “an 1 Drawing attention to the diversity of forms that mobilities take in the global era is particularly important in the field of postcolonial literary studies, where the figure of the migrant has become a paradigmatic representative of the postcolonial condition –​a tendency that has also drawn attention away from representations of national and local scenes of belonging (see Boehmer 2005, 229–​233; Coly 2010, xi; Gikandi 2001, 640; Krishnaswamy 1995; Rofheart 2014; Smith 2004).

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awareness of the transnational and/​or the universal situated within a condition of local embeddedness” (Primorac 2010, “Cosmopolitanism”, 52) or “the presence of the elsewhere in the here and vice versa” (Mbembe 2007, 28).2 This local aspect of cosmopolitanism enabled by virtual and imaginative travel is particularly important for diversifying the understandings of what cosmopolitanism can be. As Kudzai P. Matereke (2011, 6) argues, it is necessary to rethink what we mean by travel and mobility in order to promote a more inclusive conception of cosmopolitanism which is not reduced to a condition that necessitates physical travel –​typically from the Global South to the Global North. Imaginative, virtual and communicative travel allows people to transcend the borders of the local and the national and to establish affinities with other people and places that do not belong to their immediate community (Matereke 2011, 20). Therefore, a wider understanding of mobility and travel (and their role in generating cosmopolitan approaches and sentiments) “enrich[es] our understanding of cosmopolitanism to include the postcolonial subjects the discourse has heretofore rendered peripheral” (Matereke 2011, 22). This is, indeed, extremely important given that many underprivileged Africans are also mobility poor and belong to the “kinetic underclass” (Pirie 2009, 22) both globally and locally. Of course, with respect to modern communication technologies, access to ict is not equally available to everyone on the African continent: issues such as poverty, illiteracy (in terms of basic literacy, Western-​ language literacy, and E-​skills literacy) and the gap between rural and urban spaces play a role in defining who is able to travel virtually or communicatively and who is not (see, e.g., Birba & Diagne 2012; Counted & Arawole 2016; Deen-​ Swarray 2016). These hindrances and the gap between the mobility poor and the kinetic elite in the context of mobile technologies are also present in the fictional texts analysed in this chapter. Practical cosmopolitanisms are “rooted in the pragmatic realities of day-​ to-​day existence, rather than the construction of a future utopian dream”, as Kristian Shaw (2017, 16)  expresses it. Cosmopolitan vision of this sort has a markedly non-​elite aspect to it, and it can be seen as a perspective that “promotes the bridging of cultural gaps” (Patell 2015, 8). The idea of a gap is particularly relevant for my argument here: while communication technologies bring distant places closer together, they do not necessarily generate genuine dialogue between the local and the global, but further highlight the fact that cosmopolitanism is “also a matter of material conditions that are very 2 For analyses of African literary manifestations of cosmopolitanism embedded in the African continent, see, e.g., de Bruijn 2007; Davis, “Contagion”, 2013; Matereke 2011; Primorac 2010; Samin 2018; Steiner 2011.

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90 Chapter 4 unequally distributed” (Calhoun 2017, 193). While acknowledging its material limits, it is also important to underline that cosmopolitanism is always necessarily an imperfect, partial process (Glick Schiller & Irving 2017, 3). Discussing the notion of Afropolitanism, Simon Gikandi defines non-​elite Afropolitans as Africans “who have not left” the African continent but who are, nevertheless, “connected to international circuits” thanks to the Internet (Knudsen & Rahbek 2016, 48). According to Gikandi, the problem with this sort of a local Afropolitanism –​or practical cosmopolitanism –​is that its practisers’ understanding of the world beyond the local may not be very well connected to the reality (Knudsen & Rahbek 2016, 49). This attests to the incompleteness of actually existing cosmopolitanisms. In effect, when it comes to the successfulness of practical, popular cosmopolitanisms, it should be noted that while the novels analysed convey the idea of the intertwinement of the local and the global enabled by communication technologies, the narratives nevertheless end up privileging the rather conventional and paradigmatised viewpoint of the migrant. This prioritisation is most obvious in Kihindou’s, Bulawayo’s, and Adichie’s texts. Tadjo’s novel seems to be the more successful in its effort to take into account the local African dimension of the mobility theme, but, significantly enough, the strategy owes its success to the fact that the protagonist-​correspondent is a diasporic returnee. In this sense, the texts, despite the attention they grant to less obvious forms of mobility enabled by new technologies, construct a somewhat conventional understanding of practical cosmopolitanism as a stance enabled by physical mobility –​and in terms of movement away from the African continent in particular. The novels articulate a rupture in the allegedly smooth entanglement of the local and the global, the here and the there –​a rupture that cannot be undone with the help of new technologies that are supposed to bring different worlds closer together. In terms of this tension, it is revealing that the trope of a gap in communication keeps recurring in the novels. Naturally, communication is rarely unproblematic, nor are misunderstandings unavoidable. However, the gaps in communication that I am interested in here result not as much from the innate instability of language to produce meaning but rather from the interlocutors’ more or less purposeful attempts to disturb communication. The texts analysed in this chapter convey the idea of an epistemic, cultural and/​or emotional distance that creates a rupture in communication between the interlocutors and email correspondents living respectively on the African continent and in diaspora as in Kihindou’s, Bulawayo’s and, to a certain extent, Adichie’s novels, or otherwise contacting each other from distanced locations as in Tadjo’s and also partly Adichie’s texts. Moreover, the novels under analysis variably draw inspiration for their

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literary form from the new technologies. Hence, I analyse the specific features of each text and argue that the narratives’ attention to formal features of itc, or the absence of thereof, are equally significant in interpretation. 1

Formal Matters: The Mobile Poetics of Communication Technologies

Literary texts that draw inspiration from new technologies attest to the way in which “any new form of mobility has always become a testing-​ground for the cultural modes available for its representation” (Berensmeyer & Ehland 2013, 21). Besides featuring in the texts thematically, new communication technologies may have aesthetic functions that structure and motivate the literary form. By employing the theme of communication technology in their content and by sometimes using it as an inspiration for the form, some novels –​Kihindou’s and Tadjo’s in particular –​produce a poetics of mobility that embodies not only the notion of mobility without physical travel but also the idea that mobility is not always smooth and effortless despite the enabling character of the technology itself. Compared to Kihindou’s and Tadjo’s texts, Bulawayo’s narrative is not as explicitly interested in adopting the formal dimensions of communication technologies –​partly because Skype does not allow for similar typographical experiments such as representations of email messages –​and neither is Adichie’s novel, where the email messages are included as part of the body of text. Nevertheless, there are elements in the literary form of Bulawayo’s and Adichie’s novels that can be read in light of the communication gap trope. If Fatou Diome’s novel Le Ventre de l’Atlantique and its uses of the telephone dialogues between the protagonist in France and her brother back in Senegal can be read as an update of Mariama Bâ’s feminist epistolary classic Une si longue lettre (Niang 2011, 239), then Kihindou takes this updating to the next level with Chêne de bambou. Kihindou’s novel can be referred to as an e-​epistolary, a literary genre typically “dominated by and/​or focused on email correspondence” (Rotunno 2006, 70). Representatives of the genre include such novels as Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 (1995), Sylvia Brownrigg’s The Metaphysical Touch (1998), Jeannette Winterson’s The Powerbook (2000), and Chris Dyer’s Wanderlust (2003) (Rotunno 2006, 70). For a novel to be classified as an e-​epistolary, it is not enough to include the email as parts of the fictional worlds: email messages should also structure and generate the narration (Keskinen 2004, 383). In addition to email correspondence, Kihindou’s novel includes short passages that are not narrated in the e-​epistolary form. These passages feature especially at the beginning of the novel, which sets the

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92 Chapter 4 context for the email correspondence between the two friends, Miya and Inès, but also in the chapters that reproduce Miya’s literary texts, and, finally, in passages narrated in the monologue form. Nevertheless, among the texts under scrutiny, Kihindou’s is the only one that can be considered an e-​epistolary: the other novels do not structure their narration around email messages. However, it has to be noted that there is something very non-​email-​like in Kihindou’s representations of email correspondence. The messages tend to grow too long and too elaborated; in short, they are too essay-​like and writerly. As such, the text seems to lose sight of the instantaneous nature that might be expected from email messaging between close friends –​but then again, the idea of email correspondence as ‘spontaneous’ may itself be misleading. For instance, the effortless editability of email messages may itself undermine the alleged spontaneity of the medium –​as attested by Adichie’s novel, where the lovers spend a lot of time (re-​)formulating their messages in order to produce a desired reaction in the recipient. In any event, in Kihindou’s novel there are no misspellings, no colloquialisms or acronyms typical of Internet-​mediated communication, nor does the dialogue follow typographically the formatting of email messages, which include Date, From, To, and Subject lines. In consequence, while it can be argued that even though the novel is among the rare African representatives of the e-​epistolary genre, it does not fully explore the aesthetic potentials of the form. With its somewhat long-​winded pace, the novel draws its inspiration less from such concise and fast Internet-​mediated communication as instant messaging than from traditional letter writing. Moreover, given that the lengthy messages tend towards monologues, the dialogic aspect of the narrative is at times lost. Tadjo’s novel cannot be categorised as an e-​epistolary:  the email correspondence does not structure the novel, nor does it feature in the novel in any pronounced way. Yet, it is interesting that the medium-​specific features of email correspondence receive more attention here than in Chêne de bambou. In Loin de mon père, the protagonist, Nina, daughter of an Ivorian father and a French mother returns from her well-​organised Parisian life to the crisis-​ridden Abidjan to organise her father’s funeral. After her return, Nina becomes aware of her father’s hidden financial problems and extramarital progeny. The father’s secrets are revealed as Nina goes through his possessions and documents, including his notebooks and email box. The email exchange in the novel takes place mostly between Nina and Gabrielle, her rebellious older sister, who lives abroad and remains distant throughout the novel. The novel employs a variety of written documents that punctuate the narrative and give it a fragmentary overall impression –​a central feature of the virtual world and Internet-​mediated communications as such. The

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various documents, including Nina’s father’s notebooks, old letters, and official documents, serve the purpose of reflecting the past, whereas the email messages tie the narrative to the present. The typography in the representation of the documents often differs from the main text. In this way, the novel draws inspiration from different writing conventions, including netiquette. The email passages include the ‘subject’ field in them, in addition to which the narrative refers to typical technical vocabulary since it mentions, for instance, that Nina checks the “Considéré comme non lu” (91), “unread” (63) box. Nina answers the emails that she receives spontaneously “sans plus tarder” (153), “without further delay” (105), which bespeaks the rapidity typical of Internet-​mediated communications. The fact that Gabrielle receives Nina’s messages while travelling and that neither the reader nor Nina ever gets to know her exact whereabouts is a narrative strategy that conveys the idea of being mobile and yet reachable at the same time –​an effect that a traditional epistolary novel cannot achieve, material letters being delivered to fixed physical destinations. The communication gap finds its formal articulation in the unanswered emails that Nina sends to her sister, displayed in the narrative in their entirety. In Adichie’s Americanah, the uses of communication technologies feature regularly throughout the novel. The lovers Ifemelu and Obinze become separated as Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to pursue her studies in the USA. Obinze is supposed to follow her, but he fails to get a visa, and ends up in the UK as a paperless immigrant instead. Eventually, they both return to Nigeria, although prior to this they lose touch despite having communication technologies at their disposal for most of the time. The passages involving email correspondence or text messages are so marginal and scattered that the novel certainly does not qualify as an e-​epistolary. Moreover, the email messages do not stand out typographically from the rest of the narrative: most often, they are simply displayed in italics. However, in addition to the private correspondence between Ifemelu and Obinze, Internet communication is also addressed in the form of Ifemelu’s blog posts, which, unlike the email messages, stand out in their typography, giving them more narrative weight. Indeed, the blog posts play an important role in the novel thematically and in terms of plot development (see Guarracino 2014). Of the four novels, Bulawayo’s is the least interested in the formal matters that the new technologies might entail. This results partly from the fact that the mode of communication used to contact the loved ones at home is not email but the telephone and, later, Skype. It should also be mentioned that traditional letters written by the protagonist are not displayed in the text either. The new communication technologies are most often used between the

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94 Chapter 4 protagonist and her friends in the USA. These instant messages are in fact the only form of technology-​enhanced communication that stands out in the text not only in terms of the typography but also of the use of language typical of the virtual environment: wt u doin? nothing. trynna study stupid bio, I text. lol, y is it stupid? i kinda lykit, she texts. thts coz u wanna be a doc. nt feelin it, I text. (275) The narrative’s sudden interest in the formal specificities of instant messaging in the diasporic space highlights the erasure of the ‘African home’ from the map of the diasporic novel. Moreover, the novel’s structure, strictly and awkwardly cut into two along the geographical shift of focus (Southern Africa vs. the USA) (see also Harris 2020, 33, 52), formally replicates the distance and the gap of communication trope articulated in the text. The climax of this growing distance –​and, ultimately, disconnection –​finds its articulation at the end of the novel, where Darling ends up in open conflict with a friend from ‘home’. That the narrative closure is so strongly motivated by this conflict suggests that the protagonist’s distance from her former home country is a troubling issue –​ it is, in fact, the reason why her interactions with her old friends are pushed to the margins of the narrative. 2

Technological Advances –​From Letters to Email and Skype

ict is hardly a literary theme in itself. In the texts under scrutiny, new communication technologies are generally unforegrounded in any way, with the exception of Kihindou’s novel; they tend to go unnoticed as ‘natural’ parts of the fictional characters’ world of experience.3 This invisibility is indicative of how new communication technologies such as the mobile phone, email, social

3 The uses of new communication technologies in postcolonial cultural products is a theme that has not yet been widely analysed. Telecommunications and the mobile phone and their uses in the social/​cultural postcolonial contexts have received some critical attention, see e.g., McCarren (2008) or the special issue on “Social Lives of Mobile Telephony” in African Identities, in which the editors Abebe Zegeye and Robert Muponde call for a new research agenda. For a study of the effects of digital technologies on African literature, see Adenekan (forthcoming in 2021). On the internet presence of the ‘Afropolitan’ writers Adichie and Cole, see Pahl (2016).

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media and other technical devices and applications are increasingly becoming an integral part of globalised African realities. While these new technologies are a ‘natural’ part of the fictional worlds of the novels under analysis, the texts also map out the different phases of technical development, ranging from traditional letter writing to Internet-​mediated communications. We Need New Names portrays the developments in communication technologies, ranging from handwritten letters to mobile phones and Skype. In a scene preceding her departure to the USA, the protagonist Darling promises her friends that she will stay in touch –​which she does by sending them letters, although very soon she stops writing altogether. The novel effectively conveys the idea of traditional letter-​writing as “a lost art whose obituary has long been written” (see Harris 2001, 159). After the atrophy of traditional, hand-​written correspondence, the protagonist contacts her friends by phone and Skype. Americanah, with its wide time-​span, also covers the rapid developments in communication technology during the 21st century: “At first, they [Ifemelu and her friend] wrote infrequent emails, but as cybercafés opened, cell phones spread and Facebook flourished, they communicated more often” (14). As the quotation suggests, new technologies render communication more effortless, tying distanced geographical locations closer together. While similar technical developments inform Ifemelu’s communications with Obinze –​with Ifemelu initially receiving his “long letters in blue airmail envelopes” (119) and later, emails from a cybercafé –​the availability of technical devices itself does not render their communications trouble-​free. The need to locate the new technologies in the continuum of modern technologies such as letter writing and the telephone attests to the fact that the new technologies, despite their apparent ‘naturalness’, remain a relatively recent phenomenon in contemporary African literatures and hence that their uses and meanings are still being negotiated. In effect, it seems that the rapid technological advances may even cause unease in the form of technological nostalgia. Instances of technological nostalgia, which seem to contradict the narratives’ technology-​inspired postures, can be observed in particular in Chêne de bambou and Americanah. Towards the end of Chêne de bambou, the focus is on Miya’s struggle to become a writer. Here, the email is no longer solely a means of communication but also that of distributing literary texts:  Miya attaches her writings to her emails to Inès. The narrative places an emphasis on the practical character of the Internet in making information travel: Miya initially has the idea of sending her manuscript to Inès through a friend travelling back home but ends up sending the file electronically instead. Interestingly enough, instead of even considering the possibility of publishing her texts online, Miya insists on having her manuscript printed. For a novel

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96 Chapter 4 that shows so much interest in technical innovation, Chêne de bambou conveys a surprisingly traditional, print-​media-​centred idea of the possibilities of contemporary publishing. Another instance of technological nostalgia manifests itself in Americanah when Ifemelu tries to cut off contact with Obinze. Ifemelu has no problem deleting Obinze’s messages unread; it only takes one click. She also changes her email address in order to avoid receiving his messages. To receive a traditional handwritten letter, however, complicates things. The letter is clearly a metonym of the sender: She sank to her bed, holding the envelope in her hand; she smelled it, stared at his familiar handwriting. She imagined him at his desk in his boys’ quarters, near his small humming refrigerator, writing in that calm manner of his. (160) Ifemelu is tempted to read the letter, to answer it even. In the end, she lacks the courage to do so and actively forgets the letter, piling books and papers on top of it on her desk. The novel’s use of the (handwritten) letter trope signals a nostalgic attitude that is telling with regard to the crisis in the new communication technologies: what is seen as their easiness may be read as a superficiality that informs capitalist postmodernity and the interactions taking place in that context. The emotional weight with which a handwritten letter is invested –​symbolised by the heavy books piled on it –​conveys the idea that email messages are less successful in communicating the ‘truth’ about the sender, thus remaining essentially shallow, and that the Internet environment itself inspires such falseness (see Rotunno 2006). Moreover, the handwritten letter evokes an intimate sense of locality, forcing the recipient to travel back home in her mind more efficiently than an email that lacks its materiality in terms of touch and smell: a handwritten letter is concretely about “hands touching” (Harris 2001, 160). The idea of the falsity of the virtual space is also manifest in a passage that reveals Obinze’s opinion about Facebook:  social media “appal[s]‌[him] by the air of unreality, the careful manipulation of images to create a parallel life” (369). A similar idea of ‘falsity’ is conveyed when Obinze reads Ifemelu’s blogposts and does not understand how she can be their author, “so American and so alien” (374) do they appear to him. Here, the notion of falsity relates not only to the virtual space but also to the USA: the text suggests that life in the diaspora transforms people radically. Literary texts obviously cannot keep pace with the swift developments in technology, and hence, in many senses, the novels analysed here already portray futures past. Bulawayo’s novel is interesting in that it proceeds directly

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from letter writing via the telephone to Skype (and instant messaging in the diasporic context), and entirely skips email as a means of communication. This strategy follows the contemporary trend in which email is increasingly becoming an outmoded communication technology –​in particular amongst younger Internet users such as Bulawayo’s protagonist and her friends. Bulawayo’s novel captures the trend in current developments whereby futures turn into pasts in no time at all, which in turn gives Kihindou’s e-​epistolary a somewhat outmoded aura. New technologies may at best democratise mobility as they enable forms of travel that are not limited to physical mobility. However, one should not be too enthusiastic about the liberatory potentials generated by the new technologies. As Tim Cresswell (2006, 178) suggests, mobility is a resource that tends to be distributed unevenly. This pertains also to communicative travel as represented in the analysed texts: constant access to the virtual space signals a certain class privilege that not everyone can afford. In Loin de mon père, for instance, Nina’s and her father’s class privilege finds its embodiment, amongst other things, in technological terms: in her father’s house, Nina has constant access to the Internet. In Americanah, Obinze, prior to his departure to the UK, goes to a cybercafé to send emails, which signals the fact that the less privileged ‘citizens of the world’ may not be connected all the time. When Obinze returns to Nigeria and lands a job in the service of a local businessman, his higher standard of living and the increased accessibility of communication technologies translate to his being constantly reachable and connected by his smartphone. A  powerful metaphor for his well-​off situation is his addictive way of “check[ing] […] his BlackBerry often, too often” (369). In Kihindou’s and Bulawayo’s novels, the aspect of privilege (and the lack thereof) is flagrant. The latter half of Bulawayo’s novel represents Darling as an Americanised teenager who has all kinds of technological gadgets at her disposal:  references to (then) trendy, ‘must-​have’ brands feature throughout the text and stand in a peculiar contrast to the first half of the novel, which is set in Darling’s crisis-​ridden home country, where Darling and her friends from the shantytown steal barely edible fruit to satisfy their hunger.4 In Chêne de bambou, the opening scene, portraying Miya’s arrival at an airport in France, is contrasted with Miya’s family’s concern for her well-​being; the family has not had any news of her since her departure. When they finally receive her 4 While Bulawayo’s novel does not name the African country in which the events of the first part of the novel take place, the text alludes to different aspects of the so-​called Zimbabwe crisis at the turn of the 21st century, and the migrant mobilities to which the text refers can be read as part of the crisis context (see, e.g., Cobo-​Piñero 2019; Mapanzure 2020; Toivanen 2015).

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98 Chapter 4 email  –​Miya’s little brother has printed it since the family has no Internet connection at home  –​their disappointment is great:  Miya does not seem to tell anything substantial about her life in France. This drives her sister to question whether Miya has written the email herself. Miya’s sister is ill at ease with the idea of communicating by email instead of hand-​written letters or phone calls, not least because of the costs incurred by regular visits to a cyber café. Moreover, the sister’s preference for hand-​written letters or phone calls embodies the idea that emails lack the materiality that bears the ‘authentic’ touch of the author (Keskinen 2004, 384, 386), thus revealing the ‘truth’ about the sender (Rotunno 2006, 70). There is also the question of Miya’s family’s social status, which translates into a lack of familiarity with the technology. This draws attention to how class and itc go hand in hand in Africa (see Adenekan & Cousins 2014), but also points to “the democratic availability” of traditional letter writing compared to emailing (Harris 2001, 160). 3

Creating Distance: Communication Gaps

In Kihindou’s novel, unease informs Miya’s communications with her family –​ an unease that grows into an insurmountable distance. In his email, Miya’s brother is, significantly enough, worried about Miya’s silence, and he encourages her to tell her family the truth, since, as he says, “ça ne sert à rien de nous cacher quoi que ce soit” (26), “there’s no point in hiding anything from us”.5 However, when Miya receives the message, she feels that she does not know what to say to him. A lengthy passage depicts her thrill generated by a visit to the National Library, where the sheer number of books has profoundly impressed her, but she simply cannot write about this, since “les siens n’étaient pas prêts à l’entendre” (29), “her family was not ready to listen any of that”. She acknowledges that her experience at the library is distant from the realities that her underprivileged, uneducated family endure at home, and she fails to articulate this experience adequately. As, later in the novel, Miya refrains from informing her family about such important events as her marriage or her failure at an aptitude test for becoming a teacher, it can be stated that secrecy marks Miya’s communications with her family. Miya’s inability to communicate with her family signals a rupture between the local and the global and draws attention to the material limits that pragmatic cosmopolitanism faces in the globalised postcolonial world. 5 My translation here and for all quotes from Kihindou’s novel.

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As the communication between Miya and her family is so fraught with tension and complicated by the family’s lack of regular access to the Internet, it is not surprising that the email correspondence structuring the novel takes place between Miya and Inès, an old friend from Miya’s school years. Their correspondence grows rather intense. This intensity is enabled by the fact that Inès runs a cybercafé with financial help from her well-​off lover. In short, Inès, unlike Miya’s family, has unlimited access to the Internet. Miya’s family’s limited access to the virtual space is, indeed, the reason for their being awkwardly cut out from the narrative after its opening, as if the family no longer existed for Miya in her newly established diasporic existence. In a way, then, in the novel’s virtual universe there is only room for those who are constantly connected, not for those who have to pay to use the Internet, print out the emails and read them aloud to the illiterate members of the family. The mobility aspect in this novel pertains mostly to the ways in which the email correspondence sheds light on the realities of those who leave, and, to a lesser extent, of those who stay on the African continent. The purpose of the email dialogue and the form of mobility it entails is therefore to inform the correspondent who stays behind about the different aspects of the diasporic life. In other words, while the novel is written in the form of a dialogue, it privileges Miya’s diasporic perspective. Slightly snobbish and patronising phrases such as “Ce n’est pas facile de comprendre ces choses, vu d’Afrique” (48), “It’s not easy to understand these things, seen from Africa” surface regularly, suggesting that because she herself is not engaged in transnational travel, Inès cannot grasp certain things that Miya, as a migrant, can. In this way, the novel conveys the conventional idea of the cosmopolitan vision as an attribute of the migrant rather than that of someone who, so to speak, stays put. The correspondents in Kihindou’s novel have the tendency to squabble over matters of opinion. Indeed, they often seem to be looking for discord, as may be suggested by exclamations such as “Où est-​ce que tu veux m’emmener avec ces questions?” (57), “Where do you want to take me with all these questions?”; “tout ça, c’est pour m’emmener où?” (70), “where is all this supposed to take me?”; or “tout de suite les grands mots!” (72), “there she goes with her big words!”. What nurtures the tension beneath their interaction is that Inès often finds Miya holding back on some essential information concerning her life in France. When talking about her marriage to a Frenchman with whom she has had a child, Miya leaves certain details unaddressed, which causes Inès to ask, “est-​ce à dessein que tu sautes certains épisodes?” (110), “are you intentionally skipping certain episodes?” Moreover, Inès accuses Miya of prattling and making a big deal out of self-​evident matters. Besides these intentional attempts to misguide Inès, on several occasions Miya leaves her emails unanswered, either

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100 Chapter 4 with the purpose of signalling to Inès that she should not pose certain questions or because she feels offended by Inès’s words. In these cases, it is always Inès who takes the initiative to re-​establish the contact, as if it was she who benefited more from the correspondence than Miya, her ‘native informant’ in diaspora. In Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, communication technologies are represented less as Darling’s means of keeping contact with her relatives and friends still living ‘back home’ than with her new American friends, who are constantly connected to the virtual space with their smartphones. Moreover, having all possible technological devices and applications at her disposal cannot hide the fact that Darling has lost touch with her old friends. In We Need New Names, contact with ‘home’ is lost because neither the diasporic realities nor the old friendships correspond to an ideal: Darling’s migrant life is far from glamorous and her former friends’ naïve enthusiasm over her way of life is simply embarrassing. The “awkward silence” (207) that marks Darling’s interactions with her former friends captures this two-​fold unease, as conveyed in the following passage representing Darling’s telephone conversation with her friend Godknows: I heard all that talk from your mother’s tv. That’s how you talk over there in America, you know wha’m saying, my nigga, wassup with all the whores and motherfuckers over there? How’s New York? How’s my man Obama? he says, and I  laugh a small laugh because I  don’t really know how to respond. Then there is an awkward silence, the silence of waiting. (207) This passage exposes the limits of practical cosmopolitanism (or what Gikandi calls non-​elite Afropolitanism) accessible through the virtual world (Knudsen & Rahbek 2016, 48–​49): the world beyond the local accessed through imaginative and virtual travel may not have much to do with the reality. Godknows’s words remind Darling of her former self, her naïve dreams of America and her current diasporic life that does not quite meet the expectations she had set for “Her America” (188) back home. She has feelings of second-​hand embarrassment when she sees that her old friends continue to cherish such naïvely stereotypical images of the USA that she knows to be false, thanks to her lived experience. The way in which communication technologies are used as a means of keeping in touch with the close ones left behind is addressed towards the end of Bulawayo’s novel, when Darling uses Skype to call her mother. As she has become a brand-​aware Americanised teenager, the narrative keeps repeating that Darling has a “Mac”, not just any computer, to contact her mother. The Skype call is answered by a friend of Darling’s, Chipo. When Darling asks about

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her other friends, Chipo says that most of them have by now left the country. There is a discomfiting element in the Skype call from the very beginning, with the interlocutors not knowing what to say next. Suddenly Darling starts to feel guilty about her relative privilege, and sorry for Chipo, who is stuck in the crisis-​ridden postcolony. Chipo responds: “But you are not the one suffering. You think watching on bbc means you know what is going on? […] [I]‌t’s us who stayed here feeling the real suffering” (285). Chipo denies Darling her national identity, and when Darling claims that it is her country too, Chipo accuses her for leaving: “What are you doing not in your country right now? Why did you run to America […]? If it’s your country, you have to live in it and not leave it” (286). Chipo’s words hurt Darling, who “hover[s] the mouse cursor over the red phone thingy” (286) in order to hang up. Chipo, however, goes on to tell Darling that she has a “stupid accent” that she finds unnatural. At this point, Darling ends the call not by hanging up, but by throwing the entire laptop against the wall. On its way, the laptop hits an African mask that Darling has placed on the wall. Their simultaneous fall to the ground is illustrative of Darling’s sense of diasporic unbelonging: neither is she at home in the over-​branded and over-​technologised American culture, nor can she identify herself in the nostalgic idea of the traditional Africa embodied by the mask. Darling’s conversation with Chipo is equally revealing in the way in which it gives voice to a clash between vitriolic nationalist parochialism6 and idealistic cosmopolitan world citizenship nurturing such ideals as global responsibility and boundary-​transgressing dialogue. The stance that Chipo represents undermines the well-​intentioned, albeit facile and powerless expressions of global empathy that Darling’s words embody. This clash suggests that, while mobility –​in this case, communicative travel enabled by new technologies –​ in some form is a necessary element of cosmopolitanism, mobility alone is not enough to cross cultural gaps and enhance dialogue and conviviality in an unequal world that is far from being borderless. Practical cosmopolitanisms characterised by the acknowledgement of the intertwinement of the local and the global remain unavoidably shallow manifestations of cosmopolitan ideals. In Loin de mon père by Tadjo, the email exchange takes place mostly between Nina and her sister Gabrielle. Gabrielle left home at the age of 17 for a reason that Nina ignores. Nina and her relatives are assuming that Gabrielle will attend their father’s funeral in Abidjan, but her refusal to communicate her arrival date is not a promising sign. While the narrative remains silent about

6 The rise of patriotic discourses and rewriting of the national history have been characteristic features of the Zimbabwe crisis (see, e.g., Ranger 2005; Primorac & Muponde 2005).

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102 Chapter 4 it, it seems probable that Gabrielle’s rebellion results from her having been aware of their father’s extramarital progeny. Nina first contacts Gabrielle by phone but is left without any tangible information concerning her travel plans. Gabrielle seems to try to avoid the exigencies of the family that Nina represents as the person in charge of the funeral organisation. The reader knows nothing about Gabrielle’s whereabouts; the narrative suggests that she travels a lot, which makes her a member of the mobile postcolonial elite in much the same way as her sister, whose last contact with her father has been a short mobile phone call at an airport. At one point, Nina sends an email to Gabrielle. She is still waiting for news from Gabrielle, but since the sister’s silence persists, she composes an email, giving the message a rather binding title, “Ton arrivée” (153), “Your arrival” (105). In her message, she stresses that all the relatives are waiting for Gabrielle. This signals Nina’s willingness to keep up appearances, or what is left of them after the father’s numerous illegitimate children’s march onto the scene. While Gabrielle leaves Nina’s first email unanswered, and while the use of this technology between the two sisters captures the ideas of rupture and distance rather than those of contact and closeness, there is also an instance in which email fulfils its role as a means of communication. This happens when Nina receives from Canada the first email from Amon, one of her father’s illegitimate children. From the very beginning, the communication between the siblings, who are strangers to each other, seems unaffected. Nina answers Amon’s email, entitled “Présentations”, immediately, addressing him as “Très cher Amon” (160), “My dear Amon” (110). The frankness and sincerity of Amon’s first message inspires Nina to adopt a new approach in her failed communications with Gabrielle. In her message to her sister, Nina abandons the subject field “Ton arrivée” used in the previous email, entitling the new one more neutrally as “Nouvelles d’Abidjan” (174), “News from Abidjan” (120), a reconciliatory gesture that shifts the focus from Gabrielle’s improbable arrival to the funeral arrangements, positioning Nina as a sort of intermediary. Nina asks whether Gabrielle knows about their other siblings, while also pondering on the reasons for her to have left their home at seventeen. After having described their ‘new’ brothers and sisters to Gabrielle, Nina accuses herself of cowardice in her unwillingness to reproach Gabrielle for her absence and lack of communication. After a sudden flashback to their childhood quarrels, Nina gains new strength that enables her to speak her mind. Nina writes: Les gens ont maintenant cessé de me demander de tes nouvelles. Ils ont compris. Mais compris quoi, au juste? Que tu ne les acceptes pas? Que tu as décidé de tirer un trait sur ton passé? Ou alors que le pays est devenu

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trop dangereux pour que toi t’y aventures? Je suis déçue. J’ai l’impression que tu nous as abandonnés. (176) By now people have stopped asking me for news from you. They have understood. But just what did they understand? That you don’t accept them? That you decided to cut off all ties to your past? Or rather that the country has become too dangerous for you to risk coming back? I’m disappointed. It seems like you have abandoned us. (122) Nina reproaches Gabrielle for neglecting her familial affiliations, and also suggests that the sister’s life abroad has transformed her into ‘a foreigner’ for whom the home country is nothing more than a dangerous destination that one should think twice about visiting. This is the first time in the novel that the sisters actually engage in a dialogue; after a short delay, Nina receives an email from Gabrielle. Gabrielle explains her unconventional stance, arguing that funerals are organised not so much for the departed as for the living, and that she only has one sister and that is Nina. In a sense, then, the developments of the email correspondence follow the general emotional itinerary of the narrative: from uncertainty through anger and to reconciliation, which gives the novel an overall effect that can best be described as comforting (Toivanen 2013, 442–​443). The figure of Nina stands as an intermediary between the world of her father and her African relatives and the world of Gabrielle and her unconventional insights that can be safely articulated from a diasporic distance without hurting anyone’s feelings. Gabrielle wants to keep a distance from her father and the fatherland associated with him, whereas Nina’s relation to them grows closer. As a result of their brief email exchange, this schism becomes, eventually, reconciled. In Americanah, it is the hardships of migrant life that lie at the heart of the novel’s treatment of the communication gap trope. Ifemelu’s arrival in the USA is marked by her personal economic distress, under which she is in a constant panic to find a job. After several failed attempts to secure employment, she accepts a job that is comparable to prostitution:  she helps a stressed tennis coach to “relax”, that is, to masturbate. While she only does this once, she feels so ashamed –​not least for being aroused while lying next to her “boss” –​that she is no longer able to talk to Obinze on the phone or answer his emails: she “delete[s]‌his voice messages unheard and his emails unread” (155). This is where the trope of rupture in communication features for the first time. The dialectics of the lovers’ attempts to keep and to not keep in contact with each other runs through the entire narrative. In this sense, the theme of email communication, despite its apparent marginality in thematic terms, becomes the thread of the novel.

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104 Chapter 4 In the hide-​and-​seek communication of the lovers, Ifemelu is not the only one leaving emails unread and unanswered. A  very similar experience of shame that happened to Ifemelu and created the gap of communication is reproduced when, after a years’ silence, Obinze receives an apologetic email in which she tries to re-​establish contact with him. Obinze deletes her message as a reaction to his own degrading condition as an undocumented immigrant. As a paperless immigrant in the UK, the only job he manages to secure is that of toilet cleaner. One night at work, he finds “a mound of shit on the toilet lid, solid, tapering, centred as though it has been carefully arranged and the exact spot had been measured” (236–​237). In Obinze’s eyes, this mound of shit symbolises his own failure; it represents “a personal affront, a punch on his jaw” (237), so that when he receives Ifemelu’s email the same evening, he “click[s]‌Delete and Empty Trash” (238). By emphasising the Empty Trash function instead of merely having Obinze delete the message, the narrative conveys the idea of finality –​a finality which is not that final after all, since the unfinished business between the lovers keeps motivating the narrative. Ifemelu’s unsuccessful attempt to re-​establish contact is also interesting in the sense that it juxtaposes two very different contemporary African migrant positions. First of all, there is Ifemelu living a secure and easy-​going elite ‘Afropolitan’ life with her wealthy boyfriend and, secondly, there is Obinze, cleaning toilets as an illegal migrant. The narrative foregrounds this contrast by reproducing Ifemelu’s apologetic email twice: first when she sends it, with a “Swedish massage” (224) waiting for her and booked by her boyfriend, and the second time when Obinze receives it in the aftermath of the excrement scene. By juxtaposing these different migrant experiences and by connecting them to each other through the mobility enabled by email, the narrative points to the fact that, while globalisation entails developments that render the world smaller, it is simultaneously about non-​egalitarian developments that drive worlds apart. The hide-​and-​seek communication between the lovers finds its culmination in the way in which they start composing messages only to end up deleting them before sending them. This hesitation and undecidedness betrays an incapacity to let go, which, in the case of Ifemelu, can be read not only as her inability to let go of a loved one, but also –​the novel eventually turning into a return narrative –​of a sense of belonging that is unquestioned, unlike her diasporic condition. In addition to several failed attempts to re-​establish contact, the narrative portrays the lovers composing well-​thought emails with the intention either of rendering the recipient jealous or of remaining silent about certain facts –​e.g., Obinze avoiding mentioning his wife in his response to Ifemelu, who has just announced her return –​in order to convey the desired image of themselves. There is nothing of the spontaneity associated with emails in the

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lovers’ communications: they spend a lot of time composing and interpreting emails, with the risk of misunderstanding each other constantly threatening their communications. Towards the end of the novel, Obinze actively defies the risk of getting hurt by writing a ‘sincere’ message. In this way, the narrative suggests that email does not have to be a shallow and deceitful means of communication but one that helps to reveal one’s ‘true self’: “Writing to her also became a way of writing to himself. He had nothing to lose” (372). Such an ‘honest’ email provokes an immediate response –​one that is, significantly enough, displayed in its entirety in the novel’s pages. 4

Conclusion: Ruptured Dialogues and Unbalanced Cosmopolitanisms

The representations of communication technologies in Kihindou’s, Bulawayo’s, Tadjo’s, and Adichie’s novels widens the scope of how mobility can be imagined in African literatures in the global era. This is crucial, because, while being an important metaphor for the contemporary globalised postcolonial condition, the migrant figure is also an unavoidably reductive one: there are always those who do not participate in transnational travel themselves, but who are still connected to the world beyond the boundaries of the local. Thanks to technical innovation, one can be connected to distanced parts of the world and engage in adopting a very practical kind of cosmopolitan vision of the world without undertaking transnational physical travel. Yet, as suggested by the novels analysed here, this sort of practical cosmopolitanism may end up being of rather shallow in nature, since the correspondents or interlocutors fail to engage in a true, boundary-​transgressing dialogue. Thus, if the novels contain a practical, non-​elite cosmopolitan vision, it is an imperfect cosmopolitanism that is ruptured and unbalanced in its essence –​ a cosmopolitanism in which the limits of an ideally balanced dialogue are exposed by the reality. Moreover, despite their efforts to balance between the local and the global or the ‘original’ location and the diaspora, the novels tend to prioritise the migrant perspective. Their primary focus is on those who have left, while those ‘staying put’ are represented from the perspective of the migrants and are, eventually, condemned to the margins of the narrative. Communication technologies also inform the actual form of some of the novels. The itc-​inspired form of the texts –​or the absence thereof –​are features that are both significant for literary analysis. Not only do the novels’ poetics of mobility embody the notion of dialogue and mobility without physical travel but they also convey the silences and ruptures that mark the interactions.

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106 Chapter 4 By addressing the enhanced communications offered by the new technologies, the novels draw attention to the ways in which globalisation links distanced geographical locations closer together –​but not always in an unproblematic way. In the novels the unease that marks communication is conveyed in their portrayals of ruptures and gaps, which result from the correspondents’ urge to remain silent about some of the less glorious aspects of their diasporic condition, or of their alienation and of their emotional/​epistemological distance from the realities back home.

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­c hapter 5

Everyday Urban Mobilities in Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps and Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-​toi et meurs Urban spaces are popular settings in postcolonial literary texts. The idea of the Global South city as a place of (post)colonial modernity is a longstanding theme in African literatures (see, e.g., Bede 2014; Primorac 2010, African; Williams 2016). Literary representations of European metropolises such as London and Paris, on the other hand, frequently foreground the figure of the migrant as a postcolonial city-​dweller, and explore the hybrid qualities of the metropolis (see, e.g., Amine 2018; De Souza & Murdoch 2013; McLeod 2004; Perfect 2014). The emphasis on migrancy in studies focusing on postcolonial literary representations of Western metropolises reflects the general tendencies of postcolonial studies, which, as I have underlined in the previous chapters, is a field that has paradigmatised the figure of the migrant. The figure of the migrant embodies such central postcolonial concerns as displacement, transculturation, and (un)belonging. These themes are also central when analysing the postcolonial aspects of urban spaces. However, literary representations of cities also illustrate the importance of everyday mobility practices for the construction of (postcolonial) urban spaces and identities (see Beck 2013, 111; Jensen 2009, 140; Murray & Upstone 2014, “Conclusion”, 193; Prytherch & Cidell 2015, 19–​20). Until now, studies of postcolonial literary cities have not paid much attention to everyday urban mobilities. This is mainly because, in postcolonial studies, the concept of mobility is understood from a migrant studies perspective, which tends to result in a static, nation-​based view of issues such as integration, erasing the notions of mobility and journeying that the concept of migration actually entails (Mainwaring & Bridgen 2016, 247, 251; Schapendonk 2012, 119; Schapendonk 2013, 12). In order to move beyond the migration studies-​ oriented, sedentarist approach and promote a wider understanding of postcolonial mobilities that takes “the actual fact of movement seriously” (Cresswell 2010, 18)  and “in a highly literal sense” (Greenblatt 2010, “Mobility”, 250), and that challenges the idea of space as a static container (Jensen 2009, 140; Murray & Upstone 2014, “Conclusion”, 193; Sheller 2017, 628), I read Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps (1996) and Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-​toi et meurs (2012) through a mobility studies lens. The novels in question feature complex portrayals of urban

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2021 | DOI:10.1163/9789004444751_007Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

108 Chapter 5 everyday mobility, travel in the metro in particular. The Paris metro is one of the most emblematic metropolitan settings in the African literary imagination, and since it has become the ultimate symbol of modernity, travelling in it often represents an initiation rite for the African newcomer (Anyinefa 2003; Dessy, 2011, 4–​7). Mobility in general –​and travel in the Paris metro in particular –​is pivotal for the novels’ plot development and the construction of the fictional characters. With the emphasis on mobilities, connections, and flows, mobility studies have generated a new way of understanding space –​urban spaces in particular (Jonas 2015, 281). From a mobility studies perspective, “space, subjectivity, […] and mobility are best understood as interdependent categories” (Beck 2013, 110). While Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s texts could be read as traditional ‘migrant novels’ addressing ‘the migrant condition’, they also feature portrayals of “local processes of daily transportation” (Hannam, Sheller & Urry 2006, 1) whose meanings cannot be reduced to migration. When reading mobility from a postcolonial perspective, one cannot ignore the fact that mobility is an unevenly distributed resource:  mobilities are shaped by markers of difference such as race, nationality, gender, class, and ability (Cresswell 2006, 178). Mobility studies scholars refer to the ways in which mobilities are both productive of and produced by power structures as the politics of mobility (Cresswell 2010, 21) or as mobility politics (Nicholson & Sheller 2016, 5). In my analysis, however, I am also interested in exploring the poetics of mobility in Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s texts. In this regard, I have found two sources to be especially helpful: Ian C. Davidson’s (2017) concept of “mobilities of form” and Chris Ewers’s (2018) study on mobility in British 18th century novel, which both explain how literary form and genre can be shaped by mobility practices. Both Davidson’s and Ewers’s formulations resonate with my conception of the poetics of mobility, by which I mean the ways in which the thematic treatment of mobility is reflected in the form –​in the present case, the ways in which the generic features of the thriller in Mabanckou’s novel and the uncanny qualities of Rakotoson’s novel translate the mobility theme into form. Elle, au printemps and Tais-​toi et meurs feature African migrants who have recently arrived in Paris. Rakotoson’s protagonist Sahondra, a young Madagascan woman, leaves Antananarivo in an unorganised attempt to pursue her studies in France: she travels to Paris without being enrolled at a university, relying entirely on the help of her French pen-​friend Marie, to whom her only link is their sporadic correspondence. The plot is driven by Sahondra’s search for Marie, who has promised to help her settle in France. The novel, which articulates the postcolonial urban uncanny (see Johnson 2010; Wolfreys 2008), foregrounds the mobility theme by depicting Sahondra’s travels in

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detail. Mabanckou’s thriller features a young Congolese man who goes to Paris to work in a diasporic Congolese underworld community. Typically of crime fiction and the thriller genre, the novel’s plot and imaginary rely heavily on mobility and suspense (see Rubin 1999, 5; Huck 2012): being an irregular migrant and a petty criminal, the protagonist is constantly on the run. Both novels depict the protagonists’ struggles to make sense of the postcolonial metropolis. I  read the protagonists’ use of mobility systems and the narratives’ production of urban cartographies as a means of inscribing their newly established migrant selves in the metropolitan space. I would suggest that the protagonists embody a practical cosmopolitan attitude that may well be necessary in achieving successful border-​crossings into a new environment. This pragmatic cosmopolitanism is part of the process of becoming a modern postcolonial metropolitan subject,1 and it attests to the transformative power of mobility (Berensmeyer & Ehland 2013, 13). The texts also highlight the anxious aspects of the irregular African newcomers’ everyday mobilities, which translates into form in the texts’ uncanny and thrilleresque qualities that capture the alienating aspects of the postmodern city (see Beville 2013; Eckhard 2011; Rubin 1999, 10–​11; Wolfreys 2008). The anxiety reaches its peak as the protagonists’ metropolitan pursuits end up in peripheral dead-​ends, symbolising the failures of the newcomers’ attempts to make Paris their city and hence underlining its role in their metropolitan mobile subjectivities. 1

Cartographies of Paris

Paris has occupied a special place in the Francophone African literary imaginary since the mid-​twentieth century (see, e.g., Bennetta 1998; Braddock & Eburne 2013; De Souza 2012; Garnier 2012; Kuietche Fonkou 2010; Treiber 2014). Typically, the Paris-​centred paradigm articulates the collision between migrants’ high hopes and the harsh realities of the (post)colonial metropolis (Treiber 2014). Elle, au printemps and Tais-​toi et meurs rely on the Paris-​ centred paradigm, but also revise it by setting some events in provincial2 and suburban loci. Rakotoson’s protagonist Sahondra and Mabanckou’s Julian Makambo/​José Montfort (who undergoes a change of identity when he arrives 1 My use of the notion of ‘modern postcolonial metropolitan subject’ is not to imply that non-​ metropolitan, postcolonial mobile subjectivities would somehow be automatically ‘premodern’ or ‘traditional’. Rather, there is a variety of different, co-​existing modernities that transform each other (see Ashcroft 2009). 2 On Francophone literary texts and films revising Paris-​centredness, see Moudileno 2012.

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110 Chapter 5 in Paris: his forged identity documents feature the name José Montfort) are somewhat conventional African migrant figures in the sense that they arrive in Paris for the first time without having realistic ideas about the city. Similar initially naïve and eventually disappointed newcomers have featured in, for instance, Ousmane Socé’s Mirages de Paris (1933), Camara Laye’s Dramouss (1966), and J.R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du nord (1996)  –​the latter of which is analysed in the last chapter of this study as an example of cosmopolitanism’s shortcomings. Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s newcomers’ lives in Paris are represented from a pronouncedly mobile perspective; travelling in public transport in particular is portrayed minutely. By describing the protagonists’ mobilities in a detailed manner, the narratives produce literary cartographies of the postcolonial metropolis. The cartographic impulse is foregrounded in such a way that Paris is not simply a passive stage on which the events take place, but instead a space actively produced through everyday mobilities. In this sense, the novels’ cartographies are not mere re-​imaginings of space (Tally 2014, 4) but attest to the way in which space itself is mobile (Murray & Upstone 2014, “Conclusion”, 193) and highlight the role played by mobility in constituting subjectivity (Prytherch & Cidell 2015, 19–​20). Cartography has a history as a colonial means of control. In the postcolonial era, the practice of mapmaking has gained new meanings. As Caterina Romeo (2015, 101) notes, “If the necessity to impose control and surveillance over colonized countries was central in colonial Empires, at the time of postcolonial and global migrations this necessity travels together with migrants to the heart of Fortress Europe”. Urban cartographies in postcolonial literary texts and film are frequently interpreted as ‘rewritings’ of former colonial centres as hybrid spaces (see e.g., McLeod 2004; Orlando 2014). Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s literary cartographies of Paris, however, are less motivated by the need to portray the city as “a subversive site […] in which processes of cultural signification [are] redefined by new cultural actors […] who claim belonging to the city” (Romeo 2015, 110) than by the purpose of using the cartographies as allegories for the protagonists’ struggles to survive and their desire to make sense of the city. From the perspective of survival, it is noteworthy that sometimes mobility is less a matter of ‘flow’ than a task that demands efforts: “Using a city requires knowledge and skill”, writes Franz Buhr (2018, 339). In other words, walking in the city and travelling by different means of transportation necessitate knowledge which is acquired through practice, or what Buhr (2018, 340) calls “urban apprenticeship”. According to Buhr (2018), urban apprenticeship through mobility is important in migrants’ integration into their new environments. As narrative strategies of urban survival, Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s cartographies of Paris rely on the underground network –​a system that shapes cities’ and individuals’ conceptions

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of themselves as urban. Modern cities are complex spaces, not least because of their mobile networks that urbanites have to master in order to “work the city” (Buhr 2018, 340; emphasis original). Transit maps help city dwellers achieve this goal as they “mitigate that complexity [and] assure urbanites that the city is conceptually manageable” so that city-​dwellers can find a “coherent place for [themselves] within it […] by travelling the rail network” (Schwetman 2014, 87, 100). The cartographic impulse in Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s novels can therefore be read as an element that captures the protagonists’ attempts to manage the complexity of their mobile metropolitan lives. Tais-​toi et meurs is a typical thriller in the sense that its events take place in a modern, urban setting that the narrative invests with a sense of adventure (see Rubin 1999, 14–​15; see also Knight 2016). The adventurous spirit is conveyed in the narrative’s cartographic impulse, already manifest in the titles of chapters such as “La ligne 12” “Line 12”; “Bienvenue à Montparnasse” “Welcome to Montparnasse”; and “Montreuil-​sur-​Bamako”. The narrative does not get enough of urban Parisian itineraries: street names and districts recur throughout the text. The most important role in this cartography is given to the metro. Julien Makambo’s aka José Montfort’s initiation into the Parisian underground railway network is facilitated by Pedro, one of the leading figures in the underground milieu, with whom he takes a rer train (Réseau Express Régional; the Paris metropolitan and regional rail system) for the first time. At the Gare du Nord station, Pedro, who “connaissait Paris comme sa poche” (49) “knew Paris inside out”,3 explains to Julien/​José how the system works, telling him that he should travel alone and get lost in order to better understand the city. He also teaches Julien/​José how to travel without paying the fare. After this initiation, the protagonist becomes a frequent métro passenger. Consequently, the cartography that the narrative produces mimics the Parisian underground map: Le parcours que j’avais à suivre était des plus compliqués depuis la station Cadet. D’abord, de Cadet, il me fallait aller jusqu’à Gare de l’Est, prendre ensuite la ligne 5 en direction de Bobigny-​Pablo Picasso jusqu’à Gare du Nord, puis la ligne 4 en direction de la Porte de Clignancourt jusqu’à Marcadet-​Poissonniers, et la ligne 12 en direction de Porte de la Chapelle pour arriver enfin au métro Marx Dormoy. (169) The trajectory I had to follow was one of the most complicated ones from the Cadet station. First, from Cadet, I had to go to Gare de l’Est, then take line 5 in the direction of Bobigny-​Pablo Picasso as far as Gare du Nord, 3 All translations of Mabanckou’s novel are mine.

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112 Chapter 5 then line 4 in the direction of Porte de Clignancourt as far as Marcadet-​ Poissonniers, and line 12 in the direction of Porte de la Chapelle, in order to arrive, at last, at Marx Dormoy station. The novel is full of such detailed itineraries representing urban spaces as interconnected through mobility. By locating the protagonist on the mobile map of Paris, the narrative suggests that he is actively trying to ‘handle’ the city by orienting himself in its complex mobile networks. This urgency to handle the city turns into a concrete question of survival in the aftermath of a murder for which the protagonist is framed by his community. Escaping the crime scene, he feels that the metro does not move fast enough, and questions whether he has made the right choice by taking the underground from a specific station: “Certes, il y avait d’autres possibilités: les stations La Chapelle, Riquet, Crimée ou Porte de la Chapelle” (28) “Surely there were other possibilities: la Chapelle, Riquet, Crimée or Porte de la Chapelle”. From here on, the protagonist’s mobility is shaped by his being a fugitive for whom “sa propre ombre devient suspecte” (28) “his own shadow becomes suspicious” and who is perplexed by the question, “Où aller à présent?” (75) “Where to go now?” The conspiracy plot adds a pronouncedly thrilleresque character to his mobility, generating a very anxiety-​ridden poetics of mobility. While the narrative is particularly interested in reproducing the Parisian underground map, similarly detailed descriptions accompany the protagonist’s most banal displacements: “Je suis sorti de l’hȏtel et ai emprunté la rue de Paris en direction de la Porte de Montreuil pour aller chez Carrefour” (91) “I got out of the hotel and took the rue de Paris in the direction of Porte de Montreuil to go to Carrefour [supermarket]”. Descriptions of such simple itineraries when there is no risk of getting lost betray the protagonist’s increasing insecurity in the metropolis as he hides from the police and his community: it is as if the protagonist was constantly mapping out a potential, symbolic emergency exit. The protagonist’s being in constant ‘cartographic mode’ is symptomatic of his fear of falling off the map and is linked to his status as an outlaw. The cartographies produced by moving around on foot are associated with the protagonist’s withdrawal from intramural Paris and convey his reduced mobility as a fugitive and failure to ‘manage’ central Paris outside the criminal community. Thus, while the narrative tempo slows down in the passages that represent the protagonist’s walks in the suburb, the suspense related to the risk of getting caught is still present:  as a pedestrian, the protagonist seems to be an easier ‘prey’. In this way, different mobility practices contribute to the novel’s thrilleresque narrative rhythm. Furthermore, the constant preoccupation with street names

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can also be understood in light of Julien’s background; as mentioned earlier in the novel, he comes from a place where not all streets have names. The cartographic impulse, then, also articulates the epistemological shift that the process of becoming a modern postcolonial metropolitan subject entails. The cartographic impulse is equally present in Elle, au printemps. The protagonist’s arrival in Paris is defined by the unpleasant surprise of Marie not showing up at the airport, leaving the protagonist alone in her new environment. After the initial shock, she recalls that she has distant relatives in Paris, and decides to go to see them. As she sets out to take a bus, she finds herself tormented by questions as follows: “… mais comment prendre le bus en France?” (36) “… but how does one catch a bus in France?”4 and “comment allait-​elle trouver son bus …?” (37) “how was she going to find her bus …?” Taking the bus in Paris is an eerie experience: “Tout était étrange” (37) “everything was strange”, Sahondra observes as she realises that there is no-​one to tell the passengers where each bus is going. The sense of strangeness persists during the ride as the bus speeds forward with its silent passengers. Sahondra’s eerie experiences of urban public transports can be read as manifestations of the urban uncanny (Wolfreys 2008; Johnson 2010). The Freudian concept of the uncanny captures the idea of “the destabilization of certain boundaries” –​ the boundary between the familiar and the strange in particular (Eckhard 2011, 35). The uncanny entails doubt and ambiguity and a sense of a lack of orientation or of not being totally ‘at home’, as unheimlich, the original German term, also suggests (Eckhard 2011, 37, 39). The uncanny is often considered a “constitutive aspect of our experience of the modern” (Collins & Jervis 2008, 2), and as Julian Wolfreys (2008, 177) suggests, the uncanny is associated with urban spaces where the sense of familiarity is constantly disturbed by “the possibility of unfamiliarity, estrangement, and eruption”. The urban uncanny in Rakotoson’s novel is related to the protagonist’s experiences of travel in Parisian urban mobility systems, and, more specifically, with the silence that characterises this form of travel. The uncanniness of silence springs from the fact that Sahondra associates silence with Madagascar, a country under repressive military rule. Erica L. Johnson’s (2010, 224)  formulation of the urban uncanny builds on the idea that “postcolonial time is uncannily repetitive and endlessly layered”. Consequently, distant places that are connected through their shared colonial pasts become each other’s “spatial and social repetitions” (Johnson 2010, 211). The uncanny

4 All translations from Rakotoson’s novel are my own.

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114 Chapter 5 repetition not only underlines the entangled pasts and presents, but also highlights the poetics of disillusionment (Treiber 2014) that shapes much of Francophone African literature’s representations of newcomers’ travel to Paris: in Sahondra’s words, “quelque chose ne collait pas” (27) “something was not quite right”. The novel represents Paris as an alienating environment. Sahondra’s sense of being lost is conveyed in the narrative by showing that her urban itineraries are not planned by herself but are based on advice from random passers-​by: Oh, mais c’est facile ça … Il vous suffit de prendre la navette, vous demandez au chauffeur de vous arrêter à Denfert et de là vous prenez le métro … La ligne est directe, vous n’aurez pas à prendre de correspondance … Tenez, la navette est à la sortie, […] vous changez pour le métro, direction Nation où vous vous arrêtez à la station Porte d’Italie, pour la correspondance … (36) Oh, but that’s easy … You just take the shuttle, you ask the driver to stop at Denfert, and you take the metro from there … It is a direct line, no need to change … You’ll see, the shuttle is next to the exit, […] you take the metro in the direction of Nation, and you stop at the Porte d’Italie station for the transfer … While such advice is supposed to help Sahondra navigate in the urban environment and make it ‘manageable’, it also generates further confusion. This sense of anxiety is conveyed by the narrative through the broken exchanges that Sahondra has with booking clerks and random by-​passers. Sahondra’s lines are reduced to one-​word questions and end with three dots and question marks, as in the following example at a metro ticket sales counter: – Un ticket ou un carnet ? –… – Combien de zones ? – … C’est-​à-​dire que … (39) – A ticket or a book of tickets? –… – How many zones? – … That’s to say …

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Such failed dialogues recur frequently in chapters depicting Sahondra’s arrival in Paris, and they show how out of place she is in terms of urban mobility. Against the metropolitan context of hypermobility, these broken dialogues, Sahondra’s silences, and her confused questions convey the idea of interrupted movement. Using such literary means, the narrative highlights the discrepancy between Sahondra’s interrupted mobility and the speed characteristic of the mobility systems that surround her. Practices that are self-​evident for everyone else seem absurd to Sahondra. She is not familiar with the names of the stations –​for example, she mistakes Denfert for l’Enfer (hell). She does not know what the métro looks like and is surprised to learn that it is just a train. She struggles with automatic doors, the buttons she is supposed to press, telephone cards, telephone boxes and so on. In short, she has constant trouble with modern mobile technologies. As “mobility is central to what it takes to be modern” (Cresswell 2006, 20), it is clear that Sahondra’s struggle with mobile technologies can be equated with the struggle involved in becoming a modern, metropolitan postcolonial mobile subject. This is a demanding process that reflects the idea of mobility as transformative and therefore as a source of anxiety (Cresswell 2006, 17; Berensmeyer & Ehland 2013, 22; Davidson 2017, 552). For the postcolonial subject, this anxiety is obviously also related to the exclusive character of Western notions of modernity. Sahondra’s becoming a modern, metropolitan postcolonial mobile subject rests on a very fragile base. The narrative captures this fragility in the form of a small piece of handwritten paper that Sahondra’s cousin hands to her prior to one of her first Parisian metro journeys. The piece of paper lists the names of the stations through which Sahondra should travel to reach her destination. This piece of paper, which could so easily be lost and whose readability suffers each time it is unfolded, is a subtle metaphor for the challenges that the protagonist faces in her newly adopted life in Paris. As Mireille Rosello (2016, 88) states in her article analysing the disorientation of a newly arrived migrant in the Paris metro in Rachid Boudjera’s Une topographie idéale pour une agression caractérisée (1975), for the newcomer, maps and the act of “ ‘giving directions’ is pointless when the protagonists are not already on the same map”. For Rakotoson’s Sahondra, underground maps and advice from more accustomed urbanites are of little help: she has to learn to navigate the Paris metro through trial and error. 2

Débrouillardise Cosmopolitanism: Survival in a New Environment

In this section, I  focus on the ways in which Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s protagonists’ attempts to ‘manage’ Paris through everyday urban mobility articulate a practical cosmopolitan attitude. As argued throughout this study,

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116 Chapter 5 cosmopolitanism is commonly conceived as an elite mobile position and also a form of ‘world citizenship’ for those who transgress boundaries with ease thanks to their socio-​economic privilege (Robbins & Lemos Horta 2017, 3). Alternatively, cosmopolitanism is seen as a form of global political solidarity (Cheah 2006, “Cosmopolitanism”) or a set of (utopian) ideals generating “planetary consciousness” (Gilroy 2005; see also Spencer 2011, 2), and shaped by an ethics that entails openness to alterity (see, e.g., Appiah 2006). It is also associated with metropolitan, multicultural settings where cosmopolitanism is supposed to ‘happen’ –​an idea that has been challenged since visual diversity alone only rarely leads to openness to alterity and boundary-​transgressing dialogue (Papastephanou 2012, 119). In addition to its elitist connotations, utopian aspirations and the overfamiliar topographical associations, cosmopolitanism can also be understood as “actually existing” processes (Robbins 1998). According to Vered Amit and Pauline Gardiner Barber (2015, 543), “cosmopolitanism requires a capacity and willingness to imagine that there may be other forms of subjectivity, sociality and engagement beyond the already familiar”. Understood along these lines, cosmopolitanism is not so much a utopian stance or an ethical aspiration, as an active engagement and a “mundane practice” (Amit & Gardiner Barber 2015, 543). To highlight the ‘mundane’ dimension of cosmopolitanism, Ulrich Beck (2006, 101)  has introduced the term cosmopolitanization, by which he refers to “a ‘forced’ cosmopolitanism” generated “at the level of practice”. This pragmatic interpretation of cosmopolitanism strips the concept of its elitist connotations as the easy-​going ways of being ‘at home in the world’ practised by privileged classes. By understanding cosmopolitanisation as a practical process that entails an effort to cross boundaries in order to engage with “the world beyond one’s immediate milieu” (Spencer 2011, 4), it is possible to use the concept to analyse how Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s protagonists orient and reinvent themselves in the new environment that they have been ‘thrown into’. Beck (2006, 103) suggests that migrants often have to “become […] acrobats in the manipulation of boundaries” in order to survive: this is exactly what the practical cosmopolitanisms of Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s protagonists are about. The key aspect in the novels’ conceptualisations of practical cosmopolitanism as a means of survival is débrouillardise, which is a French term that refers to resourcefulness in situations that may set severe limits to one’s agency. The term débrouillardise keeps recurring in both texts, although in slightly different senses. In Mabanckou’s thriller, it is tied to the operations of the delinquent milieu. Julien Makambo’s arrival in Paris has been organised by the members of the underworld community; he owes his diasporic existence to Pedro, who “[l]‌’avait aidé à [s]e débrouiller dans Paris” (34) “had helped him manage in

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Paris”. It is Pedro who tells Julien/​José to immerse himself in the city that he himself handles perfectly. When Pedro sends Julien/​José on a mission to test his loyalty and capacities, he says, “Cette mission, c’est donc un test pour toi, je veux voir comment tu te débrouilles” (67) “This mission is a test for you, I want to see how you manage”. Débrouillardise here refers to one’s ability to manage the city’s mobile network while also in an irregular condition as a delinquent and an undocumented migrant. It entails taking the metro without buying a ticket –​and without getting caught. Travelling without a ticket comes with specific risks for someone who lives outside the official society. Indeed, the protagonist acknowledges that some stations are riskier than others in this respect –​ including Montparnasse Bienvenüe, where many “compatriotes […] avaient été arrêtés […] et expulsés du jour au lendemain au pays” (67) “compatriots had been arrested and deported overnight”. Indeed, the test that Pedro wants Julien/​José to pass exposes the fragility of the latter’s sense of being at home in Paris and shows him that he does not ‘manage’ the city as well as he thinks; this tension between control and vulnerability constitutes a key dialectic of the thriller form (Rubin 1999, 7). The control/​vulnerability nexus culminates in a passage in which the protagonist is spotted and chased by inspectors in the labyrinth of an underground station. He tries to escape, but only encounters metro carriage doors closing in his face and ‘No Exit’ signs. That he wears a pair of slippery, luxury brand shoes –​the hallmark of his sapeur5 identity –​does not facilitate his task. His flight assumes thrilleresque undertones: J’ai emprunté le premier sens interdit que j’ai vu à ma droite. Encore un couloir! Un long couloir! Plus je courais, plus le couloir se rétrécissait et s’assombrissait. Les pas du [contrôleur] résonnaient derrière moi comme dans un film d’horreur. (70) I took the first “Prohibited Direction” exit that I saw on my right. Again a corridor! A  long corridor! The more I  run, the narrower and darker the corridor became. The sound of the inspector’s footsteps behind me echoed like in a horror movie. In the end, the protagonist finds himself in a cul-​de-​sac, with a gleeful black inspector –​for whom the pursuit becomes a personal battle against fraudulent 5 La Sape (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elégantes; ‘Society of Ambiance-​Makers and Elegant People’) is a form of Congolese dandyism which entails wearing luxury brand clothing and accessories. Sapeur figures feature throughout Mabanckou’s production (see, e.g., Knox 2015; Thomas 2003).

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118 Chapter 5 African metro users who, according to him, ruin the reputation of all black urbanites –​exclaiming, “Fils de bâtard, tu croyais connaître cette station mieux que moi, hein?” (70) “Son of a bitch, did you really think you knew this station better than I do, eh?” This passage captures the limits of the protagonist’s practical cosmopolitanism. As a member of a parallel society, he is in no position to claim the city and its mobile networks as his own. According to John D. Schwetman (2014, 96–​97), “to travel on the grade-​separated transit system is to leave the plane of the actual city and enter the alternative universe”; the underground is, in other words, “another world detached from the real life of the city”. Schwetman’s words draw attention to the way in which Mabanckou’s text uses the Parisian métro as a metaphor for the underworld society. The protagonist’s failure to handle the ‘alternative universe’ of the underground is, therefore, a metaphor for his failure to handle Paris as a subordinate member of a parallel society. In Elle, au printemps, the débrouillardise dimension of everyday mobility is even more pronounced as the protagonist is left alone to ‘handle’ Paris. The verb se débrouiller (‘manage’) keeps recurring in the text. Sahondra’s arrival at Orly Airport marks her loss of all of her points of reference. Despite the shock caused by Marie’s absence, Sahondra acknowledges that she has no other solution than to manage: “T’as voulu aller à Paris, tu y es, débrouille-​ toi …” (34) “You wanted to go to Paris, you’re there, you will have to manage …” Sahondra lacks the privilege of experienced world travellers who transgress cultural, national, and linguistic boundaries with ease. Already at Antananarivo airport she does not quite identify with the nonchalant elite. On the aeroplane, she feels that she is being looked down on by the flight attendants and fellow passengers because of her cheap clothes and her lack of ‘high society’ manners. Her feeling of being out of place among ‘frequent travellers’ (Calhoun 2008) creates certain expectations with regard to her ability to ‘handle’ the metropolitan space, and the warnings by a fellow passenger about what could happen to a young woman travelling alone without money further add to these expectations. Rakotoson’s novel, however, defies clichéd plots: the narrative refers to the protagonist’s mobile pursuit as “l’aventure […] avec une valise” (9, 18) “adventure with one suitcase”, and portrays Sahondra as anything but a helpless young woman losing herself in the city whilst facing its ‘dangers’. The narrative not only conveys Sahondra’s frustration with urban mobile networks but also her determination to learn to ‘work’ Paris. Her urban apprenticeship (Buhr 2018) entails moments of desperation: “Elle va pleurer, elle va pleurer …” (55) “She is going to cry, she is going to cry …”, and “elle va se perdre à Paris, elle va mourir dans Paris, elle va …” (59) “she is going to get lost in Paris, she is going to die in Paris, she is going to …”. While others give her credit for

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her débrouillardise, she is less convinced of how it is even possible to manage the alienating universe of urban mobility networks: Tu te débrouilles bien, tu te débrouilles bien, facile à dire, trois niveaux, plusieurs lignes, rer … comment « se débrouillait-​on bien » dans ce laby­ rinthe? Vie sous terre, lumière glauque, odeur d’huile de moteur chaude et de sueur, et foule qui ne regarde nulle part. (82) You are doing well, you are doing well, it is easy to say, three levels, several lines, rer … how does one ‘manage well’ in this labyrinth? Underground life, dim light, a smell of hot motor oil and sweat, and a crowd that does not look anywhere. Simultaneously, she is equally determined to manage the city on her own, and, indeed, after hours of drifting, she “est ressortie saine et sauve du métro” (55) “exits the underground safe and sound”. There is a certain defiance in her declaration that she is not an experienced traveller or urbanite: “Paysanne! Oui, et alors?” (38) “A peasant! Yes, and so what?” Such bursts of self-​confidence, represented as the protagonist’s internal monologues and often accompanied by exclamation marks, convey her determination. Sahondra’s débrouillardise in the urban space is the result of her determined effort to “dompter la peur […] [et] s’habituer à Paris” (60) “tame her fear and get used to Paris”. At one point, she fiercely declares that “Paris n’a presque plus de secrets pour elle” (56) “Paris has almost no secrets left for her”. This marks the turning point in the mobility-​driven narrative, as the protagonist decides to travel from Paris towards peripheral, provincial spaces in an attempt to find Marie. Like Mabanckou’s novel, Elle, au printemps revisits the notion of cosmopolitanism by conceiving of it as a practical survival strategy that migrant newcomers adopt in their new urban environments –​and beyond. 3

Peripheral Dead Ends

I now move on to discussing Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s portrayals of peripheral journeys, which I argue are symptomatic of the protagonists’ failures to handle Paris perfectly. Interestingly, these journeys also highlight the central role that Paris plays in the texts: while the protagonists leave intramural Paris because they have no other option, at the same time it would seem that the metropolis has a hold on them since it constitutes such an elementary part of their newly established mobile subjectivities. While the concept of the periphery can be valued positively or negatively, depending on the context

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120 Chapter 5 and the purposes it is used to serve, Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s texts invest marginalised loci with negative meanings such as neglect and lack of vitality –​ features that are commonly associated with peripheral spaces (see Peeren, Stuit & van Weyenberg 2016, 3–​4). While I read the protagonists’ partly forced displacements from the metropolitan space to the periphery as the anxious culmination of their mobilities as irregular migrants in France, these peripheral mobilities also reveal that metropolitan Paris is itself shaped by what Lieven Ameel, Jason Finch and Markku Salmela (2015, 6)  refer to as “urban peripherality”. This concept conveys the idea that peripheries are present in places that are considered central. In Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s novels, the idea of urban peripherality is manifest in the irregular migrants’ marginalised presence in the metropolis. Peripheries, in these novels, are therefore both topographical and conceptual/​symbolic. Sahondra travels to the provincial town of Valenciennes in order to find Marie, whom the narrative represents as the prime mover of Sahondra’s metropolitan pursuit. From Gare du Nord, Sahondra takes a train that “l’emmènait vers Dieu sait où” (84) “took her God knows where”. As Paris has become slightly more manageable for her, the idea of travelling ‘God knows where’ indicates her being, yet again, out of her comfort zone. In this sense, the trip to Valenciennes resembles her departure for Paris. As the train runs through the countryside, “Un peu de brume voilait tout le paysage” (89) “Some mist veiled the entire landscape”, which suggests that the trip makes Sahondra lose the points of reference that she has acquired with difficulty in Paris. The peripheral town is an Elsewhere that Sahondra has to face and that frightens her. Through the train window, the landscape looks monotonous; it stands in contrast to the hypermobile Paris and its complex world of mobile networks. The train trip itself is an awkward experience. Sahondra is the only black person in the carriage, and she feels that the other passengers’ eyes are on her. Again, the uncanny finds its manifestation in the silence of public transport: nobody speaks and even the train seems to move without making any noise. This time, Sahondra does not care about the uncanny feeling generated by the realisation of how “voyager était vraiment différent en France” (81) “travelling was really different in France”. She breaks the silence by speaking in a strange, loud voice to a fellow passenger about her home in Madagascar. Her awkward monologue in the otherwise silent wagon further intensifies the eerie, unreal feeling as it immerses Sahondra in vivid memories, evoking her home country in the present grey and monotonous rural landscape in a way that draws parallels between the two widely separated locations. Valenciennes is a place of uncanny silence and as such, reminiscent of the protagonist’s hometown. Upon her arrival, Sahondra observes that the streets

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are empty and quiet, the railway station is grey, and “seul un fond de bruit de moteur symbolisait la vie” (93) “only the sound of an engine signified life”. This eerie impression resonates with the narrative’s portrayal of the Madagascan “atmosphère de répression” (20) “atmosphere of repression” and the overwhelming greyness that Sahondra associates with everything that she dislikes in that country. In this way, the narrative underlines a spatial repetition that is generated as former colonial and metropolitan spaces “overlap and repeat one another in a mutual confrontation of unexpected, eerie sameness” (Johnson 2010, 221, 223). In Sahondra’s mind, Valenciennes is like “une ville morte […] dans un de ces moments de couvre-​feu” (106) “a dead city […] under one of those moments of curfew”. The allusion to curfew creates an explicit parallel between the protagonist’s Madagascan hometown and the former mining town of Valenciennes. The parallels between these two locations are further underlined by the narrative when it mentions their distance from Paris, their histories as sites of exploitation and/​or colonisation, and their present as peripheries “oubliés par le développement” (111) “forgotten by the development”. Indeed, as Lydie Moudileno (2012, 55) argues, representations of French colonial territories as exotic, barbaric, and ahistorical spaces that fall outside the orbit of modernity and progress resonate with Parisian conceptualisations of French provincial spaces. Through repetition, the postcolonial uncanny highlights how the similarities between peripheries located on both sides of the former colonial divide become exposed as a subject from a postcolonial periphery travels to a provincial periphery located in what is otherwise assumed to be the centre. Making the journey represents a personal victory for Sahondra: “Si elle était restée si longtemps à Paris sans bouger réellement, c’était pour se protéger, pour ne pas avoir à affronter un avenir en forme de cauchemar ou au moins d’interrogation” (92) “If she had stayed in Paris for such a long time without really moving, it was to protect herself, not to have to face a future in the form of a nightmare or at least full of questions”. As this quotation suggests, Paris, despite all its challenges, has slowly started to become a place that the protagonist can –​at least to a very limited extent –​handle. The journey to Valenciennes advances the plot by forcing the protagonist to face her uncertain future in France. By stating that her urban mobility was not really about movement at all, the narrative suggests that the real challenge posed by her migrant journey is still to be addressed: how will she be able to settle in France in order to pursue her studies, and to find a job and a place to live. Since the protagonist believes that Marie is the key to finding answers to these questions, the stakes invested in the journey to the periphery are high. It turns out that Marie no longer lives at the address she has given in her letters. Consequently, the trip to the periphery represents a dead end that leaves

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122 Chapter 5 Sahondra’s future in France suspended in a state of ambiguity. At this point, the reader starts to have doubts about whether Marie even exists. Marie is the reason for Sahondra’s being in France, and Sahondra’s failure to find her and the consequent lack of closure that characterise Sahondra’s peripheral journey underline the uncertainty informing her aspirations to settle in France. Sahondra’s peripheral journey exposes the fragile premises of her belonging in Paris, and, in this way, draws attention to how the Paris she inhabits as a migrant has been, from the very beginning, a conceptual margin or even a periphery (see Ameel, Finch & Salmela 2015, 6). Before returning to Paris the next day, Sahondra goes out for a late-​night walk. This solitary nocturnal walk in a peripheral town that reminds Sahondra of her hometown in Madagascar is an act of claiming public space as a female mobile subject; back home, walking alone during the night was considered too dangerous for women. Interestingly enough, on this occasion the narrative does not depict the details of Sahondra’s walk; only her departure from and her return to her host’s residence are mentioned. This is where the portrayal of the protagonist’s walk differs from Mabanckou’s novel, where the cartographic impulse prevails even during the protagonist’s walks in the banlieue. Clearly, walking in the peripheral space has an empowering effect on Sahondra. In contrast to her travels using public transport –​and unlike Mabanckou’s protagonist –​there is no anxious aspect in her walking. Through her nocturnal walk in Valenciennes, Sahondra symbolically reclaims her native Antananarivo. The fact that this walk escapes the cartographic impulse differentiates it from her Parisian displacements, which are framed as her survival strategy in the metropolis. In so doing, the narrative underlines Sahondra’s mastery of the situation, rather than portraying her as a lost newcomer struggling against falling off the map. When she returns, it is already morning, and her host tells her that she should not have gone for a night walk on her own. Sahondra is untroubled by his reproach, and later, when she tells him that she will return to Paris right away, she rejects his offer of a lift to the station by saying that she needs to walk. This suggests that, while the novel’s ending remains open in terms of Sahondra’s future, and hence the anxiety informing her position as a migrant does not loosen its grip, she has learned how to handle the uncertainties involved in being a not entirely regular migrant in France. In this sense, the trip to the periphery, while it is a dead end in the sense of her not finding Marie, seems to have had an empowering effect on Sahondra. The protagonist in Tais-​toi et meurs becomes the subject of a conspiracy that forces him to escape from Paris and hide in a cheap hotel in Montreuil, an Eastern Parisian banlieue –​a locus which resonates with stereotypical images of French suburbs as socially deprived environments of ‘banishment and

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exclusion’ (Horvath 2011, 93) inhabited principally by North and Sub-​Saharan African migrants. As in Rakotoson’s novel, the relegation of Mabanckou’s protagonist to the periphery underlines the fact that ‘his Paris’, the criminal underworld milieu, was already an urban periphery  –​certainly related to the centre, while not entirely part of it (see Ameel, Finch & Salmela 2015, 6). The protagonist’s banishment from the centre  –​albeit from a symbolically peripheral one –​is an ironic turn of the plot in the sense that a subject from a postcolonial periphery, who has dreamed of reaching the centre, ends up relegated to a metropolitan periphery. The chapters narrating his life at the peripheral hotel rely on the generic conventions of the thriller by representing the protagonist as a solitary individual who is “cut from his previously secure bearings of community” (Rubin 1999, 11). By referring to the hotel as a “trou” (81) “hole”, the narrative represents the displacement as a form of downgrading and also, so to speak, as a return to square one, as suggested by the fact that the protagonist checks in at the hotel under his own name rather than the one given to him by the community. The use of his own name conveys the idea that he is no longer under the protection of the community that ‘created’ him. The defeat implied in being relegated to the periphery is further conveyed in how the protagonist, previously a ‘real Parisian’ dandy wearing expensive luxury suits and shoes, starts to wear track suits, grows a beard and wears long hair. The change of style is yet another step in his mobility-​related process of transformation: the protagonist turns from a sapeur into a banlieusard. The narrative invests the banlieue setting with negative meanings so that it becomes the ultimate manifestation of the protagonist’s failure to handle Paris –​that is, the peripheral, underworld version of Paris that the criminal community has created. The protagonist’s relegation to the margins of the metropolis affects his mobility. The chapters depicting his stay in the hotel no longer feature travel involving urban public transport: while undertaking his daily errands on foot, Julien Makambo’s displacements are restricted to his immediate suburban milieu. Nevertheless, as a matter of routine, the narrative continues recording his simple itineraries in the vicinity, which conveys the protagonist’s increased sense of insecurity resulting from his banishment from the community and from intramural Paris. From the perspective of this insecurity, it is significant that the protagonist hides in a hotel –​a transfer point (Sheller & Urry 2006, 213, 219) and a space of in-​between-​ness between the private and the public (Davidson 2006, 169). In Tais-​toi et meurs, the hotel is obviously also a space of deviancy (Treadwell 2005, 215): it is a refuge for a fugitive whose currently compromised mobility can be summarised in the question, “Où irais-​je puisque je ne connaissais personne en France en dehors des gens de mon milieu?” (90)

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124 Chapter 5 “Where would I go as I knew no-​one in France outside my own circle?” While the protagonist refers to his room as a “refuge”, he cannot entirely feel at home in that space, either. In terms of narrative tempo, the hotel passages are characterised by slowness and relative immobility, which stand in contrast to the thrilleresque hypermobility of the protagonist’s previous intra-​Parisian itineraries. The narrative underlines this contrast with a meta-​literary commentary alluding to a receptionist reading Marcel Proust’s narratively slow, multivolume novel À la recherche du temps perdu. Yet there is a constant tension in this immobility: while at one moment, the protagonist claims that the longer he stays at the hotel, the more secure he feels, in the next instant he is convinced that he should leave the place immediately. The instability and in-​between-​ness of the hotel both as a refuge and an impasse articulates this insecurity and the suspense that it generates. In his current situation, the hotel, as a transitory space between stasis and movement, is the only possible way for the protagonist to remain at least partially mobile. As the story proceeds, the protagonist no longer feels safe in the hotel and decides to leave. The question of where to go persists, however. Julian Makambo’s desperate situation gains its full meaning with his impulsive decision to leave for Nantes.6 He has never been to Nantes and does not know anyone from there, so his choice of destination is entirely random. In the ambiguous refuge/​impasse of the hotel room, the provincial town of Nantes represents his last hope for reinventing himself. Ultimately, however, his plan to travel to Nantes fails as the protagonist is arrested not far from the hotel. That his movement is literally arrested by the police underlines the constant risks of interruption that, from the very beginning, have shaped his metropolitan mobile position beyond the confines of the official society. As a result of his detention –​the culmination of his arrested mobility –​the speed of the narrative rhythm slows down drastically. Nantes, a destination he never reaches and of which he knows nothing, becomes the symbol of his impossible wish to exist on his own outside the criminal community that has created him. This highlights the elementary role played by Paris in the construction of his metropolitan mobile subjectivity.

6 Historically, Nantes was the principal slave-​trading port in France. While Tais-​toi et meurs makes no explicit allusions to historical slavery, the choice of Nantes as the protagonist’s destination can be read as a narrative strategy that establishes a link between historical slavery and modern-​day slavery in the form of the protagonist’s subservient position in the criminal community.

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Conclusion: Managing the Metropolis through Mobility

My analysis of Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s representations and poetics of everyday mobilities demonstrates how the application of a mobility studies perspective to postcolonial literary texts that are readily definable as ‘migration novels’ allows for a reading that recognises African migrants as urban mobile subjects who actively engage in everyday urban mobility practices. The characters are mobile not only in the sense of being part of transnational migration movements but also as urban travellers in the metropolitan space. The ways in which Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s texts produce mobile urban cartographies and portray newly arrived African migrants as practical cosmopolitans widen the scope of how the concept of mobility can be understood in postcolonial contexts. They do so by showing how the migrants strive to survive in the metropolis and to make sense of it through mobility. The plot twists with peripheral journeys/​stases in both texts attest to the importance of Paris for the protagonists’ mobile subjectivities. By paying attention to literary features, my analysis reveals the ways in which the poetics of mobility essentially contributes to the texts’ representations of mobility. Becoming a modern, metropolitan, postcolonial mobile subject is a process of transformation  –​a transformation that is profoundly anxiety-​ generating. In Elle, au printemps the anxious aspects of this transformation translate into form through a mobility-​related urban uncanny which is generated through the protagonist’s eerie, yet strangely familiar experiences. The postcolonial urban uncanny in Rakotoson’s novel establishes links between France and Madagascar by highlighting their shared colonial past. The poetics of mobility in Rakotoson’s novel are also manifested in how the narrative adopts such literary strategies as broken dialogues, silence, and unanswered questions in order to convey the anxious aspects of the protagonist’s attempts to ‘manage’ Paris through urban mobility. In Tais-​toi et meurs, the poetics of mobility emerge in the use of the generic features of the thriller form:  the narrative structure and the plot development reflect the protagonist’s urban (im)mobilities, generating a sense of suspense. Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s protagonists’ struggles in the urban space, its mobile networks, and their peripheral journeys show how central a role mobility plays in the process of becoming a postcolonial metropolitan mobile subject and also in the attempt to claim the metropolis as one’s own.

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­c hapter 6

European Peripheries and Practical Cosmopolitanism in Fabienne Kanor’s Faire l’aventure Mobility between Africa and Europe has been a recurrent theme in Francophone African literatures since the mid-​20th century. What characterises this literary paradigm is that in these texts Afroeuropean (Brancato 2008, 2)1 mobilities of this kind most frequently occur between Francophone African countries and the former colonial centre, France. More specifically, Paris as a (post)colonial metropolis holds a central place in the Francophone African literary imagination (see e.g., Cazenave 2003; Dessy 2011; Garnier 2012; Kuietche Fonkou 2010; Treiber 2014).2 However, as a result of the diversification of mobilities in the globalised present, France and Paris –​the latter is often conflated with the first (Moudileno 2012, 5) –​are no longer the unique, axiomatic centres of representation of mobilities between the two continents. Currently, the shift away from France-​and Paris-​centredness is particularly pronounced in narratives of clandestine migrant mobility: this trend can be illustrated by the focus on the Canary Islands in Abasse Ndione’s Mbëkë mi: À l’assaut des vagues de l’Atlantique (2008), on the Spanish enclaves in the third part of Marie NDiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes (2009), and on Sicily in Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s Silence du chœur (2017). The transition from the historic (post)colonial centre towards more peripheral European loci –​culturally and geographically, but also in terms of postcoloniality3 –​attests to the proliferation and strengthening of borders (see Mezzadra & Neilson 2013, 62; Schimanski & Wolfe 2010, 40; Thomas 2014)

1 The term ‘Afroeuropean’ is well adapted for analysing mobilities between Africa and Europe because it captures the continents’ historical and present entanglements. 2 In an account on the postcoloniality of French provinces, Lydie Moudileno (2012, 53) suggests that the centrality of Paris has only rarely been questioned in the field of postcolonial studies. Yet, as Moudileno (2012) demonstrates, Francophone literary texts have also portrayed non-​metropolitan French locations; this diversifies conventional meanings of ‘postcolonial France’ and disturbs conceptions of Paris as representative of the entire Hexagon. 3 According to Frank Schulze-​Engler (2013), Europe is erased from the postcolonial map. One could add that when the continent is understood as being affected by postcolonial concerns, the focus is on (post)colonial centres such as the UK and France; European countries with less explicit or no direct colonial histories remain in the margins of postcolonial studies.

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that has turned Europe into a fortress that is increasingly unreachable for many aspiring African migrants –​especially for those in underprivileged and precarious positions. The destinations of undocumented migrant mobilities change as traditional postcolonial metropolitan centres become harder to reach. This trend is clearly reflected in contemporary Francophone and also Anglophone African narratives of undocumented migrant mobility, as the chapters in Part 3 of the present study demonstrate. The present chapter will examine the representation of clandestine migrant mobilities in Fabienne Kanor’s novel Faire l’aventure, published in 2014. Fabienne Kanor is a French author of Martinican origin and therefore obviously not an ‘African writer’. However, because of her affiliation to the Caribbean, she is a writer whose origins lie with the historical African diaspora. She also lived in Senegal for two years in the early 2000s. Besides the author’s background, the historical Afro-​Caribbean connections are emphasised in Faire l’aventure through its allusions to transatlantic slavery. Kanor has explored the transatlantic slave trade in her production in an explicit manner; her historical novel Humus (2006) is a story about a slave ship journey during which fourteen enslaved African women throw themselves overboard in order to avoid captivity. While Faire l’aventure is a totally different sort of a narrative, it nevertheless attests to the complex and often violent historical and contemporary entanglements of Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. The protagonist of Faire l’aventure is a Senegalese man and the novel’s events take place between Senegal and various European peripheral loci that have become preferred routes to central Europe for clandestine African migrants. As such, Kanor’s novel contributes to the literary imaginary of clandestine Afroeuropean travel. In terms of the representation of clandestine migrant mobilities, Faire l’aventure makes Europe its context instead of limiting itself to specific national settings. In doing so, it articulates an Afroeuropean approach which “tak[es] the very idea of nationality out of the equation”, as Christopher Hogarth (2018, 60) has put it.4 My analysis of Faire l’aventure uses two lines of inquiry. Firstly, I focus on the protagonist’s clandestine travels from Senegal to European insular locations that are peripheral from a central European

4 Hogarth (2018) discusses the concept of Afropean, but the idea of shifting the focus from the nation to a wider continental view also characterises the concept of the Afroeuropean (see also Hitchcott & Thomas 2014; Imorou 2018). I use the term ‘Afroeuropean’ instead of ‘Afropean’ because I see the latter more as the (identity) position of authors whose background is shaped by their multiple affiliations, while the former more explicitly alludes to the intertwinement of the two continents.

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128 Chapter 6 perspective: firstly, the Canary Islands5 and then another widely mediatised ‘gateway’ to Europe, Lampedusa (see Wihtol de Wenden 2017, 79). I am particularly interested in the novel’s portrayal of the insular settings as unsatisfactory substitutes for the ‘real’ Europe that the protagonist obsessively strives for. In doing so, the novel associates peripheral European insular spaces with the melancholic loss of an unreachable dream –​in this case, central Europe. Secondly, I analyse the novel’s conceptualisations of popular cosmopolitanism or what I call, as in the previous chapter, débrouillardise cosmopolitanism in order to highlight its qualities as a practical survival strategy of an “illegalized traveller” (Weber & Pickering 2011, 4) or an “adventurer” (Mazauric 2016, 50–​51; see also Schapendonk 2012, 11).6 Mobility is frequently perceived as the “essence of cosmopolitanism” (Sheller 2011, 349)  since it exposes people to transcultural encounters. Yet, as my analysis of Kanor’s novel demonstrates, the link between mobility and cosmopolitanism is not that straightforward or automatic. By analysing the manifestations of practical cosmopolitanism in Kanor’s novel, my reading pays specific attention to the challenges that the concept faces in the context of clandestine Afroeuropean migrant mobility. By exploring the limits of cosmopolitanism in the Afroeuropean context, Kanor’s novel can be read as part of a wider continuum of Francophone African and Afrodiasporic texts that address the question of ‘being at home’ in Europe from different perspectives, including such classics as Ousmane Socé’s Mirages de Paris (1937/​1965) and Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s L’Aventure ambiguë (1961). Kanor’s novel belongs to this literary tradition while also revising it through its focus on clandestine migrant mobilities and its deviation from Paris-​centredness. As my analysis of Kanor’s representations of practical cosmopolitanism in the context of clandestine migrant mobilities suggests, popular cosmopolitanisms are, above all, survival strategies and therefore they remain inevitably imperfect manifestations of cosmopolitan ideals. However, while acknowledging its partial nature, I  also wish to draw attention to the fragile potentials of practical cosmopolitanism that are equally manifest in Kanor’s novel. In doing so, my analysis understands and applies the concept of cosmopolitanism not only from a critical but also from aspirational and pragmatic perspectives.

5 In 2005 and 2006, the sea-​passage from Senegal to the Canary Islands was one of the most popular routes of clandestine migration between Africa and Europe (Poeze 2013, 46). 6 The notion of ‘aventure’ and the figure of ‘l’aventurier’, which feature in Francophone African literary texts concerned with clandestine migration, refer to the idea of migratory journeys as attempts to ‘try one’s luck’ elsewhere (Mazauric 2016, 50–​51).

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Peripheries and the Dream of “la grosse Europe”

Kanor’s novel is divided into four parts named after the locations in which the events take place: Mbour in Senegal, and then Tenerife, Rome, and Lampedusa in Europe. All the parts, except for ‘Rome’, focus on the Senegalese protagonist’s displacements between Africa and Europe.7 From the viewpoint of mobility, the novel’s structure, which reflects some selected places punctuating the protagonist’s long journey, gives the narrative a fragmented impression in terms of temporality and plot development. Mbour, Tenerife, and Lampedusa mark the starting point, and some of the intermediate stopping points, in the course of his on-​going itinerary; they are not destinations where his travels will finally come to an end. In other words, the narrative is a sort of cross-​section of his journeying over an extended period of time. As the story proceeds, it becomes clear that the protagonist’s travels have by no means been limited to the places that the chapters are named after and in which the events in the narrative present take place. Kanor’s novel is a fictional travelogue in which representations of concrete mobility practices are subordinate to place and also in which most of the physical travel that the events and plot development rely on is excluded from the narrative –​or at least pushed to its margins. In the first part, set in the coastal town of Mbour in Senegal, the narrative repeatedly alludes to the Atlantic Ocean. The presence of the sea embodies the idea of a world beyond the local milieu. The protagonist, Biram, aged 17, observes the Atlantic from the balcony of an ancient slave house, feeling “comme si le monde entier […] était pour [lui]” (31) “as if the whole world was for him”.8 In line with this omnipotent feeling, he imagines his life somewhere beyond the horizon, dancing in a fancy night club, surrounded by women, with his pockets full of money, and an expensive German vehicle waiting outside to take him to his skyscraper penthouse. As is common in African clandestine migration, Europe is associated with social and financial success (Schapendonk 2013, 10). Senegal, in contrast, is represented as a place that has no prospects to offer; dreams of a better future are associated with an elsewhere. This imagined 7 In the third part, the spotlight is on Marème, a Senegalese woman whom Biram has met in Mbour before leaving for Europe, and who later works as a prostitute in Rome. The majority of the parts are narrated from Biram’s perspective, and the part focusing on Marème is also considerably shorter than the others. While the figure of Marème can be interpreted as a female version of the ‘adventurer’ –​much in the same sense as Chika Unigwe’s Nigerian prostitutes in On Black Sisters’ Street (2009) (see Bastida-​Rodríguez 2014) –​my focus here is on Biram because the narrative depicts his Afroeuropean journeys in more depth. Through its treatment of Biram’s and Marème’s Afroeuropean journeys, Faire l’aventure draws attention to the gendered nature of irregular migration and migrant mobilities. 8 All translations from Kanor’s novel are mine.

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130 Chapter 6 elsewhere is accessible through mobility –​either by leaving Senegal or by getting in touch with Europeans visiting the country, as suggested by this sarcastic, slogan-​like sentence alluding to the famous transnational rally: “Paris-​ Dakar, un rêve pour ceux qui restent” (86; emphasis original) “Paris-​Dakar, a dream for those who stay”. The allusion to the Paris-​Dakar rally is important here because, as Gordon H. Pirie (2009, 23) argues, events like this “promote a view of Africa as an unencumbered playground for mobile and leisured foreigners”. Tourists symbolise the carefree, privileged aspects of Western life and make Europe seem like a destination worth pursuing. Aspiring migrants’ ideas about Europe are also shaped by returnees’ stories, although it should be stated that unlike what happens in Fatou Diome’s Le Ventre de l’Atlantique (2003) or Alain Mabanckou’s Bleu-​blanc-​rouge (1998), Kanor’s returnee-​adventurers do not promote the image of Europe as an Eldorado to impress their community but highlight the interrupted, deadly character of the journey instead: Après Nouakchott, j’ai fait le Sahara. Deux jours, et je suis rentré. Quand je marchais, je marchais à côté des cadavres. La deuxième fois, je suis parti de Nouadhibou […]. On était soixante-​trois. Mais le plus dur c’était la nuit. La nuit dans la pirogue, tu vois n’importe quoi. Tu entends des bruits et tu crois que c’est un train qui vient ou que c’est ta mater qui t’appelle. Il y en a même qui mordent les autres pour savoir s’ils sont encore vivants. Les vagues, le vent, babababa ça fait dans la tête. (108) After Nouakchott, I  did the Sahara. Two days, and I  came back. When I walked, I walked next to corpses. The second time, I left from Nouadhibou […]. We were sixty-​three. But the hardest thing was the night. At night in the pirogue, you start to see all kinds of things. You hear noises and you think it is a train coming or that it is your mom calling you. Some even bite others to know whether they are still alive. The waves, the wind, it all goes like babababa in your head. Despite the returnees’ gloomy and discouraging stories, Biram sees the Atlantic as a gateway to a better life. This is the case for most of the men in Mbour –​for, as Biram claims, “Les gens de chez moi rêvent beaucoup” (221–​ 222) “People where I’m from dream a lot”. However, the naïve idea of the sea as a gateway to an Eldorado is overshadowed by the allusion to the transatlantic slave trade. This history is evoked by a beachside esclaverie (slave house) which has resisted time for over three centuries. The fact that the building is still there, “persistante et sauvage” (13) “persistent and savage”, establishes a parallel between contemporary clandestine sea crossings and the journeys

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on slave ships.9 Later in the novel, the narrative compares Biram to a zombie, which further underlines the link to slavery.10 The contrast between the slavery analogy (through the slave house and the zombie figure) and the idea of the Atlantic as a promise of a better elsewhere and as a gateway to an Eldorado (through the naïve, consumerist imagery) informs the novel’s complex representation of Afroeuropean clandestine migrant mobility. In the second part, Biram has been living in Tenerife for three years. His earlier, flagrantly unrealistic dreams of a life in Europe are totally incongruent with reality. Biram works as a street vendor, and although he wants to be seen as “le maître des lieux” (125) “the owner of the place” in the eyes of Senegalese newcomers, he is not satisfied with his current location. “Dans ce village au sud de Tenerife, la grosse Europe était encore loin” “In this village in southern Tenerife, the Big Europe was still far away”, the narrator states, and adds, “On continuait d’en rêver” (126) “One kept dreaming about it”. Tenerife is conceived of as not entirely Europe; it is an unsatisfactory substitute for what the adventurers consider “la grosse Europe”. For Biram, the island is a “bled” (128) “godforsaken place” or a village; it’s a “cul de l’Europe” (217) “Europe’s arsehole”, where he does not wish to stagnate. As a teenager, he has dreamed of the United States and has considered Spain to be “un pays de pauvres” “a country of poor people” where they speak “un dialecte de cul-​terreux” (138) “a dialect of rednecks”. In the present, he teaches Spanish to Senegalese newcomers and even dreams in Spanish, which shows the extent to which his teenage dreams about the USA have failed him. What adds further to the irony here is that the protagonist’s ideas about Spain resonate with his experiences of Senegal as a place of stagnation and backwardness that he wants to escape. For Biram, the most frustrating aspect of his confinement to the periphery is to be surrounded by “cette mer qui, en théorie seulement, menait à l’Espagne continentale” (130) “this sea, which only in theory led to continental Spain”. The island is perceived as a postcard-​like background image on a computer screen –​a metaphor that conveys the idea of Tenerife as not very ‘genuine’ or dynamic, which is typical of how peripheries are frequently perceived (Peeren, Stuit & Van Weyenberg 2016, 4). The idea of the postcard also points to the touristic character of the island. That the Canary Islands are simultaneously a popular touristic resort and also a destination for Senegalese boat people makes it a space that embodies the contradictions characteristic of the unevenness of different, co-​existing global mobilities (Huggan 2009, 3; see also Agier 2017) 9 10

On the transatlantic slavery parallel, see Lombardi-​Diop 2008; Di Maio 2013. See also Chapter  9 for the link between clandestine migrant mobilities, zombies, and transatlantic slavery.

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132 Chapter 6 and underlines the discrepancy between the mobile positions of the tourist as someone who is welcome and the vagabond as an embodiment of chaos that needs to be expelled (Cresswell 2013, 250). Indeed, Kanor’s protagonist can be seen as the contemporary, postcolonial and global embodiment of the figure of the vagrant, characterised by “a lack of place to call home, constant but seemingly aimless motion, and poverty” (Cresswell 2013, 239). The figure of the vagabond is particularly pertinent here because it captures the condition of forced im/​mobility and the idea of the clandestine migrant as an unwanted Other, “the by-​product of new forms of ordering  –​the waste of the world” (Cresswell 2013, 250). Moreover, that the protagonist flees from one tourist destination (Mbour) only to reach another (the Canary Islands) –​which are both associated with stagnation in the text  –​underlines the complexity of such sites as spaces of dreams and leisure on the one hand, and of exploitation and inequality on the other. The narrative also attests to the relativity of the meaning of the periphery (Peeren, Stuit & van Weyenberg 2016, 3): while, for the tourists, peripheral locations are places to escape one’s everyday routines, for the clandestine migrants they are nothing more than a necessary evil on one’s way to the centre. What is noteworthy is that the position of the underprivileged African native/​traveller is the same in both African and European tourist destinations: they can only ever live in the shadow of tourism and other forms of affluent travel. The narrative keeps underlining the contrast between tourists’ and clandestine migrants’ mobilities. Tourists in Tenerife take photographs of aventuriers who arrive in the port in pirogues and are annoyed that the border guards have not prevented the boat people from coming ashore, thus disturbing the carefree tourist experience. In 2005 and 2006, European media regularly published stories and photographs of West African irregular migrants arriving in the tourist attractions of the Canary Islands (Poeze 2013, 45). Kanor’s novel can be seen to allude to these Western mediatic representations and to offer an alternative perspective to their sensationalism. Significantly, with respect to this reversal or alternative view, in the passage in which the arrival of the clandestine migrants is portrayed in the novel the events are initially narrated from the perspective of the tourists. After two and half pages, however, the narrative perspective suddenly shifts to that of Biram, who has made the same journey himself and who has now been observing the situation behind the group of tourists and listening to their banal, parochial and unsympathetic comments (206–​209). The protagonist’s own Atlantic and Mediterranean crossings are mostly addressed as short flashbacks, which convey their traumatising character. In this, the novel differs from such narrativisations of Afroeuropean clandestine migrant mobilities as Ndione’s Mbëkë mi: À l’assaut des vagues de l’Atlantique (2008), in

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which the sea crossing is portrayed in all its (sometimes rather monotonous) detail. By pushing the sea crossing to the margins of the narrative, Kanor’s novel adopts a similar technique to that used by Sarr in his novel Silence du chœur (2017), where the passages representing maritime travel feature in the form of scattered diary entries. Yet, interestingly, in Kanor’s novel the very marginalisation or absence of representations of the protagonist’s various sea crossings functions as a narrative strategy that gives the maritime journeys narrative weight. The erasure suggests that the sea crossings are an element of the clandestine migrant experience that the fictional characters want to push out of their memory. The carefree nature of the tourists’ mobilities, in contrast, culminates in the following seemingly innocent words through which the narrative voice expresses the desires and actions of one French tourist: “Mais un matin, elle avait voulu voir la mer et s’était offert un aller-​retour pour Tenerife” (195) “But then one morning she wanted to see the sea and bought herself a return flight to Tenerife”. The quotation captures the easy mobility of those who circulate freely across the globe, and the words gain their full meaning when juxtaposed with clandestine migrants’ life-​threatening journeys. In the last part of the novel, Biram has been ‘adventuring’ for ten years. He is condemned to a limbo between Africa and Europe, as conveyed in his itinerary, which is represented in the form of a laconic list of place names from the two continents: “Tenerife, Kita, Bamako, Naples, Almería, Madrid, Tripoli, Gao, Djamet, Kidal, Niamey, Tinzaouatine” (284). This list resonates with a similar listing of destinations in Aidoo’s novel (see Chapter 1), and stands in contrast to Aidoo’s privileged characters’ business trips across the African continent and beyond. At the beginning of the third part, Biram has just escaped a detention centre on Lampedusa in order to be smuggled into Sicily, with the goal of getting closer to continental Italy. His reason for leaving Lampedusa is to avoid the risk of repatriation, but also his obsession with “la grosse Europe”: “Il n’y était toujours pas, dans la grosse Europe. Il se trouvait encore trop près de l’Afrique” (287) “He was still not there, in the Big Europe. He was still too close to Africa”. Despite Lampedusa’s inevitably peripheral character, Biram thinks that the island “[a]‌du charme” “has some charm” and that it is “Une cité de bord de mer où la vie semblait sûre et simple” (289) “A seaside city where life seemed safe and simple”. Again, the narrative ironically juxtaposes clandestine migrants’ journeys and tourism by adopting stereotypical touristic imagery that alludes to the “charms” of a “simple seaside life”. When Biram runs away from the detention centre on Lampedusa, it is clear that this kind of pleasant life is not reserved for travellers of his kind: the tree roots and sharp stones that hurt his feet suggest that the island is a hostile territory for an adventurer. The sea, too, is an unwelcoming “amas d’eau sombre” (285) “dark heap

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134 Chapter 6 of water” that fails to deliver its promises of a better elsewhere. It is noteworthy that as an adventurer confined to the maritime limbo between Africa and European insular peripheries, the protagonist cannot escape the seemingly hostile watery element. Indeed, the persistent presence of the sea throughout the narrative symbolises Biram’s failure to reach continental Europe and also functions as a trope that keeps reminding the reader of the parallel between historical and contemporary African sea crossings. The sea has turned into an insurmountable border, and Biram is ill at ease with the idea of its proximity. From Lampedusa, Biram’s journey continues to Sicily, where he works as a tomato picker with other Senegalese migrants. While his wages and working conditions are bad, he wants to stay on the plantation because he feels at home in the company of fellow Senegalese people. Soon, however, his wanderlust that is motivated by the desire for “la grosse Europe” takes hold of him again, and he leaves the rural region for Palermo. He goes to see an old Senegalese acquaintance, and in order to impress him and to come across as a ‘real’ adventurer, he lies about his itineraries. In contrast to the previous list of itineraries featuring mainly African and peripheral European place names, this ‘fake’ list is one with destinations in la grosse Europe: “Après Tenerife, il prétendait être allé chez les Anglais, Français, Allemands, Hollandais. La grosse Europe” (309) “After Tenerife, he claimed that he had been to England, France, Germany, Netherlands. The Big Europe”. The fact that he lies about his travels reveals the extent to which he –​and certainly other ‘adventurers’ like him –​ is obsessed with the idea of “la grosse Europe”. The lies also attract attention to how the protagonist’s pursuit is characterised by the unreachability of this dream destination. Indeed, Biram’s personal tragedy is that he never manages to reach the centre –​imagined by the narrative as the UK, France, Germany, or the Netherlands –​that has obsessed him for so long. Instead, he remains relegated to the periphery. While geographically peripheral settings in Europe and elsewhere in the world are increasingly turning into sites of “containment of […] unwanted migrants” (Peeren, Stuit & Van Weyenberg 2016, 3), Kanor’s novel points out that these peripheries are equally unwanted destinations for the unwanted migrants themselves. The reasons behind Biram’s –​or the novel’s other clandestine travellers’–​obsession with central Europe are not very clear. What travellers like him are pursuing seems, indeed, to be some sort of an unrealistic dream of Europe. When they do not find this dream in the peripheries of Europe, they associate it with central European locations, which, in turn, remain, in many cases, out of their reach. In a way, this unreachability becomes the fuel that nourishes Biram’s endless pursuit: since he has not reached the ‘centre’, he is not where he imagines he wants to be. Of course, the centre itself is a mere mirage in the sense that the Europe of his naïve,

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vague dreams does not even exist. Indeed, the idea of Europe as an Eldorado is not much more than a product of colonial discourses and further nourished by stories told by other adventurers. From the perspective of the unreachable dream that the protagonist pursues, it is noteworthy that the narrative repeatedly refers to melancholia, which is represented as the adventurers’ occupational disease. The adventurers who have managed to reach Europe only to realise that there is no Eldorado for them suffer from “ce truc visqueux et vénéneux […] que les gens éduqués appellent mélancolie” (135) “this viscous and poisonous thing that educated people call melancholia”. From a Freudian (1953) perspective, melancholia refers to a pathological condition whereby the subject refuses to let go of a lost loved object by making it an integral part of the self. For Biram, the lost object that he has integrated into his self is the idea of adventuring in “la grosse Europe”. Having spent ten years drifting between Africa and European peripheral locations, it has become clear to him that the Europe of his dreams is beyond his reach. In one passage, this realisation paralyses Biram, who no longer wants to get out of bed: he is unable even to think about work, stays indoors for several days and compares himself to a zombie, a popular figure in Caribbean writing (Glover 2005; Swanson 2014). Another allusion to the zombie figure is made in the narrative when Biram asks himself “s’il n’était pas sur le point de se transformer, à son tour, en zombi” (320) “if he was not about to metamorphose, in his turn, into a zombie”. Here, the figure of the zombie captures the melancholic lethargy that the unending journeys generate (see Smallwood 2007, 135). In the context of the ‘European migrant crisis’, the zombie has become a metaphor for unwanted migrants trying to reach Europe in order to ‘devour’ the continent’s cultural, social and economic integrity (Papastergiadis 2009; Stratton 2011; Glover 2017; see also Chapter 9 of this book). The parallel that Kanor’s novel draws with clandestine travellers and the zombie figure, however, is not in line with the idea of the zombie as a monster with insatiable appetite for destruction. Instead, the novel represents the zombie as creature who does not desire anything at all –​not even to be alive. Here, it is important to underline the difference between the Haitian zombie figure and its contemporary counterpart in popular culture. While the latter is a flesh-​eating monster seeking to destroy ‘innocent’ communities, the Haitian zombie was itself a tragic victim unable to escape slavery even in death (Glover 2017, 251). Being narrated from the perspective of a clandestine traveller, the novel’s conception of the zombie figure relies on the Caribbean zombie as a victim, not on the contemporary popular culture conception of the zombie as a perpetrator. This is captured in the narrator’s words: “Il avait rêvé d’être un homme, mais l’Europe mangeait les hommes. Elle les transformait en bâtards et en pantins” (146) “He had dreamed

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136 Chapter 6 of being a man, but Europe ate men. It transformed them into bastards and puppets”. It is, then, Europe that turns the clandestine travellers into zombies, and not the clandestine travellers who devour Europe. The novel’s ending points to a potential rupture in Biram’s hopeless pursuit of “la grosse Europe” when he decides to return to Senegal. What is problematic in his decision, however, is that, this time, he turns Senegal into a dream destination capable of offering the adventurer luxurious houses and nice jobs. Biram starts to cherish dreams of return when he meets Marème, a girl whom he has known in Mbour, in Italy. He wants to return to Senegal with her: “Alors il lui raconta la vie qu’ils mèneraient dès qu’ils […] seraient de retour au Sénégal, la robe de mariée et le château qu’il lui offrirait, le poste de dégé qu’il décrocherait en un clin d’œil vu la somme des métiers qu’il avait dans la main” (359) “Then he told her about the life that they would lead once back in Senegal, about the wedding gown and the castle he would offer her, about the post of managing director he would get in no time at all, given all the professions he handled”. As the narrator states, “C’était un autre pays qu’il évoquait, un Sénégal remis à neuf” (359) “It was another country that he evoked, a new Senegal”. In this way, the narrative suggests that Biram’s ideas of return are nothing more than a continuation in his obsessive search for a non-​existent Eldorado. 2

Débrouillardise Cosmopolitanism: Limits and Potentials

Clandestine migrant mobilities are risky and time-​consuming. These mobile pursuits demand resourcefulness for the individual to cross not only topographical but also symbolic and cultural borders11 in order to survive in a new environment. Hence, the vital focus here is on an exploration of this resourcefulness as a pragmatic, popular form of cosmopolitanism. As already demonstrated in previous chapters, cosmopolitanism has traditionally been understood as world citizenship, and connotes elitism through the figure of the cosmopolitan world traveller for whom the world is open thanks to their “badge of privilege” (Robbins & Lemos Horta 2017, 3). As highlighted in the two previous chapters addressing the popular and pragmatic aspects of cosmopolitanism, the elitism of the concept has become subject to criticism  –​ and the same is true, of course, of the figure of the Afropolitan. There has been an explicit “effort to distance the concept from its former narrow identification with ‘rootless’ elites” (Amit & Gardiner Barber 2015, 544); some theorists have 11

On the different meanings of the border, see Rosello & Wolfe 2019, 14.

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even claimed that underprivileged subjects, who have until recently been excluded from the category of cosmopolitanism, are, in effect, today’s cosmopolitans (Pollock et al. 2002, 6). Nevertheless, elitism is not the only problem contained in the idea of cosmopolitanism as a position of those on the move. The conception of cosmopolitanism as a social category for describing those who qualify as cosmopolitans and those who do not is problematic because it fails to see how cosmopolitan ideas “shape[…] everyday life existences and practices”, and that cosmopolitanism is actually more usefully seen as a “form of imagination […] that one can exert and develop in certain transnational contexts” (Nowicka & Rovisco 2016, 1, 9). While Michel Agier (2017, 156–​57) establishes a link between mobility and cosmopolitanism, he also underlines the importance of the border as a site of encounter where the cosmopolitan subject comes into being. According to Agier (2017, 76, 78) it is at the border “that the relationship with the other is put to the test” because the border forces people to see themselves in relation to others. In short, cosmopolitanism is, above all, an active ethical orientation towards the world and the Other, and also entails an understanding of one’s own positionality within this wider ‘planetary’ pattern. This challenges the understanding of cosmopolitanism as an identity position and avoids the pitfalls of “too readily made” associations of “mobility and cosmopolitanism or of subaltern positioning and cosmopolitanism” (Glick Schiller & Irving 2017, 3; see also Agier 2017, 78). If, then, cosmopolitanism is, above all, “a process of creative engagement between peoples and cultures in developing an openness to forms of alterity and the negotiation of a more interdependent world” (Shaw 2017, 7), it is necessary to undo the presumed link between mobility and cosmopolitanism. Indeed, the concept of cosmopolitanism is “so much more than a condition of transnational mobility” (Shaw 2017, 8). In a similar vein, Galin Tihanov (2017) argues against the tendency of liberal cosmopolitanisms to romanticise exile and equate mobility with cosmopolitanism. Tihanov (2017, 142, 154) proposes that the difficult material realities of exiles only rarely enable them to turn into open-​minded cosmopolitans for whom crossing cultural boundaries and gaps is an enriching, positively transformative experience that comes with substantial ethical repercussions. Tihanov’s words of warning are of particular relevance in the case of underprivileged, illegalised migrant mobilities:  as my reading of Faire l’aventure demonstrates, clandestine migrants’ cosmopolitanisms are, above all, strategies of survival. Understanding practical cosmopolitanism in this way highlights that the concept of cosmopolitanism is unavoidably marked by the tensions between the actual and the aspirational (Stević and Tsang 2019, 3), and

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138 Chapter 6 that it is, as Emily Johansen (2014, 4, 6) underlines, an “unfinished […] ongoing project” and “always in a state of becoming”. In other words, while Faire l’aventure articulates the shallowness and downright shortcomings of cosmopolitanism in the context of Afroeuropean clandestine migrant mobilities, the novel nevertheless offers insights into “smaller and temporary moments of cosmopolitanism” (Johansen 2014, 6) that highlight the processual and actually existing, unavoidably partial manifestations of cosmopolitanism in the globalised present. Acknowledging the limits of such practical cosmopolitanisms also challenges the romanticised idea that less privileged mobile subjects would be somehow “more authentic” cosmopolitans as they “are forced to follow the flow of global capital and to negotiate cultural difference as a matter of practical, everyday existence” (Patell 2015, 13). Much as in Rakotoson’s and Mabanckou’s novels that were discussed in the previous chapter, the key element in the grass-​roots cosmopolitanism of Kanor’s protagonist is débrouillardise. Débrouillardise refers to resourcefulness required to survive in a situation that imposes limits on one’s agency. The concept is frequently used in the context of informal economies in Francophone West Africa. In his discussion of Ghanaian urban informal economies, Ato Quayson (2014) writes about the kòbòlò figure. The kòbòlò, “a good-​for-​nothing street loiterer and potential criminal”, is an embodiment of “dislocated urban life in an uncertain economic world” whose “wanderings are driven by [his] desire toward self-​improvement, and his engagement with the urban is a conduit for augmenting the skills required to ‘make it’ or die trying” (Quayson 2014, 199, 202). As Ashleigh Harris (2020, 12) notes, the kòbòlò ­figure –​a hustler, as she calls it –​conveys not only the ideas of victimhood and social degradation but also optimism and hope as part of the practice of everyday survival. The African hustler or the kòbòlò typically operates in the shadows of the official society and globalisation within the environments of informal or illegal economies, which is also the case for Kanor’s Biram, who sells knick-​knacks and mobile phones to tourists on the beaches of Tenerife. The débrouillard12 clandestine traveller, as embodied in Kanor’s adventurer, can be seen as an Afroeuropean, a travelling variation of the kòbòlò or the African hustler figure. Débrouillardise cosmopolitanism captures the idea of crossing cultural boundaries in order to survive in a new environment, and it also entails the idea of being willing “to be transformed by an experience of the foreign” (Lemos Horta 2017, 153). The notion of débrouillardise is present in the idea of 12

The notion already features in literature from the 1960s in N.G.M Faye’s novel Le Débrouillard (1964), which narrates the Afroeuropean travels of a young Senegalese man trying to make a living.

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aventure that features in the novel’s title. This strategy highlights agency rather than victimhood and can be seen to reflect clandestine travellers’ attempts to make their migrant pursuits look more attractive than they are in reality (see Agier 2017, 77). Furthermore, the act of claiming the position of an aventurier suggests that the clandestine migrant acknowledges that they are “entering the test of a cultural ‘labyrinth’ by crossing borders”, which, at least in theory, can be read as an expression of a cosmopolitan consciousness (Agier 2017, 78). At the same time, the narrative also draws attention to the limits of agency in the context of irregular migrant mobility. Through these contradictory meanings that it attaches to the figure of the aventurier, and also by showing how they are perceived by European tourists, the narrative resorts to the traditional imagery of the vagrant as a simultaneous embodiment of chaos, freedom, and critique (Cresswell 2013, 247). Indeed, the narrative states that to be an adventurer is to “quitter son pays en héros et mourir comme un chien” (222) “leave one’s country as a hero and die like a dog”.13 In Tenerife, Biram comes across as débrouillard in the eyes of an enthusiastic Senegalese newcomer, who exclaims, “Tu es à l’aise ici” (125) “You are at ease here”. Biram, a street vendor who sells gadgets to tourists, operates in a multicultural milieu: there are local people, European tourists, fellow Senegalese in the “Little Africa” neighbourhood, and people from varied ethnic backgrounds operating in the shadows of global tourism. This is an environment that could be a fertile ground for cosmopolitan aspirations, as it seems to be prone to exposing people to transcultural encounters and hence promoting openness to alterity. In other words, Tenerife, as portrayed in Kanor’s novel, is a typical border space which may, ideally, contribute to the emergence of a cosmopolitan subject as an environment of “relative foreignness” that makes visible the existence of Others and also one’s own Otherness (Agier 2017, 79). Biram has learned several languages and knows quite a lot about the tourists’ home countries. Thanks to these skills, he can claim that “Il saurait se débrouiller n’importe où” (138) “He would know how to manage anywhere”. He is even considered to be a “citoyen du monde” (173–​174) “citizen of the world” by fellow Africans. Indeed, in many

13

What characterises Kanor’s protagonist’s position as an aventurier is the fact that he is disconnected from his family. In real life, Senegalese clandestine migrant mobilities with a destination in Europe are not entirely individual pursuits; the decision to leave may be taken by family members, rather than the aventuriers themselves. The entire pursuit is often motivated by the idea that the one leaving will increase the entire family’s standard of living. (See Poeze 2013, 57–​59.) In Kanor’s novel, the protagonist is already detached from his family prior to his departure. This makes his ‘adventure’ a genuinely solitary pursuit.

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140 Chapter 6 senses, Biram comes across as what Achille Mbembe (2008, 109) refers to as a “petit migrant”, a concept that alludes to migrants who end up producing non-​elitist, practical forms of cosmopolitanism in clandestine spaces. What should be emphasised, however, is that Kanor’s novel refuses to portray Biram as an idealised, underprivileged mobile subject who would somehow automatically engage in the cosmopolitan ideal of openness to Otherness, as his rigid conceptions of identity and his tendency to reduce people to stereotypes would suggest. Indeed, it should be underlined that his practical cosmopolitanism has been imposed by the circumstances and is constantly overshadowed by the fragility of his irregular condition. As the narrator suggests, an illegal migrant remains an illegal migrant no matter how long he or she has stayed in Europe. In such a situation, the notion of world citizenship seems somewhat displaced. In effect, to be called a ‘world citizen’ is not even a compliment in Biram’s milieu; it suggests that one is no longer a ‘real’ African and has become a “black-​à-​Blancs”(145), detached from one’s cultural values and community. The fact that Biram despises what he considers ‘Europeanised’ Africans –​or “diaspos” (47), or Bounty bars (186) –​and is afraid of turning into one, shows that his ideas about ‘authentic’ identity are somewhat rigid. While this obviously contradicts cosmopolitan ideals in which border-​crossings and anti-​essentialism are central, Biram’s way of maintaining the notion of an ‘authentic’ sense of self could also be seen as a survival strategy in the context of clandestine travel. There is also a feature in the narrative voice itself which resists uncritical interpretations that may suggest that operating ‘successfully’ in a multicultural environment would lead to cosmopolitan attitudes. This feature is the narrative’s cynical tone. The cynicism is manifest throughout the novel, but it is accentuated in passages exposing tourists’ unawareness of their privilege and lack of empathy. An illuminating passage in this respect is the one in which tourists observe the arrival of clandestine migrants in the port of Tenerife: “Unbelievable, ils répétaient que c’était dingue, autant de jeunes dans un bateau. C’était dingue, really, c’était dingue, de quitter un pays quand il y avait tout à construire: routes, hôpitaux, hôtels, écoles” (207; emphasis original) “Unbelievable, they kept repeating that it was crazy, all those young people in a boat. It was crazy, really, it was crazy, to leave a country when everything there needed to be built: roads, hospitals, hotels, schools”. Representing tourists in this way highlights the discrepancy between their world and that of the clandestins: both are on the move and share the same environment –​without ever truly engaging in a dialogue. The following passage captures the narrative’s cynicism and the shallowness of the alleged transcultural encounters between European tourists and clandestine African migrants:

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C’est dingue tout ce qu’il avait appris sur tous ces étrangers en si peu de temps. Il connaissait le nom de leurs présidents et les marques de leurs voitures. Il savait ce qu’ils consommaient au petit déjeuner. Il était capable de dire dans leur langue Je t’aime. Bonjour, comment ça va ? Cadeau. Ristourne. Mode. Il fait chaud. Vous venez d’arriver? Vous partez quand? Hôtel. Très joli. Se faire plaisir. Merde. Bon marché. Adresse email. Demain. À quelle heure? (137–​138; emphasis original) It’s crazy, all that he had learned about all these strangers in such a short time. He knew the names of their presidents and the makes of their cars. He knew what they were eating for breakfast. He was able to say in their language I love you. Hello how are you? Gift. Discount. Fashion. It’s hot. You just arrived? When are you leaving? Hotel. Very pretty. Have fun. Shit. Cheap. E-​mail address. Tomorrow. At what time? It should be underlined that such simple language enables interaction in the context of informal economies and therefore generates some level of agency. However, the quotation also alludes to the exploitative qualities of the interactions between the street vendors and tourists, which, in turn, undermines the idea of cosmopolitan ethical encounters. In effect, this banal lexicon and the even more banal dialogues one imagines in which it is used draw attention to the fact that, while Biram has certainly “learned a lot” about tourists from different national and cultural backgrounds, he sees them in an extremely stereotypical manner. Indeed, the whole multicultural milieu in which he operates resorts to stereotyping. Senegalese are referred to as “moudou-​moudous” or “fatou-​fatous” (140) according to popular Senegalese given names; Biram’s Chinese supplier calls all African street vendors “les Jackson” (139), as in the African American pop group Jackson 5, and he is himself in turn referred to as Jackie Chan by the African street vendors themselves. Further, if clandestine migrants are perceived as anonymous masses of sullen faces or reduced to their national affiliations as “Tunisie, Algérie et Éthiopie” (282), tourists are not much different from the perspective of the street vendors, who see them as “corps roses sur draps de bain en couleur face à la mer” (140) “pink bodies on colourful bath towels in front of the sea”. In short, despite being immersed in a multicultural environment, everyone holds on to their stereotypical conceptions of the members of other national, ethnic, and cultural communities. Stereotyping seems to be an element of the débrouillard survival strategy. This is one of the ways in which popular cosmopolitanisms deviate from cosmopolitan ideals and why the former may be seen as imperfect –​if not failing –​manifestations of the latter.

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142 Chapter 6 If openness to alterity forms the core of cosmopolitan ethics, then it is Biram’s interactions with a middle-​aged French tourist called Hélène that come closest to articulating this ideal. This is the only relationship that invites Biram to challenge his cynical, stereotypical judgements. Biram first sees Hélène on a beach and immediately classifies her as “vieille salope” (152) “an old slut”, a middle-​ aged, white, female tourist who uses her economic power to establish sexual relationships with young, underprivileged African migrants.14 Obviously, these sexual relations are deeply rooted in the unbalanced power structures of class and race, and draw on the stereotypical imaginary of black male sexuality –​a theme that has also been addressed and (subjected to irony) in novels such as Dany Laferrière’s Comment faire l’amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer (1985) and Simon Njami’s African gigolo (1989). Instead of being willing to adopt the gendered, sexualised, and racialised role of the young African gigolo vis-​à-​vis a “vieille salope”, Biram resents this pattern and expresses his resistance to it in his urge to humiliate Hélène, even before knowing her: “Trouver quelque chose, une insulte, un geste (bras d’honneur, crachat) qui la rabaisserait” (155–​ 156) “To find something, an insult, a gesture (give her the finger, spit at her) that would demean her”. The need to demean a stranger conveys not only Biram’s disdain for the exploitative relations between mature, white, female tourists and young African men, but also the way in which he is used to pigeonhole people. The stereotypical concepts of the Other reinforced by unbalanced power relations affect the encounter between Hélène and Biram. The text also shows how the two become aware of these structures and prejudice, even if not going very far in challenging them. When Biram meets Hélène, she asks him to help her carry a stranded fish back to the sea. Reluctantly, Biram agrees, and once the task has been accomplished, he tells the woman in an aggressive tone that he only approached her to sell her a mobile phone. As they negotiate the price, the narrative highlights how Hélène “se sentait brusquement vieille, riche et blanche” (159) “suddenly felt old, rich and white”. This suggests that Hélène, despite her apparently innocent openness, is well aware of the unbalanced power relations existing between her and Biram. The words also reflect her acknowledgment of the image that Biram has already formed of her. It is not without irony that, as an inevitable turn of the plot, Biram and Hélène end up having sex. Waking up in the woman’s bed after a party, Biram is 14

The novel draws attention to sex tourism as a feature of global mobility (Mbour, Tenerife). Through the figures of Biram and Marème, the narrative shows how sex tourism characterises the mobilities of both male and female débrouillard(e)s, although in a slightly different way.

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overwhelmed with hatred: “La vieille salope avait fini par l’avoir” (197; emphasis original) “The old slut ended up having it”. It seems there is no way out of the clichéd pattern of the sexually oriented, financially motivated relation between Biram and Hélène, who end up validating the stereotypical roles of the African gigolo and the “vieille salope” that the context of their encounter imposes on them. However, the narrative suggests that at the same time something in their relationship resists this stereotypical pattern. While being quick in locating Hélène within a specific stereotypical category, Biram also admits that she does not quite match “le profil de la vieille salope” (156; emphasis original) “the profile of the old slut”. Hélène, in turn, thinks that Biram is “un drôle de garçon” (194) “a strange boy”, which suggests that he does not quite correspond to her preconceptions either. After the sex episode, the two do not meet for a while, and when Biram finally returns, the woman asks Biram why he has come back to her, since she has come to the conclusion that the young man is interested neither in sex nor in money, which are the founding elements of the African gigolo-​vieille salope pattern. In short, their relation involves a fragile potential for an open, ethical encounter with alterity. In the end, this potential is weaker than their mutual prejudice. Hélène’s immediate reaction to Biram’s request to help him leave Tenerife is to think, “Elle aurait dû s’y attendre. Ils finissent toujours par demander cela” (222; emphasis original) “She should have known. They always end up asking for this”. Furthermore, when they have sex for a second time, Biram is unable to control his anger towards Hélène. In his eyes, Hélène embodies the way in which privileged white Europe does not acknowledge its role in promoting global inequality, and he attempts to strangle her. Despite this, their relationship continues after they leave Tenerife together, but it does not last. While the narrative does not tell Hélène’s side of the story, according to Biram’s account of the situation the reason behind their separation is Hélène having had “son nègro dans sa tête”(350) “her idea of the negro in her head”. In short, while there are elements in their relationship that seem to be promising in terms of such cosmopolitan ideals as openness to Otherness, the constraints of the situation and the power structures within which their encounter takes place are such that an unprejudiced dialogue is ultimately not possible. What should be emphasised here, however, is that while Kanor’s novel can be read as a text that articulates the shallowness of practical cosmopolitanism, it also simultaneously attests to the fact that cosmopolitan, ethical encounters with alterity are possible –​even in situations that pose serious limitations and challenges to them. In this sense, Faire l’aventure cannot be read as a story about the complete failures of cosmopolitanism in the same sense as, for instance, Brian Chikwava’s Harare North, to which the following chapter is devoted.

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144 Chapter 6 3

Conclusion: Out of Reach? Centres and Cosmopolitan Ideals

Faire l’aventure portrays Afroeuropean clandestine migrant mobilities in a way that highlights the increasing importance of peripheral European locations in the Francophone Afrodiasporic literary imaginary. Irregular migrants’ mobilities have started to play a more visible role in the construction of European peripheries, and, as Kanor’s novel suggests, the identity of the clandestine traveller is also tied to place: ‘successful adventurers’ are those who have made it to central Europe. The idea of peripheral European locations as ‘backward’ is clearly articulated in the novel. This attests to the relationality of the centre-​ versus-​periphery pattern as well as to the fact that Europe, which is frequently conceived of as the centre in postcolonial theoretical discourses, is internally divided into centres and peripheries. For clandestine travellers, peripheral insular locations are unsatisfactory substitutes for central Europe, which, due to the current stratification and multiplication of borders, is becoming practically an unreachable destination. By associating peripheral European locations with the melancholic loss of the dream of ‘Big Europe’, Kanor’s novel attests to the perpetual pull of traditional postcolonial centres such as France and the UK. What is interesting in Kanor’s novel in terms of the theme of mobility is that, despite the protagonist’s constant travelling between two continents, the narrative features portrayals of concrete mobility practices rather sparsely. For the most part, the concrete, physical mobility that the protagonist’s ‘adventure’ entails is alluded to in passing and addressed in short flashbacks. In so doing, the narrative conveys the traumatising aspect of clandestine migrant mobilities, a factor that is incongruent with the idea of being an ‘adventurer’ and a débrouillard. The poetics of mobility in Kanor’s novel is manifested through silences and omissions. This does not, however, mean that the experiences of mobility would be unimportant; on the contrary, such a strategy underlines the traumatising dimensions of clandestine travel as something that the traveller wishes to forget. Faire l’aventure challenges equations between mobility and cosmopolitanism and problematises romanticised ideas of underprivileged mobile subjects as non-​elite cosmopolitans. By drawing attention to the harsh conditions of clandestine migrant mobilities, the superficial qualities of the transcultural encounters and individuals’ tendencies to reduce others to stereotypes while immersed in a multicultural environment, Kanor’s novel exposes the limits of débrouillardise cosmopolitanism. Practical cosmopolitanism in the novel is mostly a survival strategy lacking substantial ethical content, which makes it an unavoidably imperfect realisation of the ideal of cosmopolitanism. However,

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as my reading of the protagonist’s relationship with the middle-​aged, French female tourist suggests, the novel is not totally pessimistic about the possibilities of cosmopolitan ethical encounters with alterity –​even when they take place in such harsh and limiting contexts as clandestine migrant mobilities.

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pa rt 3 Abject Travels of Citizens of Nowhere



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­c hapter 7

Failing Border Crossings and Cosmopolitanism in Brian Chikwava’s Harare North Harare North, by the diasporic Zimbabwean author Brian Chikwava, is a novel that addresses the question of mobility from a somewhat uneasy perspective. The novel’s anonymous protagonist, a vehement supporter of the former Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and a member of a violent nationalist youth militia, travels to London pretending to be the victim of persecution in order to apply for asylum.1 The novel explicitly addresses the so-​called Zimbabwe crisis in the 2000s, characterised by economic decline, authoritarian politics, issues related to land distribution, and the rise of patriotic discourses (see, e.g., Hammar & Raftopoulos 2003; Primorac & Muponde 2005; Ranger 2005). The crisis drove many Zimbabweans out of their country, to the UK, the USA, and the neighbouring South Africa. These developments have also affected Zimbabwean writing: the theme of exile recurs frequently in Zimbabwean fiction of the 2000s and 2010s (Muchemwa 2010; Bachisi & Manyarara 2014). Chikwava’s protagonist’s transnational mobility contributes to the attribution of meaning to this crisis context. While globalisation is often understood as a process of the world becoming smaller and ‘borderless’, for many it is a profoundly unequal phenomenon characterised by a proliferation of borders (Mezzadra & Neilson 2013, 62). At the less glamorous end of contemporary African mobilities, one can observe travellers who have practically nothing in common with Selasi’s “Africans of the world” (2005). The world is far from being ‘open’ to them, and the borders that ‘Afropolitans’ cross effortlessly, may turn out to be insurmountable barriers for these underprivileged travellers; the abject in-​between states of refugees or undocumented migrants are a case in point (see Chambers 2008, 1 While the protagonist is certainly not a victim of political violence, as he claims to be, behind its satirising attitude the narrative does indicate the complexity of his position. His underprivileged background and lack of opportunities have made him an easy prey for the recruitment of a violent political movement. In this way, the novel complicates the conception of victimhood. However, at the same time this complexity, as Michael Perfect (2014, 172) argues, can be understood as “a critique of the UK’s asylum and immigration services [which are] completely ineffectual at distinguishing between those individuals who are genuinely fleeing persecution and those who are not”. In this sense, it is clear that Harare North is a complex novel that “teases” its readers, as Dave Gunning (2015, 130) argues.

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150 Chapter 7 3). Underprivileged mobile subjects constitute a darker form of globalisation that can be “defined by a sense of crisis within the postcolony itself” (Gikandi 2001, 630). Chikwava’s protagonist is positioned on this reverse side of globalisation which seems to work against cosmopolitan ideals of planetary conviviality (see Calhoun 2008, 87). Chikwava’s protagonist’s position attests to the fact that cosmopolitanism is not equally available to everyone and that not everyone is capable of “navigat[ing] cultural difference” successfully (Calhoun 2017, 189, 193). The notion of the border –​both in concrete and in symbolic terms –​is central in narratives of global mobility (Nyman 2017, 76). This is also the case in Harare North, where the theme of border crossings manifests itself throughout the narrative. In this chapter, I explore the failures of Chikwava’s protagonist to cross borders (national, cultural, ideological, and linguistic) in relation to the theoretical context of cosmopolitanism –​which I consider is, in many senses, about successful transcultural border crossings and, as a result of these border crossings, concerned with cultural difference. As border studies scholars have highlighted, besides being topographical or territorial, borders are also symbolic, cultural, and conceptual (see, e.g., Schimanski & Wolfe, 2010, 40; Rosello & Wolfe 2017, 14). Borders, as defined by Johan Schimanski and Stephen Wolfe (2007, 12), “involve movement of people from one place to another; attempts to control space with borders, creating situations of radically asymmetrical relations of power; and attempts to imagine the spatial dislocations of people, objects, or ideologies within the globalized economy”. It should be emphasised that borders are not simply markers of difference and division, but also contact zones (Schimanski & Wolfe 2007, 14; Mezzadra & Neilson 2013, 7). By “connecting individuals to the world”, borders bring people in contact with Others: from this perspective, borders are central to cosmopolitanism (Cooper & Rumford 2011, 262, 273; Agier 2017). In this chapter I argue that, through its treatment of failed border-​crossings, Harare North exposes the limits –​or even outright failures –​of cosmopolitan ideals. The protagonist’s lack of (Western) cultural capital, his broken English, parochial and nationalist mindset, and confinement to the margins of the society as an undocumented African migrant together contribute to a state of abjection that informs his life in London. His abject condition not only makes him the antithesis of the figure of the Afropolitan but also distances him from ideals and sensibilities that inform a cosmopolitan perspective. In Harare North, the cosmopolitan potentials of the border are not realised: its divisive character is highlighted instead. By highlighting the exclusionary quality of borders, Harare North exposes the contradictory nature of globalisation processes. Globalisation is a fractured narrative, torn between the discourses of

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increased mobility and transculturation on the one hand, and the proliferation of borders on the other. Chikwava’s protagonist seems to be constantly on the ‘wrong’ side of practically every border that he encounters. He is the unwanted abject figure on whose exclusion different normative subjectivities, both white European and middle-​class black migrant, are constructed. My reading of Chikwava’s novel criticises the idea of reducing cosmopolitanism to a mere identity position or a passive by-​product of transnational mobility –​a feature that informs the concept of Afropolitanism in particular. As stated throughout this study, cosmopolitanism is, above all, an active ethical engagement –​and this obviously is not something that comes automatically with (transnational) mobility. In this respect, my analysis simultaneously promotes a critical view of the concept of Afropolitanism, which it considers to be based on a shallow and misguided understanding of cosmopolitanism as a mere marker of mobility-​enhanced identity . 1

Cosmopolitanism as an Active Engagement

The idea of cosmopolitanism as a position of ‘being at home in the world’ implies an elitist aspect that is also manifest in Selasi’s ‘Africanised’ adaptation of cosmopolitanism, which reduces the concept to an identity position of affluent, diasporic Africans. Yet what sometimes seems to get lost in current discussions of the figure of the Afropolitan is that cosmopolitanism is not exactly a personal attribute or an identity position but about an engagement with the world and with the Other, and an acknowledgment of one’s own positionality (Hansen 2008, 213). This is where current critical discussions on Afropolitanism –​or rather, on the figure of the Afropolitan –​go wrong. The Selasian concept of Afropolitanism is based on a very superficial interpretation of cosmopolitanism as an identity of a privileged mobile subject. While the concept of Afropolitanism does not seem to entail more than the idea of being transnationally mobile and claiming hybrid cultural affinities, cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, is above all an ethico-​political commitment. As Pheng Cheah (2006, Inhuman, 19) puts it, cosmopolitanism is an “expansive form of solidarity that is attuned to democratic principles without the restriction of territorial borders”. In addition to boundary-​transgressing solidarity and dialogue, a key element in cosmopolitanism is an “awareness of one’s own social position and culture in a global arena” (Beck 2008, 27). Further, rather than an already achieved condition, cosmopolitanism is seen by many scholars as “yet to come, something awaiting realization” (Pollock et al. 2002, 1). As Robert Spencer (2011, 11) suggests, literature can play a role in imagining “the

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152 Chapter 7 shape of a cosmopolitan future” (see also Shaw 2017, 4). According to Spencer (2011, 12), while cosmopolitanism cannot “by definition be realised in works of art”, certain literary texts may through “their dramatisations of cultural conflict and convergence foster habits of attention and self-​scrutiny that deserve to be called cosmopolitan”. Instead of engaging in imagining the outlines of a cosmopolitan future, Harare North ridicules such aspirations, and in so doing, draws attention to the limits of cosmopolitanism as an ethico-​utopian ideal of planetary conviviality (see Mendes 2019). Because of his inability and own active unwillingness to cross borders smoothly, Chikwava’s protagonist embodies the failure of such cosmopolitan ideals as boundary-​transgressing dialogue, openness to Otherness, and critical awareness of one’s own position in the world –​failure whose roots lie in his abject position which, in turn, springs from his lack of privilege in socio-​cultural and economic terms. As argued throughout this study, mobility plays an important role in cosmopolitanism: it exposes the individual to transcultural encounters, which, in turn, may enhance cosmopolitan orientations. Multicultural metropolises such as London are commonly conceived of as places where cosmopolitanism ‘happens’ (Johansen, 2014, 11–​12). This is, of course, a somewhat simplistic conception: instead of merely passively ‘happening’, cosmopolitanism involves an active ethical engagement (Amit & Gardiner Barber 2015, 545; Johansen 2014, 11–​15). In short, while mobility is an important element in cosmopolitanism, “routes and journeys across boundaries and encounters with Others do not necessarily lead to a cosmopolitan attitude” (Gikandi 2010, 24; see also Shaw 2017, 14; Tihanov 2017, 142). Simon Gikandi (2010, 23, 26)  draws attention to the way in which underprivileged migrants and refugees may end up reproducing rather uneasy forms of locality and loyalty in metropolitan, multicultural, multi-​ethnic settings. Gikandi (2010, 25) illustrates such a situation with an example of young diasporic Somalis who leave their lives in the West in order to fight for Islam in a crisis-​ridden country from which their parents initially fled. Gikandi’s example shows that allegedly ‘cosmopolitan’ cities “are characterised as much by separation as mixing, by ethnic encapsulation, marginality and exclusion” (Werbner 2015, 569–​570). Indeed, “visual diversity” alone does not make any city cosmopolitan since “the cosmopolitan vision of urban dwellers cannot be taken for granted”, as Pnina Werbner (2015, 570–​ 571) stresses. In similar vein, Kristian Shaw (2017, 3–​14) emphasises that “the presence of transnational communities does not suggest that ethical ideas are practised or promoted; it is merely a state of cultural movement”. Harare North is a novel that puts too readily made associations of mobility and

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cosmopolitanism to the test, and also questions the idea of multicultural, postcolonial metropolises such as London as somehow automatically ‘cosmopolitan’ spaces. 2

Instances of Anti-​cosmopolitanism

The complexities of Chikwava’s novel’s title have been observed by a number of scholars. There is a general consensus that the title captures the novel’s notions of displacement and instability (Chipfupa 2016, 60; Harris 2020, 84; Krishnan 2014, 49; Muchemwa 2010, 141; Pucherova 2015 169; Wicomb 2015, 50). In addition to these readings, I  would suggest that the title also announces the failure of cosmopolitan ideals. From the perspective of failing cosmopolitanism, Michael Perfect’s interpretation –​even though he is not reading the novel through the concept of cosmopolitanism –​is interesting. Perfect (2014, 173) suggests that “Harare North” indicates that, for the protagonist, “London is not in any way an exceptional place but simply another capital city”. In so doing, the text questions the assumption that former colonial subjects would be overwhelmingly impressed by the postcolonial metropolis (Perfect 2014, 173). The protagonist has never been to London, yet he does not really show much interest in his new environment –​unlike, for instance, the protagonist in Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps (see Chapter 5 of this study). Cosmopolitanism, as suggested in my discussion of practical cosmopolitanisms in the previous part of this study, necessitates an engagement that reaches beyond the sphere of the familiar and the known (Amit & Gardiner Barber 2015, 545). The title of Chikwava’s novel, “Harare North”, reduces London to an extension of the Zimbabwean capital –​a gesture that conveys the protagonist’s parochial, anti-​ cosmopolitan mind set. The failures of cosmopolitanism in Harare North can be understood as the protagonist’s failure to cross different symbolic and cultural borders. The first border that the protagonist fails to cross smoothly is the national border. This failure is conveyed in the opening scene of the novel, which is set at Gatwick Airport. The airport, as Justine Shih Pearson (2018, 2) expresses it, “has become emblematic of the extreme mobility […] of twenty-​first century life”. As a space that performs the “nowhere/​anywhere” aspect of eased mobilities, airports are frequently associated with (often somewhat shallow) elite cosmopolitanism (Pearson 2018, 3). At the same time, it is important to note that airports represent the “thresholds of nations” (Manzanas & Sanchez 2011, 112), which function not only as sites of inclusion but also as spaces of exclusion (Huggan 2009,

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154 Chapter 7 11). For underprivileged travellers such as asylum seekers and other coerced migrants from the Global South, the international airport is also a “threshold toward either exile or deportation” and, as such, a particularly hostile environment (Durante 2020, 149). In this sense, the airport has become the paradigmatic site of “both the opportunities and the vulnerabilities of contemporary globalization” (Salter 2008, ix), and aeromobilities in general play a central role in the production of identities and inequalities (Cwerner 2009, 10). The colonialist logics of exclusion that contemporary aeromobilities entail are also addressed in postcolonial literary texts (Durante 2020, 11), Chikwava’s novel included, and attest to the ways in which aeromobilities contribute to the global (dis)order (Urry 2007, 149). The airport can be thought of as a gateway enhancing mobility between the local and the global. In Harare North, the mobility that the airport is supposed to enable is not trouble-​free or flowing, as the protagonist’s detention suggests. Indeed, the detention highlights how, for those travelling in the “deportation class” (Walters 2002, 256), the airport may become a site of slow time and stagnation –​much as in Aminata Sow Fall’s novel Douceurs du bercail (1998), which depicts an African business traveller’s transformation to a “deportation class” traveller and portrays the airport as a site where the failures of cosmopolitanism become articulated (Toivanen 2016). While being detained is a dramatic start to Chikwava’s story and conveys the protagonist’s status as a “vulnerable passenger” (Durante 2020, 145), its description covers hardly one page. What happens during the eight days of detention is not addressed. The protagonist does not seem to be upset when he is detained but rather, is resigned to it, as suggested by his observation that the immigration officers are “only doing they graft” (4).2 The narrator’s resignation at this interruption to his mobility points at his lack of expectations with respect to his status as an undocumented African migrant in Europe. For him, there is nothing abnormal in being confined in a state of in-​between-​ness, which is represented concretely in the detention centre, which both is and is not the nation. Later in the novel his friends (clandestine migrants and asylum seekers like himself) discuss the possibility of acquiring forged EU passports. For them, EU passports represent the ultimate freedom of movement and the luxury of being able to ignore national borders –​a form of mobility that, in reality, is beyond their reach. For them, the utter absurdity of the idea of a borderless world is conveyed in the way in which the protagonist suggests that his friend Shingi should have a French passport with the name Jacques Chirac on it. For Chikwava’s characters, being 2 Narrated by the protagonist, the entire text is written in broken English.

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a citizen of a borderless world is just as unlikely as being the former president of France. Travelling not only means changing one’s physical environment:  it may also change one’s conception of the self, the Other, and the world. The transformation and “internal development processes” that mobility may at best generate form the core of cosmopolitan consciousness (Delanty 2006, 27). Indeed, as Cyrus Patell (2015, 10) formulates it, cosmopolitanism is essentially a question of “see[ing] difference as an opportunity of personal growth”. The transformative aspect is so important that, according to Gerard Delanty (2006, 43), without it, the concept of cosmopolitanism does not make any sense. As Magdalena Nowicka and Maria Rovisco (2016, 6) suggest, cosmopolitan “self-​ transformation implies a sense of continuous self-​scrutiny both with regards to the ways one positively engages the Otherness of other cultures and people, and to the ways one is committed to the building of a more just world in conditions of uneven globalization”. While Chikwava’s underprivileged protagonist seems to be excluded from the project of making the world a more just place, self-​transformation and self-​scrutiny are cosmopolitan ideals that anyone can cultivate. Chikwava’s protagonist does not, however, seem to be involved in this sort of ethical reflection. From this perspective, it seems rather interesting that Patricia Noxolo (2014, 302) suggests that Harare North can be read as a postcolonial subversion of the Bildungsroman. The allusion to the genre of the Bildungsroman in the case of Chikwava’s novel seems far-​fetched, and, in effect, Noxolo (2014, 302)  highlights that while “the protagonist struggles with conflicting truths, [he] does not emerge into enlightenment”. In a similar vein, David Chipfupa (2016) underlines the lack of development informing the protagonist’s psychic life. According to Chipfupa (2016, 62), the protagonist “remains by and large unchanged right through the action of the novel. The move to the UK does not […] alter the way in which he views the world”. The possibility of transformation that mobility may enable is dismissed quite clearly by the protagonist, at the very beginning of the novel. He notes that he is turning twenty-​two, but that he will not tell anyone because he “know[s]‌ this is wrong place to celebrate birthday” (14). This announcement betrays his refusal to see his new environment as an opportunity for him to transform by adopting new views. Displacement does not change anything for him; on the contrary, he claims that in London “people change back into they old self” (60). Interestingly enough, he also articulates an awareness of the way in which mobility affects one’s identity and how it may enhance an understanding of one’s positionality: “In foreign place, sometimes you see each each with different eyes for the first time and who you are and your place in the world suddenly

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156 Chapter 7 becomes easy to see as any goat’s tail” (127–​128). Although these words hint at cosmopolitan self-​awareness, they do not affect the protagonist’s views on a wider scale. He remains attached to the ideas with which he has left his home country. He dismisses as mere propaganda information that contradicts his nationalist, political convictions and his support for the Mugabe regime. Yet when he hears that the village of his beloved late mother has been evacuated by the army because of gem deposits, he needs some time to put “them things together” (177). In the end, he keeps calling himself “son of the soil” –​a term that nationalist Zimbabwean ‘freedom fighters’ use to refer to themselves. In his new environment, this identity obviously has no validity at all, but he still clings to it. The tradition of modern cosmopolitanism is marked by elitist biases and it is “linked with the universalism of modern Western thought and with political designs aimed at world governance” (Delanty 2006, 26; see also Bridet et al. 2018, 5). For these reasons, traditional cosmopolitanisms have become subject to criticism, and there have been explicit efforts to undo cosmopolitanism’s links with white travelling elites and to promote a more democratic notion of cosmopolitanisms in the plural (Amit & Gardiner Barber 2015, 544). Some theorists have even gone so far as to claim that “cosmopolitans today are often the victims of modernity, failed by capitalism’s upward mobility, and bereft of the […] comforts and customs of national belonging” (Pollock et al. 2002, 6). For instance, Achille Mbembe’s (2008, 109) concept of the “petit migrant”, as discussed in Chapter 6, can be seen as an African embodiment of the popular cosmopolitan. However, one should resist the temptation to proclaim Chikwava’s protagonist as a grassroots or popular cosmopolitan simply because of his displacement and his marginalised, underprivileged position. The protagonist does not qualify as a Mbembean non-​elite cosmopolitan either as he does not become actively involved in widening his perspective by engaging in transcultural encounters. As I  have emphasised throughout this study, cosmopolitanism involves an active ethical engagement and openness to difference –​it is not just an experience of “being African in the world”, as Ashleigh Harris (2017, 242) suggests in her reading of Harare North as “an Afropolitan novel”. Indeed, I am highly critical of the interpretation of the protagonist as a “less-​fortunate Afropolitan”, as suggested by Eva Rask Knudsen and Ulla Rahbek (2016, 287) in their attempt to undo the class-​bound limits of the concept, or Harris’s (2017, 242)  vague interpretation of cosmopolitanism as an “experience of worldliness”. Cosmopolitanism is an active process and “hard work” in the sense that “the cosmopolitan is open to the unease of forming a new understanding of

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both one’s self and of the world when invited by the confrontation of difference” (Bender 2017, 117). Given Chikwava’s protagonist’s utter incapacity and lack of willingness to expose himself to newness and engage in transcultural encounters, to maintain that he is some sort of a vernacular cosmopolitan, as Knudsen and Rahbek (2016, 265–​287) and Harris (2017) do, is not simply an unconvincing attempt to expand the meanings of Selasian Afropolitanism so as to cover underprivileged mobile Africans whom the notion so overtly excludes. An even bigger problem is the misconception of cosmopolitanism as a passive by-​product of transnational mobility that informs the concept of Afropolitanism. In such a reductive understanding, transnational mobility is seen as a condition that “somehow effortlessly develops the toolkit of a cosmopolitan” in those on the move (Tihanov 2017, 154). There is nothing in Chikwava’s ‘hero’s’ encounters with others and the world that would indicate cosmopolitan ethical agency. Here, he differs from such practical cosmopolitans as Rakotoson’s protagonist Sahondra in Elle, au printemps (Chapter 5) or even Kanor’s protagonist Biram in Faire l’aventure (Chapter 6): their encounters with new environments attest to at least some sort of openness to what exceeds the boundaries of the already familiar. Chikwava’s protagonist’s parochial mind set is marked by his abjection whose roots lie in his underprivileged and allegedly traumatising personal history of being an individual living under a violent political regime. Given these premises, cosmopolitan sensibility remains an unreachable ideal that has no personal relevance for the protagonist. Obviously, to say this is not to suggest that there cannot be vernacular or grass-​root cosmopolitanisms:  non-​elitist forms of cosmopolitanism do exist, but they entail at least some level of ethical engagement with the world and the Other, and an understanding of one’s own positionality. Harare North, with its protagonist, is definitively not the right place to look for such engagements and encounters. Chikawava’s protagonist does not really want to be in London; his displacement is motivated uniquely by money. He has become subject to a fraud back home –​he realises the scam after his arrival in London –​and needs to collect a specific amount of money to pay in order to extract himself out of trouble. He is a reluctant migrant waiting to return home, which obviously contributes to his indifference to his new environment. He places himself above his fellow diasporic Zimbabweans, whom he considers have landed in the UK in miserable condition after a “big journey that is caused by them dreams that start far away in them townships” (30). The protagonist does not cherish any such dreams about a better life in the West and despises migrants working in the care sector as what is referred to in the novel as bbc s, British Buttock

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158 Chapter 7 Cleaners.3 He refuses to take such a job, “principled” man as he claims to be. His situation, as Perfect (2014, 173) has pointed out, is tensioned: London for him is a mere economic opportunity, whilst at the same time he refuses to make any economic contribution to the city himself. While the protagonist despises his fellow citizens’ “bbc” jobs, he has difficulty in securing a job for himself. At one point, he intends to “mau-​mau” (65) hotels in order to find a job as a porter in the hope of receiving “fat tips” from “Saudi princes” (74). When he finally manages to spot a potential establishment, it does not take long for “two fat bouncers in uniform” (69) to throw him out. This passage highlights the protagonist’s failure to recognise the existence of a socio-​economic border that he is simply unable to cross. His list of hotels to “mau-​mau” includes such luxury establishments as the Savoy and the Ritz, and the protagonist does not see any discrepancy between such places and himself –​a discrepancy that is flagrantly apparent to anyone else, as his cousin’s reaction of “nearly fall[ing] off his chair laughing” when he hears about his adventures (74) suggests. This reaction embarrasses the protagonist, who states that “Now I have to stop talking about this because people think that I am dunderhead” (74). Being subjected to the mockery of his cousin, the protagonist becomes, at least momentarily, aware of his lack of cultural capital. 3

Non-​dialogue and Linguistic Nonconformity

After the hotel fiasco, the protagonist finally succeeds in securing a job as a cleaner in a fast food restaurant. The owner does not hire him immediately because he has doubts about his English skills. However menial, the job at the fast food restaurant represents an opportunity to engage in dialogue with other people than the fellow-​residents of the squat in which the protagonist now lives with other paperless Zimbabwean migrants –​a place that could be called an “ethnic enclave” (see Werbner 2015, 572) in multicultural and allegedly ‘cosmopolitan’ London. This opportunity, however, is quickly lost: the protagonist is totally disinterested in sharing his life with anyone, as the following travesty of a conversation between him and his boss suggests: How is Zimbabwe? ok. 3 The concept of bbc is used by Zimbabweans who want to derogate their compatriots living in the UK and working in the care sector; see McGregor (2007). The concept also features elsewhere in Zimbabwean literature, such as Petina Gappah’s short story collection An Elegy for Easterly (2009).

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How is your family back there? ok. What’s Zimbabwe like? ok. How is Mugabe? ok. Are you all right? ok. (90) This quotation conveys the protagonist’s indifference towards interaction. He is suspicious about people’s motives, and capable of interacting only when he is in a position of power, such as in his unbalanced friendship with Shingi or the other occupants of the squat he terrorises with his unpredictable behaviour. The awkward quality of the failed dialogue between him and his boss draws attention to the scarcity of the use of dialogue in the novel: the first-​ person narrator monopolises the discursive space with his own perspective. The imposition of the narrator’s views is also conveyed in the way in which he recurrently erases his interlocutors’ statements by summing them up with the expression “yari yari yari”. This is illustrative of his lack of respect for others –​ especially those who do not share his ideas and political opinions. The lack of dialogue betrays the failure of cosmopolitan ideals, for, as Vered Amit and Pauline Gardiner Barber (2015, 545) point out, cosmopolitanism is relational as it “requires an element of mutual willingness for engagement”. Another interesting instance of non-​dialogue features in a passage in which the protagonist confronts his boss. Here, the boss talks “fast and mixing proper English with his cockney” (101), with the result that the protagonist fails to understand him. The protagonist’s reaction is to “let rip in [his native language] Shona” (101), after which the boss calls the police as he finds the protagonist’s behaviour threatening. This passage illustrates that there is an insurmountable border between the two interlocutors that undermines the attempt to establish a dialogue that might, in an ideal situation, result in a cosmopolitan “bridging of cultural gaps” (Patell 2015, 8). Isaac Ndlovu (2016, 33) points out that the protagonist’s broken English and his “inadequate language command presents him with the challenge of not being fully integrated into the London English community”. What is interesting in the protagonist’s broken English is that it “is neither Zimbabwean, nor reflective of the linguistic proficiency” of UK-​based Zimbabweans (Ndlovu 2016, 31). In other words, the protagonist speaks a language that is not spoken by any community, which throws into relief his absolute outsiderness (see also Krishnan 2014, 51). As such, the main character’s way of using language can

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160 Chapter 7 be considered to be a literary strategy that conveys his abject mobility in the eyes of Londoners and middle class African immigrants and his exclusion from the orbit of cosmopolitanism –​that is, a sort of abject poetics of mobility. Yet the fact that he “seems to enjoy his unorthodox resourcefulness with the language” (Ndlovu 2016, 33) supports the interpretation that he has at least some agency in the creation of his nonconformity. He does not make any effort to standardise his English so as to better fit into his new environment. Unlike such contemporary diasporic African protagonists as Sefi Atta’s Deola Bello in A Bit of Difference, who “plays up her English accent […] so that people might not assume she lacks intelligence” (2014, 21), or NoViolet Bulawayo’s Darling in We Need New Names, who watches television in order to learn how to “sound American” to “make her life easier” (2013, 194), Chikwava’s protagonist is not interested in ‘undoing’ what comes across as his abject ‘Africanness’. The protagonist’s use of language represents a wholesale celebration of being a misfit in a society that wishes to keep such ‘unwanted invaders’ as undocumented migrants beyond its borders. As such, the protagonist’s use of non-​standard and imperfectly spoken language embodies an anarchic, albeit eventually unsuccessful, attitude. 4

Parodying the Afropolitan

The failure of cosmopolitanism in Chikawava’s novel can be read in terms of cosmopolitan ethics but also in a more superficial and reductive sense as an affluent identity position as embodied in the Selasian Afropolitan which conveys the idea of Afro-​descendants’ presence in the metropolitan milieus of art, fashion, and cultural production (Awondo 2014, 118). While my main focus is on cosmopolitan ethics, orientations, and awareness, it is tempting to juxtapose Chikwava’s protagonist and the figure of the Afropolitan. “You’ll know us by our funny blend of London fashion, New York jargon, African ethics, and academic successes”, is how Selasi (2005) describes Afropolitans like herself. When it comes to Chikwava’s protagonist, however, the only aspect on this list that relates to him is the word ‘funny’. When he arrives in the UK, he is detained at Gatwick Airport after articulating “the magic word  –​asylum” (4). Eventually, Sekai, the wife of his London-​based cousin, comes to fetch him from the detention centre. The protagonist carries an old cardboard suitcase that he has received from his mother and observes that Sekai “look[s]‌at my suitcase in funny way” (5). They set out to leave the airport and take the train to Paul’s and Sekai’s home in East London. Once it turns out that the protagonist

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does not have enough money to buy a train ticket, he and Sekai experience a “funny moment” (5). At the couple’s house, they sit in the lounge “in funny silence” (7), and London, for the protagonist, is a “funny foreign place” (17). Clearly, Chikwava’s narrator’s ‘funny’ is not the same as Selasi’s. While the latter’s ‘funny’ refers to something fashionably hybrid (and potentially exotic from a Western perspective), for the former it signals the trouble that his presence generates for others as well as the uneasy sense of displacement that he himself experiences while in London. The ‘funny’ looks and silences betray the idea that the protagonist is constantly on the ‘wrong’ side of the border and that he fails from the very start to fit into London. However, failing to come across as a stylish ‘Afropolitan’ does not seem to bother the protagonist at all. While “obsessed with style” (Muchemwa 2010, 142)  when it comes to language, he embraces not what Selasi (2005) sees as the “gorgeous” character of diasporic twenty-​first century Africans but, rather, the “goofiness” of caricatured African immigrants from the 1980s. At one point, the protagonist goes to an African music concert. The passage can be read as an ironic commentary on what has been considered the consumerist aspects and predominance of style in Selasi’s Afropolitan (see Bosch Santana 2013; Dabiri 2017). The protagonist notes that the concert is “crawling with them Africans in they colourful ethnic clothes it make you feel you is not African enough” (137). While others celebrate their link to Africa through their “flashy African clothes” (137), the protagonist and his companions wear jeans. For him, this loud celebration of cultural identity rings fake:  he refers to these ‘Afropolitans’ as “lapsed Africans” (137). This idea of “lapsed Africans” ironically resonates with Selasian Afropolitanism as not much more than an “African-​flavoured version […] of Western convention and form” (Dabiri 2017, 204)  which reduces cosmopolitanism to consumerist self-​expression (see Calhoun 2017, 192). For Chikwava’s protagonist, the ‘genuine’ African is embodied in a musician he refers to as “the original native from Kinshasa” who has “just hit Harare North” (137): Kinshasa boy wear black oversize jacket and them baggy grey trousers; you can tell these is clothes that he is suppose to have taken to dry-​cleaner but maybe somewhere in the township the original native decide that this is something that he can handle with box of Surf powder and bucket of water; now they is puckered and getting all out of shape in that way that make them more African than them thousand cotton garments with blue lizards, green fish and ethnic pattern. This cheer our face. (138)

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162 Chapter 7 The protagonist recognises himself in this clumsy newcomer who does not quite fit into his new environment and is unable to celebrate his ‘Africanness’ in a fashionable, “Instagram-​friendly” (Dabiri 2017, 208) way. While the protagonist ridicules diasporic Africans’ ‘Afropolitan’ styles and at the same time exposes the very shallowness of the concept of Afropolitanism, his own understanding of ‘culture’ is equally superficial. At one point, he suddenly shows interest in his new environment: he wishes to “acquire what they call culture” (146). Soon it turns out that ‘culture’, for him, refers to popular culture phenomena and consumer products with “all them names like Tommy, Diesel, Levi, iPod, Klein and all them such kind of people that stick they names on people’s clothes” (147). ‘Culture’ as a set of brands underlines not only the consumerism that informs Western urban cultures but also the utter ridiculousness of the protagonist’s conception of cultural encounters across borders. The list of brand names that represent ‘culture’ in the protagonist’s mind can also be seen as a way of ridiculing superficial, consumerist understandings of cosmopolitanism as a mere matter of consumption and “an acquired taste for cultural artefacts from around the world” (Vertovec & Cohen 2008, 7). Interestingly enough, this list resonates with the list of ‘exotic’ souvenirs that Ali buys for Esi in Changes, as discussed in Chapter 1. By reducing ‘culture’ to brand names and consumer products, the list also indirectly subjects the notion of Afropolitanism to irony. With regard to Chikwava’s protagonist, it is certainly not surprising that his shallow interpretations of, and engagement in, transculturation do not change anything in his outsiderness. 5

Abject Unbelonging

Another instance of being on the ‘wrong’ side of the border is connected with the protagonist’s abjection. According to Julia Kristeva (1982, 1), the abject is “beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable”. In abjection, the subject struggles with “something rejected from which one does not part, from which one does not protect oneself as from an object” (Kristeva 1982, 4). Abjection, then, is not only revolting to the self, but also part of it. In this way, the abject represents a threat to the boundaries of the subject. As the subject cannot entirely rid itself from the abject, the latter continues to haunt the former. It is important to note that the abject and the subject are constructed dialogically: the identity of the subject relies on the partial rejection of the abject. Therefore, the fact that someone or something is deemed abject is equally telling of the construction of the (non-​abject) subject. In his article combining the seemingly incompatible concepts of abjection and cosmopolitanism,

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Peter Nyers (2003, 1075; emphasis in original) captures this dialogical dimension of abjection when he claims that the concept of abject cosmopolitanism “describes not a problematic cosmopolitanism for the abject, but rather a problematizing cosmopolitanism of the abject”. In other words, the abjection of “abject migrants, the cast-​offs of world order” (Nyers 2003, 1072) is equally revealing of the subject construction of the host societies who deem them as such in an attempt to exclude these abject subjects from their system. The uneasy dimension of the abject is embodied in the protagonist from the very beginning. When Sekai comes to fetch him from the airport she throws away the ground nuts that he has brought as a gift as they may “carry disease” (7). Moreover, Sekai forbids the protagonist from talking to anyone “because she think I [the narrator] end up embarrassing them” (22). In the eyes of his relatives, the protagonist’s provincialism, lack of education, and his uncritical support for the Mugabe regime contribute to his abjection. The relatives are of a higher level of education and they are critical of the ruling party and have managed to establish a relatively comfortable diasporic life in London. The protagonist is far distanced from their “aspir[ations] to middle-​class status” (Knudsen & Rahbek 2016, 275). He represents the kind of immigrant the relatives want to dissociate themselves from: an undocumented misfit unable to integrate into society. Becoming associated, through kinship and national affiliation, to the protagonist poses a threat to the London-​based relatives’ middle-​ class diasporic subjectivities. These are the logics of abjection that explain why he becomes immediately shut out of his relatives’ lives. It is not only in the eyes of his relatives that the protagonist is seen as an abject figure from whom one would rather distance oneself:  he encounters similar reactions in his interactions with other people as well. Not only is he looked at in a “funny” way, but also when he goes to a café, some customers change tables once they realise whom they are sitting next to. These incidents highlight the abject qualities of the protagonist in the eyes of Londoners. He is familiar with the “usual London way” of looking that tells him that he “is in the wrong place” (225) –​words that illustrate his total inability to claim the new environment as his home. At the fast-​food restaurant in which he works, a group of teenagers regularly comes in to mock him because his hygiene standards come across as questionable. That the teenagers leave the chips that they buy untouched highlights the protagonist’s abjection. As in the case of his relatives, it should be underlined that the protagonist’s abjection in the eyes of “quality people in nice clothes” (51) is actually telling of the identity construction of Londoners, including upwardly mobile diasporic Africans. Here, the protagonist’s abjection springs from his belonging to a class of uneducated, irregular African migrants who work in low-​paid, low-​esteemed sectors and

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164 Chapter 7 who often cross the border between wage labour and informal labour. People like the narrator are needed to do the nation’s dirty work, which sustains the very phenomenon of irregular migration the nation is simultaneously supposed to fight against. The racial dimensions of the protagonist’s abjection are conveyed in a passage in which he rides on a bus with Shingi. The bus, as a mobile public space, is one of the key sites for transcultural encounters in multicultural cities (Wilson 2010; Koefoed et al. 2017). By extension, public transport could be seen as a potential setting for “workings of multicultural intimacies” (Wilson 2010, 634) or even for cosmopolitan encounters. However, in Harare North the mobile public space of the London bus becomes a site for a somewhat uneasy encounter, which underlines the state of abjection to which the protagonist as a racialised illegal African migrant has been relegated. While on the bus, the protagonist and Shingi eat bread. A young child, accompanied by his mother, shows interest in the bread. When Shingi hands the child a piece of it, the protagonist observes “the look of horror” (137) on the mother’s face because she wants to prevent her son from eating. According to the protagonist, however, the mother is too “frightened of the racialism thing” to react, so she contents herself with “watch[ing] with sickly smile as she son hit the bread with more fire” (137). The irony here is directed at Western discourses of tolerance among the ‘aware’ members of society. This time, the protagonist’s awareness of the complexity of the situation enables him to benefit from his abjection to master the situation. Besides portraying public transport as an uneasy site for transcultural encounters, the passage also draws attention to the fact that the protagonist’s abjection is often associated with food. In the postcolonial context, food raises questions related to exoticism, consumption, and accommodation of Otherness (Kelly 2017, 23–​25). By associating the protagonist with inedible food, the text suggests that his difference cannot be properly accommodated by the host society. In this sense, the protagonist’s abjection can be interpreted as a condition that facilitates resistance. On a general scale, however, it has to be underlined that his abjection is not a resource but an inconvenience as it further distances him from cosmopolitan ideals. Toward the end of the novel, the protagonist is frequently portrayed inside the squat, sitting on his suitcase in front of the window, observing city life. Watching through the window what happens outside, he feels “like I  don’t belong to earth” (122), which explicitly conveys his sense of outsiderness and unbelonging. The old-​fashioned suitcase containing all his belongings is emptied in the course of his mental breakdown, and becomes the ultimate symbol for his abjection and homelessness in the world. The top surface of the suitcase, on which he sits, represents the restricted space that he can truly claim

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as home. The surface of the suitcase is also a symbol for the way in which his mobility has suddenly turned into a state of abject immobility: he has travelled to London, but is now unable to return to his home country. In this way, his current position is defined by a profound sense of homelessness. Of course, the idea of cosmopolitanism as a stance of being at home in the world has also been challenged. Thomas Bender (2017, 119), for instance, argues that cosmopolitanism, rather than being a condition in which one is at home everywhere, is probably more about not being at home anywhere and feeling “slightly uncomfortable, even at home”. However, in the case of Chikawava’s protagonist, his symbolic but eventually also material homelessness does not really embody the kind of positive, reflective sense of unease Bender is talking about. The protagonist’s ‘homelessness’ is a form of abject displacement which does not enable him to adopt a cosmopolitan perspective that will reach beyond the already familiar in any constructively uncomfortable way. Indeed, for Chikwava’s protagonist, London seems as hostile to him as he is uninterested in making it his home. The window through which he observes the city is a border that separates him from the life outside and that confines him in the troubled, clandestine space and the “ethnic enclave” (Werbner 2015, 572) that reluctantly plays the role of the domestic sphere by accommodating random people from the margins of society. From the perspective of the failure of cosmopolitan ideals, it is illustrative that the protagonist’s isolation from the world increases so that eventually he does not have any interaction with anyone. While already suffering from the symptoms of mental breakdown, he seems aware of his condition. He compares himself to an umgodoyi, a “homeless dog that roam them villages scavenging until brave villager relieve it of its misery by hit its head with rock. Umgodoyi have no home like the winds” (226). This comparison symbolises his abject unbelonging and underlines his mobile position as a wanderer “without dignity and community” (Harris 2020, 92). The optimistic, hopeful aspects and the idea(l) of freedom that partly inform the figure of the ‘adventurer’ in Kanor’s novel are totally absent here. Chikawava’s protagonist’s balancing between sanity and insanity is conveyed in the way in which he no longer walks on the pavements but on the white line in the middle of the streets –​an element that Zoë Wicomb (2015, 58) interprets as him “positioning himself in placelessness”, but that can also be interpreted as a particularly suicidal mobility practice. The novel ends with the protagonist walking half-​naked in the streets of Brixton, stripped of any valid identity. He is a travesty of the figure of the flâneur, which is a distant, privileged (white male) observer of the urban life and a variation of the traditional figure of the cosmopolitan as outlined by Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin (see Vermeulen 2013, 41). Chikwava’s

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166 Chapter 7 protagonist’s flagrant abjection and his condition of insanity also exclude him from the category of the black flâneur, who occupies a less secured place in the urban space because of his race than his white counterpart, but who, because of this not self-​chosen condition of alienation, has the ability to expose the colonialist and racist logics of the postcolonial city (Aatkar 2020; Harwiger 2016; Minnaard 2013; Vermeulen 2013). As an abject version of the black flâneur, Chikwava’s protagonist is clearly not in the position of “read[ing] the city contrapuntally through the histories, lives, and deaths of marginalised and disenfranchised populations alongside dominant narratives” (Harwiger 2016, 2) as Teju Cole’s protagonist Julius does in Open City (2012). The marginalisation of Chikwava’s protagonist is too overwhelming for him to be able to adopt the position of an enlightened, critical observer. Moreover, Chikwava’s protagonist is a portrayal of a mobile African that stands in blatant contrast to the figure of the Afropolitan. It also emphasises that sometimes homelessness in the world does not generate a fruitful or constructive sense of unease that informs cosmopolitanism’s relation with novelty or difference (see Bender 2017, 117) but simply signals one’s total exclusion from the orbit of cosmopolitanism. 6

Conclusion: Cosmopolitanism’s Breakdown

Cosmopolitanism is often too readily associated with transnational mobility. While mobility in some form is, indeed, a crucial element of cosmopolitanism, I would argue that more relevant for cosmopolitanism than mobility per se is the ability to cross borders. Borders, in this case, are less topographical than symbolic and cultural –​the sort of borders that enable or impede transcultural encounters and exposure to newness and alterity. Harare North is a novel that articulates the difficulty of border crossings in the context of Afroeuropean irregular mobility: if borders are frequently conceived simultaneously as both bridges and walls, as Johan Schimanski and Stephen Wolfe (2007, 17)  suggest, then clearly in the case of Harare North’s protagonist they are more likely to perform the function of the wall. National, linguistic, and cultural borders prove to be insurmountable for underprivileged mobile subjects, in addition to which there may be ideological borders that these mobile subjects themselves are unwilling to cross. The inability and unwillingness of Chikwava’s protagonist to cross borders is symptomatic of the failure of cosmopolitan ideals –​ideals from which his abject, underprivileged position effectively distances him. By drawing attention to the abject dimensions of contemporary African mobilities, Harare North does not simply expose the rather obvious limits of

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the figure of the Afropolitan but it also highlights the conceptual emptiness of Afropolitanism. Even more importantly, the novel attests to the fact that crossing cultural boundaries and adopting cosmopolitan sensibilities is neither consistently easy nor necessarily even desired by those on the move. In so doing, Harare North articulates the “breakdown of cosmopolitan aspirations” (Stević & Tsang 2019, 8) in a world in which the ‘stranger’ is already among us but with whom we fail to engage in a dialogue in a constructive way.

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­c hapter 8

Arrested Clandestine Odysseys in Sefi Atta’s “Twilight Trek” and Marie NDiaye’s Trois femmes puissantes From the European anti-​immigration perspective, the mediatised images of African clandestine migrants crammed onto rickety boats on the Mediterranean or crossing the fences in the Spanish enclaves embody the idea of how some forms of global mobility become defined as “threatening, transgressive, and abject” (Cresswell 2006, 178). The faceless and nameless masses of aspiring African migrants are seen as unwanted invaders, a threat to Europe’s cultural, social and economic integrity. They do not seem to be linked to Europe in any way –​despite the historical and contemporary entanglements of the two continents in terms of the slave trade, colonialism, and development aid (see Olaussen 2009, ix). Nor are the geographic boundaries between Africa and Europe self-​evident, as the case of the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco suggests: such places are concrete examples of “Africa in Europe and Europe in Africa” (Thomas 2013, 163; emphasis original). Yet, the frontier represented by the Mediterranean has become a “materialization of authority” that freezes the two continents’ entanglement “into quarantined realms” (Chambers 2008, 3, 6). Indeed, as not only individual nations but also the European Union as a whole have taken concrete measures to regulate and control migrant mobilities on their (fluid) borders, the concept of ‘Fortress Europe’ has become particularly pertinent in recent years (see Thomas 2014).1 If Fortress Europe perceives contemporary boat people as a threat, liberal and humanitarian discourses see them in a different light: they wish to restore the humanity of the migrants (Zembylas 2010, 31). This implies that the clandestine travellers are seen mainly as victims to be pitied. 1 As far as the EU is concerned, these mechanisms include eurosur surveillance, which aims at preventing illegal migration and maximising the benefits of migration; the European pact on Immigration and Asylum which aims at enhancing a common immigration policy; and frontex which establishes and promotes a common border management strategy and strategies for the repatriation of illegals (Thomas 2014, 457–​458). As Thomas (2014, 447) maintains, these exclusionary mechanisms play a role in the construction of “a sense of shared [European] identity”: they “have fastened on the non-​Europeanness of Third Country Nationals or non-​EU foreign nationals rather than circumscribing the contours of an identity through recourse to affirmative points of commonality”.

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If the perspective is shifted, the meaning of the mediatised images of undocumented migrant travellers changes. When these images are exposed to the gaze of those who nurture hopes of emigrating, the clandestine travellers entering European territory are the lucky ones; they are those who have arrived (see Poeze 2013, 63). From this perspective, the boundary embodied by the Mediterranean represents an opportunity, and those who have reached Europe are far from being victims. The idea of clandestine African travellers as adventurers, which is manifest in Francophone African literary texts addressing Afroeuropean migrant mobilities (see Mazauric 2016), attests to this shift of perspective from victimhood to agency. With respect to these multiple readings, it is helpful to understand the complex and contradictory meanings of the Mediterranean (see Boletsi, Houwen, & Minnaard 2020, 10; Wihtol de Wenden 2017, 78): the Mediterranean is “a privileged site for exploring global dynamics, containing both proximity and distance, constituting a link but also an obstacle and barrier”, as Dominic Thomas notes (2013, 162), or as a space of “polyphonic quality” that “displays a tendency to produce dissonance”, as Alessandra Di Maio (2013, 42) formulates it.2 Undocumented migration from Sub-​Saharan Africa to Europe has been narrativised in recent African and Afrodiasporic fiction, for example by Fatou Diome in Celles qui attendent (2010), Fabienne Kanor in Faire l’aventure (2013), Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s Silence du chœur (2017), and Marc Alexandre Oho Bambe’s Les Lumières d’Oujda (2020).3 In these texts, clandestine migrant travel is represented as a very specific, precarious and time-​consuming form of mobility or “stepwise journeys” (Schapendonk 2013, 11) where the initial itinerary is subject to continuous revision and where the destination may remain unattainable despite all of the resources invested.4

2 In addition to the Mediterranean, the Sahara region can also be seen in this double role of constituting a barrier and a bridge (Scheele & McDougall 2012, 4–​7). Much like the Mediterranean, the Sahara has also been marked by historical mobilities and the processes of transculturation that these mobilities entail (see Scheele & McDougall 2012; Triulzi 2013, 217–​218). 3 In Moroccan literature, the question of Mediterranean crossings has been widely addressed since the 1990s. According to Hakim Abderrezak (2009, 462), such literary works form a “particular sub-​genre of migrant literature” which he calls “illiterature”. Abderrezak cites an extensive list of literary texts belonging to this genre. While Sub-​Saharan African (diasporic) literatures frequently discuss clandestine migration, the loci of the texts is not that often the Mediterranean. 4 This feature also informs ‘real world’ clandestine migrant journeys between Africa and Europe (Schapendonk 2012, 121).

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170 Chapter 8 In this chapter, I  discuss Sefi Atta’s short story “Twilight Trek” (2010) together with the third section of Marie NDiaye’s triptych novel Trois femmes puissantes (2009) by focusing on their representations of the precarious and fragmented itineraries of undocumented migrants from the African continent toward Europe.5 In both texts, the travellers come from Sub-​Saharan Africa: in NDiaye’s text, the point of departure is Senegal, whereas in Atta’s short story the protagonist’s national affiliation is most likely Nigeria. The travellers’ destination is Europe, supposedly reached through the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco and by traversing the Mediterranean, much in the spirit of “Barcelone ou la mort”, as articulated by Senegalese emigrants in Diome’s Celles qui attendent (117). Yet, unlike Diome’s Celles qui attendent, Kanor’s Faire l’aventure, Sarr’s Silence du chœur or Oho Bambe’s Les Lumières d’Oujda, in which the clandestine adventurers succeed in their attempt to reach Europe and sometimes become representatives of popular cosmopolitanism, as discussed by Achille Mbembe (2008, 109), Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts foreground journeys of non-​arrival, that is, the failure to reach the intended destination. In other words, Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts do not focus on arrival in European territory –​often naïvely conceived of as an Eldorado in the African imaginary (Thomas 2013, 162) –​and hence they miss the hardships encountered there. Instead, they address an aspect of the clandestine journey that is less visible and spectacle-​like from the European perspective, which tends to be obsessed 5 The categorisation of Marie NDiaye as an ‘African writer’ and Trois femmes puissantes as an ‘African novel’ that this chapter performs is admittedly problematic. The transnationalisation of African literatures has complicated such classifications for most ‘African’ authors, but in NDiaye’s case, the question seems to be even more complex. Earlier in her career NDiaye  –​a daughter of a white French mother and a black Senegalese father, born and raised in France –​was eager to dissociate herself from ‘Africanness’ (Asibong 2013, Marie, 6–​8; Moudileno 2011, 70; Thomas 2013, 142). Such avoidance of ethnic labelling also marks her production in the 1980s and 1990s, and it was not until the novel Rosie Carpe in 2001 that NDiaye’s texts became more explicit in their representations of ‘black’ subjects (Asibong, 2013, Marie, 30; Moudileno 2009). The shift “towards the provision of shapes, names and signifiers for those aspects of existence which had previously eluded representation provides opportunities for a more directly politicized and therapeutic writing”, as Asibong (2013, Marie, 73) suggests. It is also against this backdrop that Trois femmes puissantes can be seen as NDiaye’s most ‘African’ novel (Moudileno 2011, 72; see also Thomas 2013, 114). As Asibong (2013, “Spectacle”, 392) argues, Trois femmes puissantes marks “NDiaye’s first real failure to win (the perhaps impossible) game of nuanced cultural representation on her own terms”–​ and this partly because of the exoticising dimensions in the novel’s marketing process and reception. While one can easily agree with Asibong on the necessity to challenge the conception of Trois femmes puissantes as “a single, coherent, realistic novel ‘about’ ‘strong’ ‘African’ ‘women’ ” (Asibong 2013, “Spectacle”, 388), it should be noted that the novel does not actively resist being read as an African diasporic text.

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with “the macabre effects of the clandestine passages […] that enflame fears of conquest” (Abderrezak 2009, 467). The aspect in question is the risky journey through the desert that is required in order to reach the Spanish enclaves and the Mediterranean shores. Trying to reach the Mediterranean, clandestine migrants face physical frontiers that challenge their freedom of movement, thus exemplifying how in the contemporary globalised world the right to be mobile “increasingly runs up against borders, confines, and controls of a profound ‘unfreedom’ ” (Chambers 2008, 3). The notion of ‘unfreedom’ is particularly pertinent in the context of the present study: freedom is the prerequisite for cosmopolitan ‘world citizenship’ simply because one has to be able to cross borders in order to encounter the world and the Other (Agier 2017, 155). While underprivileged forms of mobility such as refugeedom, asylum-​ seeking, and undocumented migration have increasingly attracted attention in the fields of postcolonial and African literary studies (see, e.g., Abderrezak 2009; Calargé 2015; Helff 2009; Nyman, “Refugees”, 2009, Home, 2009, 127–​144; 2017, 37–​55; Omuteche 2014), some forms of (coerced) mobilities still remain overshadowed. A case in point is intracontinental migrant mobilities, as Sydoine Moudoma Moudouma (2013, 1) has pointed out (see also Fasselt 2019).6 The precarious, arrested journeys across the Sahara, as narrativised by Atta and NDiaye, can be classified as intracontinental travel, but there is a certain twist to this: their unattainable destination is extra-​continental. At the more relaxed end of contemporary African mobilities, there is, of course, the figure of the Selasian (2005) Afropolitan. The position of this affluent, Africa-​affiliated ‘business class cosmopolitan’ is clearly constructed in opposition to less privileged mobile subjects, who represent a “mote in the eye of cosmopolitanism” because of their inability to “enter the orbit of cosmopolitanism” (Gikandi 2010, 23, 28). These “rejects of failed states” (Gikandi 2010, 23) occupy an abject mobile position that attests to the observation that, while “the cosmopolitan is at home everywhere, the abject have been jettisoned, forced out into a life of displacement” (Nyers 2003, 1073). As discussed in the previous chapter, the abject is something revolting to the self, but also paradoxically part of it (Kristeva 1982, 4). As such, the abject poses a threat to the boundaries of the self. As the process of exclusion remains necessarily imperfect, the abject haunts the system 6 Moreover, the study of postcolonial African mobilities tends to focus on migration from Africa to Europe from the perspective of those who leave. For a study of how different aspects of emigration are represented in different Senegalese cultural products, see Rofheart 2014.

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172 Chapter 8 that has cast it aside. With respect to clandestine migrant mobilities, which are often conceived as specifically ‘abject’ forms of mobility, it must be emphasised that abjection is not an attribute of the underprivileged postcolonial mobile subject as such. Rather, abjection is revealing of the processes of exclusion that are central in the making of non-​abject –​in this case, white European or privileged Afropolitan –​subjectivities. Such an understanding of abject mobility emphasises the way in which the abject and the subject are constructed dialogically. In other words, abjection is an element that also marks ‘non-​abject’ societies and mobilities since their identity is built on the partial exclusion of their ‘abject’ counterparts. While Atta’s and NDiaye’s clandestine travellers never truly enter the orbit of cosmopolitanism, they do nevertheless, indirectly and in spite of themselves, attract attention to the failures of cosmopolitanism and expose the logics of exclusion that inform not only the contemporary context of Afroeuropean migrant mobilities but also the construction of the concept of Afropolitanism (see also Musila 2016, 11). By reading cosmopolitanism through its contemporary shortcomings, it is possible to understand “global crises […] as catalysts of a […] critical cosmopolitanism” (Shaw 2017, 2). Indeed, from a critical perspective, literature is a space not only for imagining cosmopolitan futures (Spencer 2011, 11; Shaw 2017, 4) but also for drawing attention to its limits in the globalised postcolonial present. The bolstering of borders and the discourses of fear that the ‘migrant crisis’ generates attest to the fact that our reality is certainly not cosmopolitan. Indeed, as Aleksandar Stević and Philip Tsang (2019, 1) put it, “If we understand it as a political and ethical stance, cosmopolitanism seems to be in retreat” (see also Schoene 2010, 5). This has become even clearer in the aftermath of the 2015 ‘migrant crisis’, which has challenged ideas and the self-​image of Europe as a cosmopolitan safe haven (Robbins & Lemos Horta 2017, 8). In Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts, the collapse of cosmopolitanism is not as such a question of “failed cosmopolitan conviviality” (Mendes 2019, 53) but that of the clandestine travellers’ total exclusion from the orbit of cosmo/​ Afropolitanism. Symptomatic of this exclusion, the climax of the migratory endeavour –​arrival in Europe –​remains out of reach for Atta’s and NDiaye’s protagonists. Their mobility is characterised by a stagnation that is a rather bleak manifestation of those postcolonial theoretical concepts that convey an “optimistic and celebratory view of globalization” such as liminality, hybridity or in-​between-​ness (Gikandi 2001, 629–​630). The characters seem trapped in spaces supposed to be only temporary, intermediate stopping points, such as migration camps, where they stay “without […] recognition beyond that of being a nameless guest worker or ‘illegal’ immigrant,

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condemned to inhabit the discarded regions of the abject” (Chambers 2008, 3). In effect, Atta’s and NDiaye’s protagonists do not even qualify as undocumented immigrants in the sense that they fail to reach their destination. With regard to the postponed nature of their mobility, it is significant that the journeys undertaken by both Atta’s and NDiaye’s protagonists come to their ends at migration camps: an intermediate stopping point becomes the destination itself. The migration camp is a powerful symbol for the abject stagnation-​in-​movement sort of condition to which the protagonists’ mobility is reduced (see Wihtol de Wenden 2017, 30). Moreover, the notion of the camp attests to the fragmented nature of Afroeuropean migratory journeys in terms of the mobility/​immobility nexus (Schapendonk 2012, 119), and draws attention to the discrepancy between voluntary (im)mobilities and involuntary (im)mobilities (Schapendonk 2013, 15). To pay attention to such arrested forms of mobility is to acknowledge the diversity of contemporary African mobilities as well as the fact that not all travel in the global era is straightforward and unimpeded. As literary representations of African clandestine migrant mobilities towards the Mediterranean, the narrative voices of “Twilight Trek” and Trois femmes puissantes differ significantly from each other. In Atta’s short story, there is a humorous, ironic undercurrent in the narrative tone –​typical of that author’s style in general –​which not only conveys a light-​hearted overall impression but also subjects the protagonist-​narrator to mockery and offers a wider perspective for observing his musings from a critical distance. On the other hand, NDiaye’s lyrical narrative voice captures the struggle and isolation that the protagonist endures, while also conveying NDiaye’s “fondness of the unreal” with its mythical and fairytale-​like elements (Asibong 2013, “Spectacle”, 396). Despite these differences, the manner in which these texts represent the Afro-​Mediterranean context of clandestine mobility share similarities in terms of imagery. Tropes pertaining to identity, mobility, and slavery recur throughout the texts. Together, these tropes form, first of all, an imagery that captures the vulnerable essence of clandestine travel. Secondly, they draw attention to how this very specific context of mobility obstructs the agency and identity of the travellers so that their determination to be the self-​made heroes or heroines of their own story is problematised. In this sense, Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts can be read as tragedies, defined by David Scott (2004, 159) as follows: In tragedy we […] see the ways in which acting in the world obliges us to expose ourselves to conditions and consequences not entirely of our

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174 Chapter 8 own choosing. Tragedy […] raises significant questions about the extent to which we are […] the masters and mistresses of our ends.7 The tragic quality of the texts is a feature that, for the most part, only the reader can perceive; the protagonists themselves refuse –​or are unable –​to see the limits of their agency. The narratives draw the reader’s attention to the contextual factors that both limit and produce contemporary African clandestine mobile subjectivities. 1

Erased Identities

Falsified travel documents, an essential element of clandestine travel, feature in NDiaye’s and Atta’s fictional illegal itineraries. Clandestine migrants often get rid of their identity documents in order to avoid the risk of being deported. In North Africa, this activity is referred to as ‘burning’ (Arabic ‘harg’), in the course of which identity papers are destroyed and even fingertips burned (Triulzi 2013, 214).8 Forged passports, on the other hand, not only produce new identities but also erase the original ones. As Lily Cho (2014, 336) points out, the passport is essentially “a document of suspicion rather than recognition” in the sense that it has to be produced “where there is cause, imagined or otherwise, for suspicion”. By getting rid of their passports or by resorting to forged documents, clandestine migrants negotiate with this logic of suspicion. In Atta’s short story, the young protagonist-​narrator hides his true identity not only from his fellow travellers but also from the reader. In the opening sentence he is introduced to the reader in terms of who his newly acquired fake passport claims him to be, but who in reality he is not: “[M]‌y name is not Jean-​Luc, I’m not from Mali and I’m definitely no Francophone African” (81). As the story develops, the reader learns more about the protagonist, but it is noteworthy that any information that would be relevant from the perspective of a (genuine) identity document, such as name, age, or nationality, is not shared. While 7 Scott understands tragedy as a mode of emplotment that is particularly illustrative of the postcolonial era, which witnessed the loss of credibility of romantic anti-​colonial narratives of vindication, promising a new beginning beyond the grip of colonialism. According to Scott (2004, 168) “the mode of emplotment of tragedy comports better [than romance] with a time of postcolonial crisis in which old horizons have collapsed and new ones have not yet taken shape”. This element of uncertainty characterises the texts under examination. 8 The term ‘harg’, burning, also refers to crossing the border illegally, as in the sense of ‘burning’ a traffic light as a gesture of ignoring and challenging imposed rules/​borders (Triulzi 2013, 214).

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he is from an Anglophone country that is probably Nigeria, he distances himself from this national affiliation by claiming that “Nigerians are an arrogant lot” (90). If the protagonist is Nigerian, this ironic distance from his national identity stems from his being of mixed origin, which renders him ‘less African’ than his black compatriots. His not being ‘entirely African’ and the assumed exclusion that this generates suggest that his mobile pursuit is motivated by his being rejected by his home country and community. Moreover, to share with the reader only incorrect personal details printed in a fake passport is a narrative strategy that highlights the vacillating nature of a mobile clandestine identity, the fruit of a dubious creativity (see Wihtol de Wenden 2017, 60). While the narrator refuses to reveal his true identity, he nevertheless identifies himself as one of the “illegals” (81). The narrator refers to the “illegals” in the first person plural, which signals that he embraces this newly discovered, yet ephemeral, collective identity. By including himself in the anonymous crowd of “illegals” and referring to the group as “Africans like us” (81), the narrator voluntarily identifies himself in the banal imagery of undocumented migrants as non-​persons (see Lombardi-​Diop 2008, 165). There is an element of light-​heartedness in his appropriation of such rather degrading identification that suggests a certain level of subversion:  by turning an appellation invested with negative meanings into an ironic self-​identification, the narrator claims at least some level of discursive power. Yet, interestingly enough, the protagonist also draws an ironic picture of his travel companions. When travelling in a truck that is supposed to take him across the desert, he reduces his fellow-​travellers to a list of caricatures: “[P]‌assenger one, tattered shoes; two, greasy skullcap; three, lopsided headscarf; four, chapped lips; five, gold chain and red eyes. Nothing new” (84). In his description, the other passengers are a mess of disconnected body parts and ragged clothing. In the course of doing this, the narrator adds an ironic, self-​aware twist to the stereotypical picture of illegal African migrants as faceless masses. In addition to the issues related to his possibly interracial background, the narrator also suffers from confusion concerning his gender and sexual identities. This confusion partly motivates his clandestine pursuit. The confusion stems from the protagonist’s childhood, when his prostitute mother dressed him up like a girl and tried to pimp him to a man with a taste for “light-​skinned boys” (82). This memory haunts the protagonist in the present. For instance, when he embezzled the money he gained from drug trafficking, his boss threatened to send a gang to rape and kill him: “Death I could live with, but I couldn’t afford to be tampered with like that, against my will” (81). He fantasises about “prov[ing] [his] manhood” (86) with Patience, a Cameroonian prostitute he meets in the course of his journey. He tries to mask his sexual confusion and

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176 Chapter 8 lack of experience by talking about himself as if he were an accomplished womaniser, using terms like “pretty chick” (83) and arguing that he “like[s]‌his women African” (90). Patience belittles the narrator’s bluster and claims to be old enough to be his mother, in addition to which the self-​proclaimed boss of the migration camp refers to Patience as the narrator’s “mummy” (97). This suggests that the clandestine journey may not be enough, so to speak, to make a man out of the protagonist. The gender complexity is interesting in the sense that in the real-​life context, African clandestine migration –​or the practice of ‘adventuring’ –​is coded mainly as a masculine endeavour. The naive and slightly contemptuous narrator sees the travelling pursuit as an adventure –​much like Biram in Kanor’s Faire l’aventure, as demonstrated in Chapter 5 (see also Mazauric 2016). He has relatively dispassionate plans to become a soccer player and “getting a white woman” (86) once he arrives in Europe. The fact that the boys with whom he used to play football mocked his talents by calling him Pele [sic] and that the narrator does not even seem to recognise the name of the iconic soccer player, suggests that he is probably not a great player or even really that much of a fan of the sport either. This exposes the shallowness of his alleged professional pursuit. In light of his gender/​sexual confusion, the protagonist’s aim to migrate into Europe represents an attempt to rid himself of his identity crisis: for him, Europe is an Eldorado where he can pursue dreams of a sports career and white women, stereotypical elements in the construction of hegemonic black masculinity. In this sense, the planned clandestine journey to Europe is not uniquely an instance of erasure of identity (falsified passport) but also an instance of the hope of regaining identity (hegemonic heterosexual masculinity). This sort of interplay between a former identity that one wishes to leave behind and the identity that the traveller wishes to acquire in the pursued “better place” captures the transitory, in-​flux character of the clandestine mobile position (Lewis Cusato 2019, 126, 129; see also Agier 2017, 77). To be duped by a woman at the end of the story constitutes a serious setback for the protagonist’s masculine pursuit: ‘real’ men are supposed to be adventuresome in Eldorado, not held captive in a state of stagnation. It is also noteworthy that the protagonist’s naïve, materialistic dreams of a life in Europe challenges and ridicules the romanticised idea that underprivileged migrants would somehow automatically form a class of contemporary, non-​elite cosmopolitans (see Pollock et al. 2002, 6). For Atta’s protagonist, cosmopolitan ideals such as openness to the world and understanding one’s own place in this wider planetary context are clearly beyond his interest –​and his reach. In the third section of NDiaye’s triptych, the protagonist struggles against the erasure of her identity. Khady Demba refuses to acknowledge her abjection

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in the eyes of others. She wants to be a subject named Khady Demba, not a childless widow in a society in which motherhood is the measure of a woman’s worth; and not a prostitute suffering from venereal diseases or an illegal invader trying to set foot on European soil. This refusal seems to constitute the strength of Khady Demba that the novel’s title alludes to. At the same time, however, this refusal is also a marker of her inability to “engage successfully with the world around [her]” (Ledent 2014, 108)  –​a feature that Bénédicte Ledent attributes to the “literary autism” of the narrative. From the viewpoint of cosmopolitanism, this failure to engage with the world is symptomatic of Khady Demba’s inability to enter the cosmopolitan orbit and its ideals of openness to the world –​a world that from the very outset seems to exclude abject travellers like her. As critics have observed, the narrative’s repetition of the name “Khady Demba” functions as a means of highlighting the protagonist’s singularity and humanity (Jordan 2013, 272–​273; Ledent 2014, 106; Moudileno 2013, 69–​ 70), as a consequence of which the protagonist’s identity is not really called into question (Parent 2013, 85). This is a powerful narrative strategy, especially in the context of undocumented migration whereby the migrant’s original identity is often erased along with his or her identity documents. By repeating the protagonist’s name in its entirety, the narrative conveys the idea that undocumented migrants do indeed have individual faces, names, and histories, despite the fact that from the perspective of European border control they are reduced to a menacing, anonymous crowd of non-​persons without rights; that is, a mere biological life (see Papastergiadis 2006, 435). From this perspective, NDiaye’s story can be seen as “humanizing individual and collective experience” in the Afroeuropean context of clandestine migrant mobilities  –​an ethical effort that Dominic Thomas (2013, 163, 168) calls for. Such an effort, according to Hakim Abderrezak (2009, 467), lies at the core of the political engagement of the literary genre of “illiterature” focusing on illegal migration across the Mediterranean. However, one could also raise the question of whether NDiaye’s or Atta’s protagonists even ask to be ‘humanised’. Khady Demba’s unconditional refusal to subject her ‘true’ identity to erasure suggests that she rejects the reader’s benevolent feelings of pity. In a similar vein, the ironic way in which Atta’s protagonist embraces his clandestine anonymity vitiates any attempt to see him as a mere victim. However, Khady Demba’s refusal to subject her identity to erasure can also be read as an instance of deceptive ‘strength’. As Anne Martine Parent (2013, 87–​88) suggests, Khady’s identity is perhaps not called into question simply because there is no one else to do so, given her extreme isolation and exclusion from both familial and social structures. This invites the reader to

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178 Chapter 8 see the tragic essence of Khady’s ‘strength’. In effect, Khady Demba is the tragic antithesis of the figure of the Afropolitan: a discarded abject unable to claim the world as her home –​or to articulate an ironic sense of cosmopolitan detachment from national and cultural structures of belonging. Khady Demba insists on being the hero of her own story even when the idea of substantial agency is compromised as a result of the nature of her mobility. In this sense, the text invites the reader to think about the “limits of empathy” (see Thomas 2013, 166). Moreover, as Andrew Asibong (2013, Marie, 102) points out, Khady’s ‘strength’ is “so blandly and skimpily drawn” that it ends up being unconvincing. Reading Trois femmes puissantes against the context of NDiaye’s previous work marked by what he calls blankness, Asibong (2013, Marie, 103) finds it “problematic […] how much the figure of the dark-​skinned Khady Demba is made to ‘carry’, in terms of physical destruction and accompanying ideological ‘optimism’ ”. According to Asibong (2013, Marie, 103), as a result of this combination of excessive suffering and ‘strength’ the figure of Khady ends up being a mere “condescendingly Africanized […] projection”. Indeed, the contradiction and excess disturb the reader’s empathetic aspirations. As a fictional construct, the figure of Khady Demba may not be as ‘sincere’ as it first seems:  by mimicking the stereotypical trope of ‘the African woman’ as both excessively suffering and excessively strong, it exposes and challenges the stereotype itself. In this way it also puts a well-​intentioned reader’s empathy to the test. In a similar vein, Atta’s text points out the limits of imagining oneself in another’s shoes, so to speak. Atta’s ‘hero’ does not engender feelings of empathy in the reader, nor does the narrative romanticise him as a clandestine migrant. Both NDiaye’s and Atta’s texts go beyond the agenda of ‘humanising’ clandestine migrant travellers and lead the reader into a disturbing terrain where such benevolent intentions are challenged. With regard to NDiaye’s protagonist’s struggle against the erasure of identity, it is logical that when Khady receives from her travel companion a forged passport bearing the name “Bintou Thiam”, she feels that her subjectivity is jeopardised: “Elle se sentit fugacement redevenir faible, tributaire de la détermination et des connaissances d’autrui comme des intentions indécelables qu’on nourrissait à son propos” (291) “She felt fleetingly that she was becoming feeble again and subject to the decisions, knowledge and indiscernible intentions of others” (254). Unlike Atta’s narrator, whose identity relies on the false personal details in his passport, for NDiaye’s protagonist, ‘Bintou Thiam’ is not an identity to be embraced or assumed. Significantly, the name ‘Bintou Thiam’ features only once in the narrative. This conveys the idea of an available new identity that the protagonist rejects without a second thought. By rejecting this new identity, the protagonist symbolically refuses to be identified as an illegal

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migrant, a faceless African intruder in the eyes of Europe. In this she differs from Atta’s protagonist. While Khady Demba actively refuses to subject her identity to erasure, her journey is marked by unintentionality and by dependence on others’ actions.9 She is on the move because it has been so decided by her relatives, and she relies on her travelling companion’s goodwill and knowledge when it comes to the travel arrangements. By embodying such contradictions, the figure of Khady draws the reader’s attention to the complexities of clandestine migrant mobilities, which are as much about intentional choices as they are about coincidence. Due to the complexity of the figure of Khady, the narrative refuses to represent undocumented African migrants as either mere victims or as agents of their own destinies. The erasure of identity that marks the clandestine condition is also conveyed in NDiaye’s portrayal of Khady’s travelling companions. With the exception of Lamine, the rest of the aspiring migrants with whom Khady travels are represented as a faceless crowd. After betraying Khady by stealing her money, even Lamine becomes a faceless and nameless memory in the protagonist’s mind (308, 313) –​an erased identity that he concretely assumes later, when he makes his way to France as a paperless immigrant. The other travellers are depicted as “visages gommés par le soir, sans âge ni traits” (275) “faces erased by the evening, without age or features”.10 The protagonist is unwilling to identify herself in their anonymity, and there seems to be only a trivial connection between herself and the others. There is an instance when she momentarily recognises her own condition in that of the other travellers: “[E]‌lle ressembl[ait] maintenant de plus en plus à ces êtres égarés, faméliques, aux gestes lents” (310) “she now looked more and more like the lost, sluggish, scrawny creatures” (271). This perception places the focus on the corporeal materiality of their existence, and thus resonates with stereotypical representations of illegal migrants as a mere anonymous mass of biological life (see Papastergiadis 2006, 435). However, she is quick to differentiate herself from their anonymous predicament, which is reduced to a tormented corporeality; she has an identity to assume: “Entre eux et moi, quelle différence essentielle? […] C’est que je suis, moi, Khady Demba!” (310) “Between them and me, what difference, basically? […] That’s because I’m me, Khady Demba!” (271) 9 10

The fact that the decision to leave is not made by Khady herself draws attention to the complex factors that motivate irregular migration from Africa to Europe (see Poeze 2013, 63–​64). The paragraph in which the quote should feature has been omitted from the English translation of the novel. The translation of this quote is therefore my own.

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180 Chapter 8 2

Tropes of Mobility: Shoes, Trucks, and Boats

In their representations of clandestine migrant journeys, Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts exhibit a set of metonymies of mobility pertaining to human travel, including shoes (flip-​flops and sneakers), trucks, and boats. In Atta’s short story, the narrator-​protagonist has enough money to pay for his journey across the desert, so his sneakers are not his main vehicle of transport until he has to cross a mountain in order to get to the migration camp in Tangiers. It is revealing of his economic resources that it is only at this point that he has sore feet. He removes his sneakers once he and Patience are installed in their tent. While the pair of sneakers is not that important a vehicle for movement, they nevertheless play a central role in the protagonist’s mobility, since he hides his money in them. The fact that he feels obliged to wear his sneakers while sleeping conveys the precarious nature of his journey, which may stagnate at any moment. He pays for Patience’s boat ride to Spain, revealing to her his stash of money. They agree that Patience will go to Tangiers to find a smuggler, but she never returns, leaving the protagonist with “too much space” in his sneakers (97). Toward the end of the story, when the protagonist finally fathoms Patience’s betrayal, he notices a solitary sandal drifting among the discarded objects left behind in the camp by travellers who are still able to continue their journey. The apparent fragility of the odd sandal symbolises the protagonist’s arrested and now horizonless journey: without his savings, he is just as vulnerable to the journey’s risks as bare feet in a pair of flip-​flops. The discarded sandal and the sneaker emptied of its contents can be read as what Jopi Nyman (2009, “Refugees”, 250–​251) has referred to as the symbolic expression of liminality that is typical of narratives of forced migration. Symbolic liminality is a notion that captures the “sense of exile and exhaustion [that] creates an uncanny sense of in-​betweenness” (Nyman 2009, “Refugees”, 251). The sneakers end up embodying the precarious nature of the journey rather than symbolising movement itself. In Atta’s short story, a more central role as a trope of mobility is accorded to the truck. The aspiring migrants have paid desert nomads to drive them across the Sahara in “small trucks with tarpaulin covers” (84). The tarpaulin covers, together with the guides’ warnings about bandits and fatal breakdowns, convey an impression of the precariousness of the attempt. At the same time, however, the passengers seem convinced that they will reach their destination, as reflected in the narrator’s comment that they do not “scramble” for the trucks since they “all believe [they]’ll get in one way or another” (84). After travelling for two days, the protagonist observes deserted trucks stuck in the sand, and starts to doubt whether they will get to Morocco after all.

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When they finally reach the migration camp near Tangiers, the need for a new vehicle arises. The narrator climbs a cliff with Obazee, a self-​proclaimed camp boss, in order to witness the geographical nearness of Spain. To be able to “see Spain” (92) does not mean, however, that “El Dorado” (92) will be reachable, as the protagonist will soon learn not only from Obazee but also from his own experience. The boat trope becomes relevant when Obazee presents the narrator with the options for reaching Spain –​either by land through Ceuta or by sea across the Straits of Gibraltar. At this point, as the protagonist still has all his finances, crossing the sea does not seem to be an insurmountable effort for him; he can even afford to select the safest means of transportation available. With all the money stored in his sneakers, the Mediterranean is no obstacle, but the logical next step in the protagonist’s unlikely plan to become a soccer star in Europe. When he is finally forced to admit to himself that Patience has betrayed his confidence, he expresses the wish: “I hope she drowns” (98) –​words whose cruel irony is evident in light of the drownings in the Mediterranean of aspiring African migrants. Unlike Atta’s protagonist, Khady Demba is supposed to travel by boat on the Atlantic Ocean in order to reach North Africa or the Canary Islands, like many Senegalese aspiring migrants in a real-​life context. This plan, imposed on the protagonist by her relatives, is compromised as soon as Khady realises the unsound condition of the boat. Escaping the boat journey represents an instance of Khady’s momentary initiative –​for which she is immediately punished, since she hurts her leg on a protruding nail. This causes a calf wound which will torment her for the remainder of her journey. At their first encounter, Lamine is terrified at the sight of Khady’s calf wound. Symptomatic of her refusal to see her own abjection, Khady takes a look at the wound too, “un peu contrariée” (285) “a bit peeved” (249). The image of the repulsive, stinking wound, with its “deux morceaux de chair […] nettement séparés” (287) “two pieces of flesh […] clearly separated” (251) embodies Khady’s division into her ‘real’ self and her abject condition that she refuses to see. At the same time, her escape from the boat can be interpreted as a rejection of the Middle Passage parallel (see Lombardi-​Diop 2008), and the sudden joy she feels at having taken such an initiative conveys the notion of agency, albeit a very fragile one. The key trope of mobility in NDiaye’s text are shoes: flip-​flop sandals and sneakers. When the smuggler comes for Khady, Khady’s unpreparedness for the journey is symbolised not only in her meagre baggage but also in the cheap sandals on her feet. When compared with the bright white, comfortable pair of sneakers that the smuggler wears, Khady’s flip-​flops betray the precarious nature of her mobility: Khady is “malhabile et trébuchante dans ses tongs de

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182 Chapter 8 plastique rose tandis qu’il semblait rebondir sur les semelles épaisses et légères de ses chaussures de sport” (261) “tottering clumsily in her pink plastic flip-​ flops while he seemed to leap along on the light thick soles of his trainers” (229). She is at pains to follow the smuggler’s effortless pace, “les orteils recroquevillés au bout de ses tongs pour les garder aux pieds” (265) “gripping the end of her flip-​flops with her toes to stop them falling off” (232). In the course of the boat episode the vulnerability of her journey is even further emphasised as she suddenly realises she has lost her sandals. As the comparison between Khady’s cheap sandals/​bare feet and the sneakers of the smuggler suggests, in addition to the class aspect, shoes are also invested with gendered meanings: informed men in new sneakers guide ignorant women in worn flip-​flops. The gender dimension is further stressed when Lamine features in the story, wearing a pair of sneakers like the smuggler. To wear sneakers signals a less precarious mobile subjectivity than that of Khady and, indeed, it is eventually Lamine who makes his way to Europe, whereas Khady perishes in her attempt to cross the fence into the Spanish enclave. Still, it must be stressed that there is a certain shallowness to the masculine identity that Lamine embraces. To Khady’s ear, his voice sounds childish, and he is frequently referred to as a boy. In this sense, both Atta’s and NDiaye’s male characters are portrayed lacking the hegemonic masculinity to which they so eagerly aspire. The ostensible ease of Lamine’s journey is challenged during the truck ride through the Sahara. The trucks are described as overcrowded and uncomfortable as they cross the desert and the badly maintained roads. The truck is suddenly stopped by soldiers requesting bribes. Dissatisfied with the sum of money Lamine gives them, the soldiers cut off the soles of his sneakers to access his savings, and the boy’s feet are cut in the course of this action. This incident suggests that Lamine’s journey is marked by a vulnerability that he tries to hide by resorting to the ideas of hegemonic masculinity that he has adopted to impress Khady. Once the travelling companions have lost their savings, the narrative highlights the precariousness of their mobility by drawing attention to their staggering pace caused by their wounded feet: [I]‌ls avaient erré, boitant l’un et l’autre de deux manières différentes (le garçon s’efforçant de ne poser sur le sol que la tranche extérieure de ses pieds, elle, Khady, évitant de prendre appui sur sa jambe malade et avançant par sautillements irréguliers). (302) They had […] wandered around, both limping in different ways (he trying to put only the outer edge of his feet on the ground, she, hopping irregularly along, trying not to put her weight on her lame leg). (263) Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

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When Khady and Lamine get stuck in a desert town, where Khady ends up working as a prostitute, the woman who features as her madam attends to Khady’s calf wound. The fact that, despite her ministrations, the wound does not heal points to a reading in which the madam’s complicity in Khady’s vulnerable mobility must be taken into account. In this respect, Shirley Jordan’s (2013, 271) interpretation, according to which Khady’s wound symbolises the shameful conditions of illegal migrants on the Mediterranean, and for which Western readers should feel responsible, seems insufficient. Khady’s calf wound –​the symbol of her precarious mobile position  –​equally captures the low value that is accorded underprivileged women on the African continent. The initial impulse for Khady’s abject odyssey lies in her being a childless widow, a worthless gendered subject in the eyes of a society that has failed to claim the promise of a better future for all its citizens. While NDiaye’s text only makes minimal reference to a social and geographical context, the fact that Khady walks on streets bearing names such as “l’avenue de l’Indépendance” (263) and “le boulevard de la République” (264), as she follows the human smuggler towards the sea shore, is telling. It suggests that her tragedy is not only that of becoming an abject subject in the eyes of Europe but also of being one in her home country, whose post-​independence failures have left her without value. Her wound is a symbol of these failures as much as it is one of the humanitarian catastrophe taking place on the shores of the Mediterranean. In addition to the tropes of mobility that the texts use to convey the vulnerable character of African clandestine mobilities across the Sahara and towards the Mediterranean, they also draw attention to the way in which mobility turns into a state of stagnation and immobility. Both stories end in immigration camps –​that is, on the border. While NDiaye’s Khady dies while trying to cross the border, the ending of Atta’s short story leaves the protagonist suspended in a state of uncertainty, immobility, and waiting. As Henk van Houtum and Stephen F. Wolfe (2019, 129, 142) argue, the border itself can be considered “a waiting act”, characterised by the aspiring border-​crosser’s desire to cross the border in the hope that there is ‘something’ for them on the other side. Waiting is an act of both inclusion and exclusion, and as a temporal threshold the border is “neither a beginning nor an end” (van Houtum & Wolfe 2019, 129, 143–​ 144). The open ending in “Twilight Trek” therefore gives literary form to the ambiguity of borders and the mobility that crossing borders entails. 3

Sand and Sea: The Slavery Parallel

The elements of sand and sea that recur in the texts are central metaphors for the different phases of the journey. Sand, as a metonymy of land and the Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

184 Chapter 8 African continent, is contrasted to sea and the new horizons reached through the mobility that the sea embodies. Sand also alludes to the crossing of the Sahara11 as part of the ‘twofold’ Mediterranean passage that clandestine African travellers pursue (Di Maio 2013, 45). Together, the imagery of sand and sea evokes an uneasy historical analogy. According to Cristina Lombardi-​Diop (2008, 163), “the circulation across the Mediterranean of African migrants, as well as their enslavement and trafficking, activates a parallel circulation of images and memories of the Atlantic Middle Passage”. Both Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts allude to the slavery analogy.12 Atta invests sand with negative connotations. For the narrator, the desert that the “illegals” are obliged to cross is a “godforsaken place”, with sand entering his body through his eyes, nostrils, and even his “ass” (84–​85). Sand is associated with desert nomads, for whom the narrator expresses contempt: for him, their way of life is backward and in total contradiction to his dreams of an extravagant lifestyle in Europe. Crossing the desert is a necessary evil on his itinerary, but even when the protagonist sees the Mediterranean for the first time, the sand continues to cling to him. The short story ends with the portrayal of the protagonist pointlessly waiting for Patience’s return, shivering in the winds that “carry sand and salt” (98). Salt, obviously, embodies the idea of the closeness of the sea and hence could be interpreted as a symbol of freedom. However, it can only be read as such from the limited perspective of the narrator. The reader, in contrast, is invited to identify the historical parallel motivating the sea trope in a way that sets the protagonist’s mobility in a wider context. “Twilight Trek” explicitly refers to the historical parallel with the slave trade. Patience informs the narrator: “You know […], I heard that this is the same route the Arabs used to traffic African slaves in the olden days” (85). The narrator, however, dismisses the analogy by stating, “Who cares?” (85) –​a comment that reflects his naive self-​perception as the omnipotent hero of his own story. On the other hand, the words, “Who cares”, can also be read as a warning against establishing too hasty a parallel between contemporary clandestine migration and slavery. While human trafficking and exploitation form a central aspect of contemporary clandestine migrant mobilities –​Patience having been recruited as a prostitute in Rome attests to this –​the narrative also makes 11 12

In recent years, the Sahara has become a preferred route for clandestine African migrants heading to Europe and an area where many of these migrants are forced to reside (Triulzi 2013, 217). For studies of literary representations of (modern) slavery in contemporary African and Afrodiasporic fiction and non-​fiction, see e.g., Bekers 2018; Goyal 2019; Mami 2017; Murphy 2014 and 2019.

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an effort not to represent the aspiring migrants as mere victims. Much like the protagonist himself, there are also opportunists among them; economic migrants motivated by the “desire of an elsewhere” (Wihtol de Wenden 2017, 21). In this way, the narrative complicates the establishment of any too facile analogy between the Middle Passage and its contemporary Mediterranean counterpart. As NDiaye’s narrative perspective relies on a protagonist who is on the move despite herself and who does not have an inkling about her destination or her itinerary, sand and sea have no articulate meanings for her. The slavery connotation is not overtly addressed but can nevertheless be inferred from between the lines. The sea features in the story only briefly during the boat incidence. By escaping the unsound boat, Khady seems to cut the link between her own journey and that of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. In the boat episode, the sea is not represented as hostile or violent but is simply cold in contrast to the warmth of the sand. The protagonist seems relieved after having escaped maritime travel, and rubs “ses doigts dans le sable, longuement” (283) “sand on her fingers for a long while” (248) as if sand was a comforting element of stability. Such an impression is, however, deceptive since, for the rest of the story, sand is invested with negative meanings. The sand trope becomes predominant in the desert town passage, where Khady and Lamine become prisoners of the sand. While the protagonist manages to shake the sand out of her hair and clothes, she seems to be unable to keep it out of her calf wound; it is as if the sand were eating her alive. Indeed, the sand is described as bloodthirsty:  when Lamine has his feet cut, Khady observes “deux filets de sang couler de sous ses chaussures, aussitôt bus par la poussière” (299) “two thin lines of blood running into the dust under his shoes” (261). The omnipresence of the sand and its persistence in Khady’s wound can be read as a symbol of the context limiting the protagonist’s mobile subjectivity beyond her intentions. While the slavery aspect is not explicitly addressed and the protagonist fails to acknowledge the limitations placed on her mobile subjectivity, the narrative constructs an implicit link between slavery and contemporary clandestine migrant mobilities. In the first instance, the link can be observed in Khady’s case. She is forced into prostitution in an unnamed desert town.13 The fact that the madam traffics her to other migrants stuck in the desert town underscores the gendered dimensions of clandestine migrant mobilities. Moreover, 13

Here, NDiaye’s text can be seen to set itself up in a dialogue with one of the central features of ‘real-​world’ migrant mobilities in the African context, where irregular migrants’ (im)mobilities across the Sahara and towards the Mediterranean shores have generated a ‘slave economy’ (Triulzi 2013, 219).

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186 Chapter 8 Khady’s bleak destiny draws the reader’s attention to how clandestine African travellers are subjected to contemporary forms of slavery not only in Europe but also on the African continent. Thus the narrative also draws an analogy with Africans’ complicity in the transatlantic slave trade. The second instance of contemporary slavery features in the closing paragraph entitled “contrepoint”, a brief sketch of the condition of undocumented African migrants in France, who are making their livelihood doing unofficial, low-​paid, menial jobs and living in overcrowded apartments with other clandestins. Yet, it is also noteworthy that the words, “il lui rendait grâce” (317) “He would then give thanks to her” (277) indicate that Lamine is grateful to Khady for what he considers her sacrifice for him. This suggests that Lamine may not even perceive his undocumented condition as a form of slavery but rather thinks of himself as fortunate enough to have made it to Europe. Lamine’s reasoning that reaching Europe is worth risking his life, as well as his gratitude to Khady for having been able to immigrate clandestinely, resonates with a rather grim example of the “desire of an elsewhere” (Wihtol de Wenden 2017, 21)  discussed by Simon Gikandi (2001) in “Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality”. Gikandi refers to an incident in which the corpses of two Ghanaian boys were found in the cargo hold of a plane in Brussels in 1998. The boys left behind a message in which they explained their desperate action, suggesting, as Gikandi (2001, 631) puts it, that “their salvation could only come from that Europe which, only two generations earlier, black nationalists such as Jomo Kenyatta and Aimé Césaire had declared to be the major threat to the prosperity and well-​being of Africa”. Gikandi points out that underprivileged aspiring African migrants such as these two boys dream of a European identity that is constructed on a basis of colonialist and Eurocentric biases, instead of embracing the “cultural hybridity” celebrated by postcolonial theoretical discourses (Gikandi 2001, 630–​631). Indeed, the representations of the dreams of a life in Europe as cherished by the clandestine African travellers in Atta’s and (also partly in) NDiaye’s texts, as well as the bleak realisations of their in-​ between condition, attest to the discrepancy between theory and reality as observed by Gikandi. 4

Conclusion: Precarious Journeys

Atta’s and NDiaye’s stories foreground a form of mobility wherein the immigrant status is pursued without being achieved. Their protagonists’ planned itineraries turn out to be arrested, and throughout their journeys they end up in states of stagnation-​in-​movement. The climax of the migratory pursuit

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remains out of their reach, which condemns them to an abject limbo consisting of those who cannot claim to be at home in the world. These travellers are discarded by both the failed nation-​states that they are fleeing and the Europe that they are pursuing. “Twilight Trek” and the third section of Trois femmes puissantes make use of tropes that convey the precarious nature of the clandestine African travelling endeavour and the idea that the characters’ mobility is set in a context the limits of which challenge their conviction that they are the heroes and heroines of their own journeys. With differing levels of explicitness, both stories draw attention to the transatlantic slavery parallel. While the reader is invited to construct an analogy between the past and the present, the protagonists seem to ignore the parallel and turn a blind eye to the discomforting fact that the contexts set such restrictions on their mobile position that they can hardly be seen as freewheeling agents. It is clear that Atta’s and NDiaye’s clandestine travellers do not enter the orbit of cosmopolitanism. However, they indirectly demonstrate its limits and draw attention to the exclusions on which the figure of the elite cosmopolitan or the Afropolitan is constructed. In this way, these abject travellers may tell us much more about the concept of cosmopolitanism than the figure of the self-​proclaimed cosmo/​Afropolitan.

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­c hapter 9

Zombie Travels

J. R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du nord and Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore

Anonymous masses trying to invade Fortress Europe:  this is how undocumented migrants entering the continent through its watery Southern borders have frequently been represented during the so-​called migrant crisis. This imagery, focusing on a fort defending itself against ‘flows’ of migrants that pose a threat to its cultural, social, political, and economic integrity, represents what Nikos Papastergiadis (2006, 429) refers to as “the invasion complex”, which is a discourse that relies on the notion of the border. One of the key functions of the border is “to link the regulation of mobility to identity and territory: to link who one is to location, and in so doing policing national borders around identities” (Mountz 2013, 256). As seen in the previous two chapters on Atta’s, NDiaye’s, and Chikwava’s texts, the figure of the clandestine migrant is interesting from the perspective of the concept of the border not only because it embodies aspirational border crossings but also because the migrant can itself be considered an abject border figure (see Papastergiadis 2006, 429). The clandestine migrant, the refugee, or the asylum seeker is an embodiment of what Giorgio Agamben (1998) has called ‘homo sacer’, a subject that does not enjoy the protection of the nation-​state and is therefore reduced to mere biological life –​bare life or zoe as Agamben calls it.1 As demonstrated by my analysis of Atta’s and NDiaye’s texts, due to their lack of protection both in their home countries and in the pursued destinations, the clandestine migrant/​refugee/​ asylum seeker is doomed to a state of abjection (Chambers 2008, 3). The image of migrants as fearsome invaders (Zembylas 2010, 32–​33) and embodiments of bare life evokes another abject border figure from contemporary popular culture: the zombie. As Jon Stratton (2011, 265) argues, zombies’ characteristics share similarities with the ways in which displaced people are represented. Stratton (2011, 266) suggests that the recent upsurge of zombies in popular culture is related to the anxieties that undocumented migration generates in Western societies. As a metaphor for the clandestine migrant, the 1 Agamben’s concept of bare life has been criticised for its inability to take into account the possibility of resistance, unlike Foucault’s theories of biopower (Zembylas 2010, 41). The concept therefore has its limitations with regard to mapping out expressions of agency in the context of coerced migration.

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zombie builds on racial Otherness as “the white ‘citizen-​subject’ is opposed against non-​white life, bare life, zombie life […] which must always be kept quarantined, if not actively eradicated and destroyed” (Canavan 2010, 433). The threat of contamination is manifest in the current ‘migrant crisis’ in which migrants, like zombies, are represented as predators ready to ‘devour’ European societies and to turn them into the failed states that the migrants have fled from (Papastergiadis 2009, 162; see also Chambers 2008, 13; Zembylas 2010, 33). By replicating contemporary popular culture’s conception of the zombie, these “invasion complex” discourses are rather straightforward in their way of identifying victims and perpetrators and differentiating them from each other (see Fischer-​Hornung & Mueller 2016, 3). It should, however, be noted that the popular culture zombie as a flesh-​ eating monster is a relatively recent adaptation of the historical, Haitian zombie ­figure –​a forebear with whom it does not seem to have much in common (Glover 2017, 252). The historical zombie figure, who travelled on slave ships from Sub-​Saharan Africa to sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean and Haiti in particular (Lauro 2015, 8, 16),2 is a victim and not a perpetrator. The Haitian zombie is “an apathetic nonperson, condemned to wander aimlessly or to serve the interests of the evil sorcerer responsible for its degradation” (Glover 2017, 215). In short, slavery and the violence that slavery entailed find their embodiment in the Haitian zombie figure (Pokornowski 2016, 2, 7).3 Today’s zombie and its Haitian predecessor differ from each other because of their positions at the opposite ends on the perpetrator/​victim nexus. The aspect of slavery that characterises the Haitian zombie does not seem to have any relevance to its contemporary adaptation, which, as several scholars have argued, has been unraced (Glover 2017, 251; Hurley 2015, 312–​313; Pokornowski 2016, 2). It is symptomatic of this obliteration of the zombie’s initial context of emergence that today’s popular culture zombies seem to “appear all of a sudden and out of nowhere” (Glover 2017, 253) –​much like the ‘flows’ of migrants, for that matter. Yet, as Kaiama L. Glover (2017, 251, 253) argues, a closer look at today’s zombie reveals its link to the Haitian zombie as well as to the processes

2 The Haitian zombie’s raw material can be traced back to seventeenth-​century Central West African folk beliefs. However, being based on oral folklore, the details of the myth’s creation can no longer be recovered (Lauro 2015, 8, 15). 3 While the zombie’s position between life and death condemns it to perpetual slavery, this border state can be seen simultaneously as a scene for rebellion (Fischer-​Hornung & Mueller 2016, 6; Lauro 2015, 16–​17). The idea of revolt implied in the zombie results from its link to the Haitian revolution as “living death in the zombie represents revolutions that have not completely succeeded” (Lauro 2015, 7).

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190 Chapter 9 of Othering and the abjection of Africa and, most recently, to contemporary coerced migration. The zombie, who has travelled from Sub-​Saharan Africa to Haiti, and then to Hollywood, from where it has gone global (Lauro 2015; Fischer-​Hornung & Mueller 2016), has come full circle in that it now symbolises African clandestine mobilities towards Europe. In this chapter I adopt the zombie metaphor in my reading of two novels representing clandestine Afroeuropean journeys, namely J.  R. Essomba’s Le Paradis du nord (1996) and Caryl Phillips’s4 A Distant Shore (2004) –​texts that were written prior to the current ‘migrant crisis’ but that remain topical in this context. Essomba’s Jojo and Charlie are Cameroonian ‘economic migrants’, while in Phillips’s novel Gabriel is an asylum seeker –​and a former rebel army soldier –​escaping persecution in an unnamed Sub-​Saharan African country. The protagonists are what Leanne Weber and Sharon Pickering (2011, 4) would refer to as “illegalized travellers” –​a term that draws attention to the power structures that operate at the border in order to differentiate unwanted arrivals from those who are welcome, but also one that emphasises the aspect of travelling that migration necessarily entails (see also Schapendonk 2013, 13). Neither of these texts is a ‘zombie novel’ in the sense that the characters are not actually zombies or even explicitly compared to them.5 Rather, I use the zombie figure as a reading method or a lens through which to read the novels’ representations of undocumented migrant mobilities. My analysis draws on both the Haitian zombie and also its contemporary adaptation in order to elucidate the novels’ representations of clandestine migrant mobilities and the discourses that revolve around these mobilities in the context of the ‘migrant crisis’. In other words, I  use the zombie metaphor to analyse the zombie-​ migrant as a threatening alterity but also –​and more importantly –​as a victim of unending abjection, alienation, and dehumanisation. My reading traces the links that the texts establish between clandestine migrants’ mobile conditions and the zombie figure through imagery revolving around the loss of identity and emotion, hiding, confinement, darkness, and death. This imagery forms the texts’ poetics of zombified migrant mobility

4 Caryl Phillips was born in St. Kitts and grew up in the UK and is obviously not an ‘African writer’. However, because of his affiliation to the Caribbean the author can be considered a writer of the historical African diaspora. Moreover, the events of A Distant Shore are partly set in an unnamed African country and the main character is an African man seeking asylum in Europe. As such, the text contributes to the literary imaginary of clandestine Afroeuropean travel. 5 On actual zombie figures in Haitian literature, see Swanson 2014 and 2015; for other Afrodiasporic contexts, see Olutola 2018; Romdhani 2015.

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that conveys the travellers’ zombification. By zombification I refer to the way in which the novels’ travellers turn into zombie-​like, dehumanised, alienated figures that lack agency,6 emotion, and identity; oscillate between life and death; are represented as threatening invaders in anti-​migration discourses; and for whom Europe remains a destination of non-​arrival. Again, as in the case of Atta’s and NDiaye’s portrayals of undocumented Afroeuropean mobilities, I want to highlight the interrupted character of clandestine migrant travel and the risk of non-​arrival that it entails (see Mainwaring & Bridgen 2016, 243–​247; Schapendonk 2012, 119). Such an approach pays attention to very concrete forms of mobility that migration as travel to and across a border necessitates instead of promoting a sendentarist, migration studies perspective that can be summarised as a focus on “movement from one settled stage at the place of departure (dis-​placement) to another settled stage at the destination (re-​placement)” (Schapendonk 2012, 122; italics in the original; see also Schapendonk 2013, 12; Mainwaring & Bridgen 2016, 247).7 In other words, a mobility studies perspective allows for an understanding of clandestine migration that is not restricted to the fixed positions of the destination and arrival and the motivating ‘push and pull’ factors but primarily focuses on what happens during the (fragemented) journeying itself (Schapendonk 2013, 12). The idea of mobility as a limbo of non-​arrival highlights the continuum of unliveability that informs the protagonists’ lives in their failed postcolonial nation-​states and that follows them to Europe. The fact that the Europe that the zombified travellers pursue is a continent unable to imagine a cosmopolitan future for itself makes it a destination of non-​arrival. As a result of these journeys of non-​arrival, the protagonists are “condamnés à fuir éternellement” (Essomba 1996, 42) “doomed to flee forever”.8 The trope of non-​arrival also activates a link between contemporary clandestine migrant mobilities and the maritime journeys of captives of slavery: as Stephanie E. Smallwood (2007, 135) demonstrates in her study of Middle Passage journeys, the captives, unable to distinguish between the 6 When it comes to the revolt that the zombie figure embodies (Lauro 2015, 16–​17), my reading of the two novels’ clandestine migrant mobilities is not optimistic but emphasises their enslaving, zombifying elements. While it is important to acknowledge that even in the most abject conditions there is room at least for some agency, I think that, as represented in the novels, suicide or the ‘ability’ to cause terror in citizen-​subjects lack true empowering potential for the clandestine travellers themselves. ‘Choosing’ a suicide does not really allow for imagining future emancipation. 7 Analysing clandestine migration from the perspective of mobility is a topical critical endeavour since asylum and refugee travel is one of the most important “forms of travel practice in the contemporary world” (Urry 2007, 10, 263). 8 Translations from Essomba’s novel are mine.

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192 Chapter 9 different phases of the sea-​crossing and their movement in time, were doomed to what seemed to them to be an unending journey. As Sarah Juliet Lauro’s study (2015) demonstrates, the zombie is itself a migrant (see also Rath 2018). Mobility is therefore a feature that connects the zombie with contemporary African illegalised travellers. As a result of its global migration, it can be argued that the zombie can no longer be considered to represent any specific cultural or historical context (Lauro 2015, 15; Rath 2018, 394) –​indeed, it is the zombie’s global character and its “protean […] metaphorical potential” (Glover 2017, 251) that make it a figure that can be easily adapted to different cultural contexts. For my analysis, the aptness of the zombie metaphor lies in the observation that it allows for an understanding of Afroeuropean borderscapes as death zones (see also Weber & Pickering 2014). Moreover, it is illustrative not only of the anxieties that clandestine migrants generate in European citizen-​subjects but also of how they perceive themselves (see Papastergiadis 2009, 158). One of the advantages of the zombie metaphor for my analysis is that it highlights the parallel between contemporary illegalised migrant mobilities and the Middle Passage. As such, the zombie allows for an in-​depth understanding of the ‘migrant crisis’ by linking it to a wider historical context of Afro-​alterity and abjection (Glover 2017, 251, 253). 1

Tropes of Zombifying Mobilities: Hiding, Confinement, Dehumanisation, and Darkness

The so-​called migrant crisis has shown that the idea of freedom of movement that is central to the European Union is built on the “organized exclusion of others forced to move around as migrants, refugees, or illegal aliens” (Verstraete 2010, 98). As borders are protected against illegalised travellers, who are frequently conceived as “mute objects of a feared alterity” (Chambers 2008, 10), aspiring migrants resort to risky, deadly mobile practices in order to get to and cross a border (Weber & Pickering 2014). In their article on the mobility/​immobility nexus that characterises clandestine migrant travel, Noelle Bridgen and Ċetta Mainwaring (2016, 416–​417) employ the notion of matryoshka journeys to refer to the concealment strategies that clandestine migrants adopt. Like the hollow Russian dolls, nesting other dolls within them, the metaphor of the matryoshka journey conveys the idea of how clandestine migrants’ journeys include elements of layering. Clandestine mobilities consist of “journeys within journeys” in the sense that the travellers are “taking meandering routes away from their destination or waiting for opportune travel conditions, [and that they] strategically forfeit […] control over their own body in transit”

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(Bridgen & Mainwaring 2016, 416). In practice, matryoshka journeys are strategies to avoid the risk of deportation (Bridgen & Mainwaring 2016, 416). I would like to take the concept of matryoshka journeying a step further and claim that these strategies can also be understood as zombifying practices as they entail the loss of mastery over one’s mobility and, at worst, the loss of one’s life. The uncomfortable, cramped conditions of clandestine travel evoke a parallel with Middle Passage journeys on slave ships, which were regularly thought of as coffins or floating tombs (see Smallwood 2007, 137; Chassot 2015, 90). Other common features include the lack of light, dullness, and the way in which the travellers are reduced to material without subjectivity (Chassot 2015, 93, 97–​98). These elements, as Joanne Chassot (2015) points out, make the metaphor of the living dead particularly appropriate for representing Middle Passage journeys and also, by extension, contemporary clandestine migrant mobilities, as my discussion of Essomba’s and Phillips’ texts suggests. The tropes of hiding and confinement, which convey the loss of agency and vulnerability, are articulately present in Essomba’s and Phillips’s novels. Le Paradis du nord features a prelude to Jojo’s and Charlie’s zombifying journeying as the two friends lie confined in the ceiling structures of a store where they are hiding until closing time in order to steal the money kept on the premises. The narrative’s way of representing the protagonists hiding in cramped spaces even prior to their journey suggests that the roots of their zombification lie in their unliveable lives in the failed postcolonial state. The cramped space of the ceiling structure is a metaphor for “l’horizon bouché” (17) “the obstructed horizon” of the unliveability and lack of prospects that Cameroon represents for them.9 Limited space and restricted mobility underline the travellers’ physical, embodied existence and thus highlight the way in which clandestine mobility further reduces the travellers, like the victims of the Middle Passage, to bare life. Scenes of immobility and hiding in cramped spaces while travelling recur throughout Essomba’s novel. The first leg of the journey consists of travelling on a cargo ship transporting bananas and coffee. Jojo and Charlie board the ship in barrels supposed to contain water. By associating the travellers with consumables, the narrative highlights the clandestine journey’s dehumanising effect, “underscores the neo-​colonial relationships that continue to shape the postcolonial African environment”, and in this way evokes slavery (Knox 2016, 212). The slavery analogy is stressed as the captain threatens to throw the

9 On the socio-​economic and political features of this “obstructed horizon” in Cameroon at the time of the publication of the novel, see Krishnan 2018, 159–​162.

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194 Chapter 9 clandestine travellers overboard if they do not follow his orders. After crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, a smuggler hides the travellers under a fake structure in his lorry. In this cramped space, Jojo and Charlie travel lying down on their backs like corpses in a coffin –​or slaves in a slave ship. The fact that the vehicle transports oranges further underlines the travellers’ association with consumables destined for the European market. In so doing, the narrative suggests that the zombified travellers are victims and objects to be consumed  –​and exploited as labourers, as the novel later points out  –​and not as the flesh-​ eaters represented by anti-​migration discourses. As in the case of Essomba’s travellers, in Phillips’s novel vulnerability and limited mobility inform Gabriel’s journey before it has even started. Hiding in a cupboard, he witnesses his family members being raped and killed by soldiers. When he gets out of his hideout he moves like the living dead: “His legs and arms are stiff, and he walks with difficulty” (85). This passage already announces that the roots of his zombification lie in his experiences of unliveable life in his homeland, a failed postcolonial nation-​state; the continuum of zombification is later underlined when we learn that Gabriel keeps “hiding behind th[e]‌blinds” (19) in his new home village. The journey towards Europe begins in a lorry in which the clandestine travellers are gathered “like cargo” and are told to “lie down flat and be quiet” (94). Just as in Essomba’s novel, the travellers are not only reduced to objects to be transported, but also made to lie down like corpses, quiet and motionless, which emphasises the journey’s “dull […] rhythm” (97). In this way, the narrative not only underlines the link between the travelling conditions of clandestine migrants and the victims of the Middle Passage, as several scholars have observed (Bekers 2016, 259–​260; Bonnici 2012, 285; Ledent 2007, 81; Sharpe 2009, 99),10 but also associates illegalised travellers with the living dead. Dehumanisation, confinement, and the dullness that is generated by the feeling of being on a never-​ending journey are features of zombified mobilities in the context of the Middle Passage (see Smallwood 2007) as well as in contemporary clandestine travel. On the plane to Europe, the clandestine migrants travel again as cargo, sitting on the floor, and once they are approaching the Channel Tunnel, the smugglers take them to a railway bridge from which they are supposed to jump onto the roofs of the cargo wagons. When the travellers express their disbelief, the smuggler exclaims, “Did you expect to travel in the train?” (126), which suggests that clandestine travellers are worth even less than cargo; their bodies do

10

The Middle Passage parallel is further highlighted in Phillips’s novel through its intertextual links to Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative (Ledent 2007, 81).

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not even have the object value that slaves’ bodies had for traffickers. The zombifying quality of the journey finds its ultimate symbol in Gabriel’s leg, which is injured during the sea crossing so that upon his arrival in the UK he limps. Again, the trope of the injured leg embodies the key features of zombified travel: vulnerability and lack of mastery over one’s mobility. As an allusion to the shambling walk of the living dead, the limping leg highlights the travellers’ abject corporeality and the idea of zombification as a continuum that follows them from their home countries to Europe. In addition to the cramped spaces within which the characters are confined like corpses, both novels use darkness as a central trope of clandestine zombifying mobilities. Darkness is a relevant aspect of the zombie trope not only because of its associations with death and horror but also because it evokes the lack of light in the slave ship hold (see Chassot 2015, 97). In Phillips’s novel, Gabriel’s journey is noticeably marked by darkness: he leaves his hometown during the night. The truck transporting the exiles arrives at the airport when it is dark, and when the plane takes off Gabriel looks out of the window, seeing nothing but “blackness” (99). When the plane lands it is again dark. Darkness conveys the idea of an unknown destination, the “disorientation and uncertainties” that inform the itinerary (Bekers 2016, 259), and alienation. Significantly enough, Gabriel’s body becomes so accustomed to darkness that in the daylight his eyes hurt and “his pupils feel as if they have shrunk” (103). In this darkness that characterises Gabriel’s journeying, the unique glimpses of light come in the form of city lights shining now and then in the distance. These lights punctuate the journey and symbolise not only the hope of arrival but also a welcoming, convivial cosmopolitan space that promises to save the zombified travellers from what seems to be an unending predicament. Eventually, it turns out that the darkness prevails even in the alleged safe haven: what Gabriel sees in the UK is “the black English sky” (273) and also London through the tinted windows of a police car (162). That the darkness does not loosen its grip in the pursued destination suggests, yet again, that the clandestine traveller is doomed to a perpetual state of zombification. Just like Phillips’s Gabriel, Essomba’s Jojo and Charlie travel in the dark. They cross the final leg of the journey to Gibraltar by swimming, and they orient themselves towards the shore with the help of a spot of light that their smuggler flashes as a signal. Significantly enough, this flash of light –​symbolising the fading horizon of hope –​disappears from sight for a moment, causing panic in the aspiring border-​crossers swimming in the cold, dark sea. The dying light, as Katelyn Knox (2016, 213) argues, establishes a parallel between contemporary clandestine travellers’ risky sea crossings and the bodies of enslaved Africans thrown overboard in the context of the

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196 Chapter 9 transatlantic slave trade:  “The extinguished lantern ensures that no one can witness their fate; their history will always be defined by incompleteness”. Indeed, while Jojo and Charlie make it to the opposite shore, some of their anonymous travelling companions are less lucky and drown in the Mediterranean in the same way as many real-​life aspiring border-​crossers also do nowadays. 2

Not Feeling It: Lost Selves, Lost Emotions

The zombie is an empty shell, symbolically filled with darkness as it lacks identity and emotions (Kordas 2011, 20). The loss of identity is a feature that links the zombie to illegalised travellers (Papastergiadis 2009, 149) and further links these two to slavery. While slaves lost their identities through the act of being renamed by their owners, clandestine migrants frequently get rid of their identity documents in order to complicate potential deportation processes (Abderrezak 2009, 463; Triulzi 2013, 214). In Phillips’s novel, on the threshold of his new life in Northern England Gabriel “reinvent[s]‌ himself as Solomon Bartholomew” (Bekers 2016, 261). The reason for his change of identity is that, soon after his arrival in the UK, he is accused of raping a teenager. His case is so widely mediatised in Southern England that his legal assistant advises him to leave the region and adopt a new name. The loss of one’s identity in this manner does not depend on the traveller’s will but represents a loss of agency entailed by the zombifying journey. In a refugee camp in France, Gabriel sees other aspiring migrants in a light that reflects mainstream Western media’s perceptions of them as mere faceless masses of “sullen people” constituting a “scene of lethargic misery” (123). Here, Gabriel observes the zombiesque qualities of his fellow travellers and identifies himself in this alienating image. The zombiesque, alienating loss of emotion is particularly articulate at the beginning of the novel, which tells about Solomon’s life in his new home village in Northern England. Solomon is portrayed as an automaton, washing and polishing his car, “oblivious to everything around him” (31), as Dorothy, a white middle-​ aged Briton and his neighbour and friend, observes. His way of driving his car is equally “neat and careful” (16). Solomon’s existence seems somehow tuned down, and when he laughs, he laughs without emotion and inappropriately, as in the passage in which he tells Dorothy about the anonymous, threatening letters that he receives. His lack of emotion results from his traumatising experiences, but it is also something that his search for safe

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haven has necessitated. As the narrator puts it, in Gabriel’s new life “There can be no sentiment” (94). A Distant Shore features several passages that open with Gabriel suddenly regaining consciousness (see also Woolley 2014, 64) in the manner of a zombie oscillating between life and death. The narrative records his “drifting in and out of consciousness” (120) during the journey and at one point he is no longer sure whether he is alive or in “the underworld” (136). The loss of the self and emotions are present in his “inability to communicate successfully” (Ledent 2004, 153), which, as Papastergiadis (2009, 150, 162) argues, is a feature that underlines the migrant-​zombie parallel. When Gabriel is interviewed by his lawyer during the rape charges episode, he cannot answer because “his mind blocks the question[s]‌”, leaving him “star[ing] blankly at the lawyer” (114), which can be read as an allusion to the empty zombie gaze (see Swanson 2015). As Bénédicte Ledent (2004, 155)  has noted, this lack of feeling manifests itself in the “emotionless, occasionally report-​like third-​person narrative” that depicts his journey to Europe. The clandestine journey, itself motivated by experiences of violence –​as a victim and as a perpetrator –​has generated a loss of emotion and self, and turned the traveller into a zombie who no longer feels and is unsure whether he is dead or alive. In Essomba’s novel, before reaching the Spanish coast the travellers get rid of their identifications in order to be able to “jouer les amnésiques” (44) “pretend to be amnesiacs” in case they are arrested by border patrols. In addition to this very concrete loss of identity, it is worth noticing that their ‘transformation’ starts when they are preparing or starting their journey. This is conveyed in the narrative’s way of naming the travellers so as to reflect their actions and the ways in which they are perceived by others. The first transformation occurs when the aspiring migrants steal the money with which they have planned to finance their journey. Here, the narrative refers to them as “les deux voleurs” (27, 28) “the two thieves”, highlighting the morally problematic foundation on which their journey is based. Besides stealing the money, the men end up killing a guard. Charlie thinks the killing is a necessary sacrifice, but for Jojo it is an alarming sign of what is ahead. The next transformation is marked by their turning into “clandestins” (45) “clandestine migrants” and “étrangers” (47) “foreigners”, which conveys the loss of identity that the journey generates. Further, the fact that, again, the travellers are not only victims but also perpetrators themselves highlights the complexity of their situation. It underlines the vulnerability of the zombie and the thinness of the line between the perpetrator and the victim. The same can be observed in Phillips’s novel:  Gabriel is not only escaping genocidal violence back

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198 Chapter 9 home and racist violence in the UK; as a soldier of a rebel army, he has been involved in brutalities, and has killed his friend opportunistically to steal his savings to finance the journey. Moreover, the narrative remains ambiguous as to whether there is any substance in the rape charges (Ellis 2013, 419). In this way, Phillips’s novel draws a complex portrait of the protagonist instead of representing him as an innocent victim: the two sides of the zombie are present. In Le Paradis du nord, the zombifying aspect of clandestine journeying articulates itself in the form of loss of emotion and consciousness. During their journey from Spain to Southern France, Jojo and Charlie hide in a lorry. The inhuman travelling conditions make Jojo mad, but he forces himself to master his rage, after which he loses consciousness. When they finally arrive in France, Jojo and Charlie meet two Cameroonian smugglers who are supposed to drive them to Paris. Here, the narrative portrays yet another scene of loss of consciousness as the smugglers drug the travellers. Once Jojo regains consciousness, he finds himself in an abandoned car in a deserted underground parking lot. For a moment, Jojo is not sure if Charlie is still alive as he does not wake up. The whole journey is marked by the oscillation between consciousness and unconsciousness, the necessity to hide one’s emotions, the loss of agency, and the uncertainty as to whether one is dead or alive, all of which lead to “une grande lassitude” (124) “an immense weariness”. An important dimension in the idea of zombies as figures “lacking interior, lacking mind” (Canavan 2010, 437)  is that the horror lies less in the zombie itself than in the acknowledgement that there is a master behind the zombie. Here, the difference between the zombie of popular culture and its Haitian forebear becomes obvious. While today’s zombie is characterised by the threat of violence and contamination, its Haitian predecessor is defined by its being a victim of unending slavery: in its passivity, the zombie is “a pitiable being –​a shell of its formerly human self” (Glover 2017, 251). Essomba’s and Phillips’s characters are of course not victims of slavery or sorcery per se. The roots of their metaphorical enslavement lie in the way in which their journeys are motivated by their experiences of an unliveable life in their home countries. The force that keeps these “rejects of failed states” (Gikandi 2010, 23) moving is the idea of Europe as a place that can render their lives livable. In short, the clandestine mobilities of such underprivileged Africans represent “an attempt to escape both poverty and alterity” and are motivated by the belief that only Europe can save them from their predicament (Gikandi 2001, 631). It is their failed postcolonial nation-​states, embodying a “narrative of poverty, of failed nationalism, of death” (Gikandi 2001, 639), that push them towards the mirage of Europe.

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Europe and the Failures of Cosmopolitanism

The zombifying travelling pursuits of the aspiring migrants are motivated  –​ not to say haunted –​by the idea of Europe as a place capable of transforming their unliveable lives into an existence worth living. While in Essomba’s novel this aspiration is captured in the paradise trope, in Phillips’s novel the idea takes the form of Europe as a safe haven. Their utopian conceptions of Europe entail ideas not simply of material well-​being: Europe is a place where they can be respected, unlike in their own “stinking countr[ies]” (124), where they do not even respect themselves (134), as suggested respectively by a smuggler and Gabriel’s travelling companion in A Distant Shore. In the narratives –​in Essomba’s novel in particular –​Europe is vaguely seen as some sort of cosmopolitan utopia that can offer these “rejects of failed states” (Gikandi 2010, 13) a new start by restoring their humanity. As such, the imagined cosmopolitan virtues of Europe resonate with the idea of a disposition that entails openness to Otherness, moral responsibility that exceeds national and ethnic boundaries, and a self-​reflective understanding of one’s own positionality in the world (see Vertovec & Cohen 2008, 13; Robbins & Horta 2017, 12). The latter in this case can be understood as Europe’s acknowledgement of its colonial past and how it shapes the continent’s postcolonial present. However, as Bruce Robbins and Paulo Lemos Horta (2017, 8)  suggest, since the ‘migrant crisis’ in 2015, associations of cosmopolitanism with the European Union have been called into question and Europe’s (self-​)image as “as a zone where successful globalization ensured both pacifism and hospitality to outsiders” has suffered. Essomba’s and Phillips’s novels, published in the 1990s and 2000s respectively, draw attention to the failures of Europe as a genuinely cosmopolitan continent that African clandestine migrants and asylum seekers have experienced all along. Prior to his departure, for Jojo Paris is a “synonyme de paradis” ’ (13) “synonym for paradise”. From early on, however, the narrative starts to call this idea into question: the harsh travelling conditions and the setbacks of the journey undermine the travellers’ aspirations to reach the imagined destination. In the underground parking lot in the Parisian region where the drugged Jojo and Charlie wake up in a stolen car, a woman accuses Jojo of attempted rape when he has approached her with the intention of posing a simple question. The groundless rape accusations underline the gendered, sexualised, and racialised prejudices against black African male migrants as predators of white women. This sexualised and racialised element also characterises Western understandings of the zombie figure, which embodies the threat of black male sexuality (Pokornowski 2016, 9–​10). The sexual threat of the zombie-​migrant features just as prominently in Phillips’s novel; first, in the context of the alleged rape

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200 Chapter 9 of a teenaged girl and later, when Gabriel hitch-​hikes from London to Northern England at night. On the side of the road, he perceives a female hitch-​hiker, and as Gabriel approaches her, he observes that “the alarm in her eyes is unmistakable” and that “a cry is being stifled somewhere at the back of her throat” (183). The reaction of horror that the mere sight of a black African male on a roadside during the night generates in a white woman captures the way in which gendered and racialised prejudices undermine cosmopolitan ideals about openness to alterity. Hiding in the parking hall, Jojo starts to think that “leur entrée au paradis n’était pas une grande réussite” (64) “their entry to paradise was not a great success”, questioning himself, “était-​il possible qu’en cherchant le paradis, ils se soient retrouvés en enfer?” (65) “Was it possible that their search for paradise had taken them to hell?”. The arrival in paradise seems deferred to such an extent that the existence of the very destination is called into question. An interesting passage with respect to this disillusionment and symbolic non-​arrival is Jojo’s first experience of the Paris metro. In many Francophone African literary texts, the Paris metro is portrayed not only as the most emblematic symbol for modernity and the alleged superiority of the colonial culture: it also embodies the feelings of disillusionment and alienation that the encounter with the metropolitan centre often generates in African travellers (Anyinefa 2003, 82–​83; Dessy 2011, 4–​7). The following quotation gives voice to the feelings of disillusionment and alienation; Paris –​symbolised by the Paris metro –​is not quite the ville lumière that the protagonist had imagined: En descendant les marches, le cœur de Jojo battait la chamade. Il avait tellement rêvé de voir le métro. Pourtant lorsqu’ils furent en bas, il fut un peu déçu. Il ne savait pas au juste ce qu’il s’attendait à voir, mais ce n’était certainement pas cette scène-​là. Tous ces gens qui couraient dans tous les sens lui donnaient le tournis. Ils apparaissaient et disparaissaient dans des trous, lui rappelant les termitières de son enfance. (69) Jojo’s heart was racing as he walked down the stairs. He had dreamed so much of seeing the metro. However, once they were downstairs, he was slightly disappointed. He was not quite sure what he had expected to see, but it certainly was not this scene. All these people running in all directions made him dizzy. They appeared from and disappeared into holes, reminding him of the termite mounds of his childhood. The above passage conveys both the idea of how vague former colonised subjects’ ideas are about the metropolitan centre but also how these ideas never quite correspond to the reality.

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Indeed, the Europe and France that Jojo and Charlie enter is one of racial prejudice, exploitation, police violence, miserable living conditions; a continent suffering from postcolonial amnesia –​or “historical myopia”, as Knox (2016, 216) puts it in her analysis of Essomba’s novel. Cosmopolitan ideals of openness to Otherness, boundary-​transgressing solidarity and self-​reflexivity –​ here in the sense that the nation would fully acknowledge its colonial past –​ prove to have nothing to do with the reality that the clandestine migrants inhabit. They lead a sort of shadow existence outside society, which represents a logical continuation of their zombifying travelling conditions. Jojo’s perpetual zombification finds its symbol in the squat in which he lives with other undocumented African migrants. The abandoned house is represented as a cave-​like place with no light or warmth and with an overwhelming smell of mould. The inhabitants enter the house after dark through a ventilation conduct. The squat is an environment associated with death, a tomb accommodating zombified clandestine migrants. The person who introduces Jojo to the squat rejoices in having a new inhabitant, since more people means more warmth; this underlines the bare life sort of existence to which the clandestine migrants are condemned. In the world in which the protagonist lives, there is no room for genuine transcultural encounters between clandestine migrants and French citizen-​subjects. Even fellow Africans run away “comme si les deux clandestins avaient la peste” (77) “as if the two clandestine migrants had the plague”. These words underline the threat of abject contagion that the zombie figure embodies in the eyes of non-​abject subjects –​regular, middle-​class African immigrants included. The failure of the cosmopolitan utopia reaches its gloomy culmination at the end of the novel when Jojo is on trial for drug dealing –​criminal activity in which he has become involved without knowing it, lacking mastery over his own destiny.11 While the novel’s ending resists closure in the sense that the reader does not know whether Jojo will be convicted or not, his apparent resignation in the face of his own situation represents a death blow to his ideas of Europe as a paradise and thus seals his zombification. Phillips’s novel articulates not only the idea of England as a safety haven but also portrays the potential of cosmopolitan encounters beyond national and racial biases, as several other scholars have observed.12 David Ellis (2013, 11

12

Jojo’s job as a drug dealer (without him knowing it) draws attention to the way in which (undocumented) migrants form a cheap and flexible workforce which renders them vulnerable to exploitation (Bauder 2006, 4). The zombie analogy here is clear; zombies (like migrants) can be considered to be “ideal workers” because of their servility (Kordas 2011, 21). See, e.g., Farrier 2008, 409; McCluskey 2013, 6–​7; Tournay-​Theodotou 2012, 306; Woolley 2014, 60.

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202 Chapter 9 422) is slightly more sceptical in his reading and argues that, while the novel articulates the “idea/​l of the (postracial) transnation”, it remains an unrealised utopia in the novel’s narrative present. With regard to Gabriel’s and other asylum seekers’ high expectations of what Europe and the UK, in particular, can offer them, it is clear that their utopian ideas of finding a safety haven are on a collision course with the reality. In his new home village, Solomon receives insulting letters containing razor blades. “This is England,” he says, “What kind of a place did I come to?” (40–​41), and in a sad and seedy pub in London the narrator states that “This is not the England that he thought he was travelling to” (176). While Solomon manages to establish some friendships, the narrative simultaneously draws attention to the ways in which “xenophobic impulses can spread in a community, even to those who profess not to ‘personally’ subscribe to them” (McCluskey 2013, 7). Solomon’s attempts to seek the company of other migrants are not successful either. According to him, “West Indian people […] [are] not friendly” and “Indians and Pakistanis […] [are] worse than some of the English people” (291). The difficulty of establishing boundary-​ transgressive dialogues points to the fragility of Gabriel’s/​Solomon’s ideas of the UK as a cosmopolitan safe haven. His death embodies the fatal failure of cosmopolitan ideals. 4

Eliminating the Zombie

Today’s popular culture perceives zombies as brainless hordes that invade and contaminate ‘innocent’ communities. It is their “contagious alterity” that zombie discourses use as “justification for self-​defensive violence” (Pokornowski 2016, 6). The violence inherent in zombie fictions shares similarities with the ways in which violence against racialised subjects is justified in different contemporary contexts (Pokornowski 2016, 6). According to this logic, migrant-​zombies trying to enter Europe have to be eliminated before they destroy the continent with their “contagious blackness” (Glover 2017, 253). This is a logic that revolves around the idea of vulnerability, for as Pokornowski (2016, 3) suggests, the relegation of individuals […] to zones of indistinction and bare life at once makes those people vulnerable –​they are prone to suffer violence –​ and also uses their vulnerability as a justification to do violence to them and maintain their vulnerable status. Essentially, this vicious circle is motivated by the disconcerting acknowledgement that “zombies are like us enough to turn us into them” (Glover 2017, 255).

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The fatal culmination of Gabriel’s/​Solomon’s journey at the hands of a group of skinheads is a prototype of the zombie violence narrative. The skinheads follow him during his evening walks in the neighbourhood, and the situation escalates to such an extent that Solomon is killed. It is noteworthy that by the time that Solomon is killed he has finally started to claim some agency and his new environment as his home. In short, there are signs that his zombification is, to a certain extent, loosening its grip. In addition to his walks, the fact that he now has a driving licence and a car suggests that he masters his mobility –​an element that also features in Essomba’s novel in which, towards the end, Jojo is taking driving lessons. However, as in popular zombie apocalypse narratives, there is always the possibility that the zombie will return; this is what happens in Phillips’s novel. When the girlfriend of one of the killers tells Dorothy what has happened to Solomon, she describes how the attackers “just wanted to have some fun” by taking the reluctant, roped Solomon down to the canal in the back of a van (54), which evokes his experiences of reduced space and lack of agency during the clandestine journey. When the attackers open the van door, Solomon, according to the girl, “went nuts […] and started to attack [his tormentors] like a madman” (54). “It was scary”, the girl goes on, “and he was shouting and carrying on, and then he had a go at Paul. The others grabbed him and then Paul bricked him” (54). The girl’s account of the events represents Solomon as the aggressor against whom the others had to defend themselves: “[H]‌e was terrifying. I thought he was gonna kill them” (54). The girl keeps repeating words such as “mad”, “nuts”, and “terrifying”, which suggest that Solomon was no longer in control of himself. Even the term “self-​defence” (54) features in her account of the events. In this way, Solomon’s vulnerability becomes the ultimate justification for violence under the pretext of self-​ defence. The notion of self-​defence resurfaces later when Dorothy talks about Solomon’s death with the bartender at the village pub. The bartender maintains that among the villagers “there’s not one […] capable of harming anybody” (48) and that “We don’t have murderers here” (49). These words suggest that if Solomon has been killed, it must have been a just reaction to something that he himself had initiated. The element of contamination characteristic of zombie narratives manifests itself in the aftermath of Solomon’s death. Dorothy is shocked by his killing and her frustration leads her to pay respect to his memory by polishing his car –​the only thing he seemed to care about as it is the symbol of his (eventually fragile) mastery over his own mobility. She copies his gestures and is so immersed in the polishing that she does not notice that a group of villagers –​ ominously referred to as “them” in the text –​are staring at her in the distance. The atmosphere in the passage is menacing, with the horde of anonymous

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204 Chapter 9 villagers staring at Dorothy, who continues polishing Solomon’s car. By adopting Solomon’s gestures, it is as if Dorothy –​who does not quite belong to the village either –​had been contaminated by his zombiesque manners, with the silently menacing villagers ready to attack her under the pretext of self-​defence. The situation is defused when Dorothy stops polishing the car. She starts to suffer from mental problems, which culminate in a brawl with homeless people and which, as her doctor says, is “just not you” (66). This suggests that the villagers think that her budding friendship with Solomon has transformed her into someone –​something –​else. Yet, rather than merely showing how white citizen-​subjects perceive the migrant-​zombie as a contagious alterity, the passage points to the fact that the zombie is so disconcertingly similar to the white citizen-​subject as to be able to contaminate it. The threat of violence that the horde of villagers express against Dorothy demonstrates how easily ‘innocent’ victims turn into perpetrators themselves. In Le Paradis du nord, Charlie is shot dead by police officers chasing the two migrants. Jojo manages to escape and learns only later about his friend’s death and that it is represented as a case of “légitime défense” (95) “legitimate defence” in the newspapers. While Charlie’s death can be seen as a typical act of self-​defence against zombies, a more interesting manifestation of the necessity to eliminate the zombie in the novel is the zombie’s desire for self-​ destruction once they have lost their “faith in the dream of becoming one with the [host] society” (Papastergiadis 2009, 158). This impulse is expressed in a passage in which Jojo and Charlie search for a place to sleep on their first night on the streets of Paris. Approaching a cemetery, Jojo wonders if they could sleep there –​the allusion to “resting in peace” is one of the first signs of his self-​destructive tendencies and his desire to escape the limbo of an unliveable life. In the aftermath of Charlie’s killing, Jojo runs away from the police and sees no other option than to jump into “les eaux noires de la Seine” (85) “the black water of Seine”. Swimming under water, Jojo is overwhelmed by weariness: without Charlie, he feels lost. It is at this moment that he starts to think that “Ce serait tellement simple si tout s’arrêtait … Ne plus vivre, ne plus courir, ne plus souffrir, mourir. Oui, c’était ça la solution: mourir!” (86) “It would be so much easier if everything just stopped … No longer live, run, suffer; just die. Yes, the solution was to die!”. Jojo is taken over by a suicidal impulse; he lets himself sink and stops breathing, but eventually his feet meet the ground and he sees steps going up from the river. His suicidal thoughts return later when he witnesses the suicide of Prosper, one of the clandestine migrants in the squat. Observing the corpse, a feeling of weariness [“une grande lassitude” (124)] takes hold of him again, and he is about to swallow the pills that he finds

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in Prosper’s hand when Anselme, another occupant of the squat, stops him. Later, when Jojo visits the Eiffel Tower with Anselme, at the top of the tower he observes that: “Si quelqu’un se jette d’ici, il n’a aucune chance de survivre” (128) “If someone threw himself down from here, there’s no chance he could survive”. Jojo’s enduring suicidal impulses betray his desire to self-​destroy the zombie that he has become and to escape the abject border condition that being a zombie entails. The self-​destructive impulse is also present in A Distant Shore, in which Gabriel, exhausted by his clandestine journey and disappointed by England, observes the “blackness” of the river Thames and wonders “what it would be like to drop down into the cool water” and whether “he might find peace in the silence and stillness that lay beneath London’s silvery vein” (168–​169). Death by drowning and the potential ‘peace’ that it is supposed to bring evoke the destiny of one of Gabriel’s co-​travellers:  a Chinese man who drowns during the sea-​crossing from France to the UK. The idea of finding peace in death seems to be simultaneously both disturbing and comforting –​something that Gabriel does not quite want to contemplate. The trope of drowning in Phillips’s novel reinforces the parallel between contemporary clandestine migrant mobilities and the Middle Passage (Sharpe 2009, 100; Tournay-​Theodotou 2012, 294). To link these contemporary and historical sea-​crossings to the former imperial capital of London and the River Thames –​or the Seine, as in Essomba’s novel –​posits “European rivers as contested sites where imperial history lurks just beneath the surface”, as Knox (2016, 203) argues. Simultaneously, these liquid parallels suggest that the conditions that define undocumented migrants’ clandestine journeys persist in the respective destinations. From this perspective, it is not insignificant that Gabriel/​Solomon, having survived a risky sea-​crossing and the impulse to drown himself in the Thames, is killed near the canal in his new home village. Both novels suggest that if it is not the community of white citizen-​subjects that eliminates the zombie migrant, it is the wearying effect of zombifying travel itself that causes clandestine migrants to want to eliminate themselves. However, as zombies do not master their own actions, they cannot really decide to end their lives either. This is the case with both Essomba’s and Phillips’s zombified travellers: despite their suicidal tendencies, it is ultimately the community that takes action to get rid of them. Solomon is killed and Jojo is most probably quarantined through imprisonment, although the lack of closure in Essomba’s novel leaves the reader in suspense by leaving open the possibility of the zombie’s return.

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Conclusion: The Poetics of Zombification

My adaptation of the zombie metaphor to the analysis of Essomba’s and Phillips’s novels shows how both texts resort to imagery that revolves around the loss of identity and emotion, darkness, hiding, confinement, and death in their representations of clandestine Afroeuropean mobilities. This imagery shapes the key elements of the novels’ poetics of zombified mobilities. Both texts portray Europe as a destination of non-​arrival, which conveys the idea of zombification as a continuum: the impossibility of escape is the tragedy that lies at the core of zombified Afroeuropean mobilities. Europe is not the cosmopolitan utopian space that the clandestine travellers are desperately seeking. The complexity of the zombie metaphor permits an in-​depth understanding of Afroeuropean clandestine migrant mobilities. While the zombie of contemporary popular culture conveys the idea of an abject, contagious alterity that resonates with anti-​immigration discourses, the figure’s Haitian forebear draws attention to the zombie’s lack of agency, victimhood, and servitude. The dimension of slavery that is central in the Haitian zombie links the conditions of contemporary clandestine migrant mobilities to Middle Passage journeys. Thus, the zombie metaphor demonstrates how Essomba’s and Phillips’s representations of illegalised travellers’ Afroeuropean journeys spring from a wider historical context of racialised abjection, violence, and horror.

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Coda The aim of this study has been to analyse representations of and to explore the relation between mobility and different articulations of cosmopolitanism in contemporary Francophone and Anglophone African and Afrodiasporic literary texts. While the words ‘mobility’ and ‘cosmopolitanism’ feature, in their plural forms, side by side in the title of this study, it has also been my endeavour to question the frequently far too easily established link between the two. A  cosmopolitan consciousness or posture necessitates some form of mobility –​although not necessarily physical –​because mobility is the element that exposes people to transcultural encounters. At the same time, mobility alone clearly does not automatically lead to a cosmopolitan approach or attitude. While some form of mobility can be seen to provide the prerequisite for cosmopolitan engagements, it can also be argued that, rather than being simply the condition of the mobility, it is the gesture of crossing borders that is necessary for cosmopolitanism to manifest itself –​however small-​scale, ephemeral, and imperfect its appearance may be. Cosmopolitanism is in many senses a utopia and it often articulates itself negatively through its contemporary misgivings and failures in a world that is increasingly connected but also fractured by sometimes insurmountable borders. A cosmopolitan approach and sensitivity are often associated with subject positions marked by socio-​economic privilege. Moreover, traditional conceptualisations of cosmopolitanism have also, of course, been profoundly Eurocentric. Contemporary theories of cosmopolitanism have challenged the in-​built elitism and Eurocentrism informing the concept, which is reflected in new, revised understandings of cosmopolitanism as something practical, mundane, and down to earth. Such re-​conceptualisations of cosmopolitanism have permitted more democratic and inclusive adaptations of the concept that also acknowledge the existence of local cosmopolitanisms that do not necessarily entail physical (transnational) mobility. While it is extremely important to acknowledge these new ‘grass-​root’ manifestations of cosmopolitan sensibilities and to challenge the elitist bias of traditional cosmopolitanisms with the idea of asylum seekers, refugees, and clandestine migrants as ‘new cosmopolitans’, one should also remain careful not to romanticise them. The material conditions of such grassroots cosmopolitanisms are often very challenging and may seriously affect one’s ability to engage with the world and the Other. Socio-​economic privilege, on the other hand, may render some border crossings easier and facilitate a position that could be defined as feeling ‘at home in the world’. Nevertheless, at the same time, it is good to remember

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208 Coda that cosmopolitanism is, above all, an active ethical engagement that demands constant work. As a result of this hard work, which not only entails one’s relation to the world and the Other but also a critical understanding of one’s own positionality, a cosmopolitan sensitivity might actually turn into a feeling of not being at home in the world at all. For the sense of not being at home in the world to generate something constructive rather than merely destructive, one first needs to have the luxury of being able to identify the world as one’s home. One of the main arguments of this study has been that postcolonial studies would greatly benefit from a dialogue with mobilities research. In postcolonial literary studies, ‘mobility’ refers either to wider global migratory movements or is used as a metaphor for the ‘migrant condition’ which is characterised by hybridity and processes of transculturation. In both cases, postcolonial literary studies is more interested in the outcomes of mobility than in mobility per se –​in other words, the defining perspective is that of diaspora or migration studies, not that of mobility studies. However, as this study has demonstrated, mobility should not be reduced to a mere synonym for migration: mobility is about concrete displacements in space, often involving specific vehicles and modes of transportation or, alternatively, through imaginary, virtual and communicative travel; it is a matter of everyday life; it is also a tangible part of the migrant life and it can be approached as concrete practices when studying both transnational migrant mobilities and also the everyday mobilities inscribed in the local. Mobility is productive of identities and mobile subjectivities, which may be overlapping although certainly not entirely commensurable with migration. Indeed, mobile figures such as the tourist, the vagrant, the hotel guest, the returnee, the metro user, the flâneur, the automobilist, and the clandestine traveller feature throughout the text corpus discussed in this study –​many of such figures are also migrants. Fictionalised African mobile subjects and their mobility practices as represented in literature certainly deserve closer critical attention:  as underlined throughout this study, literary representations of concrete forms of mobility are loaded with meaning. Moreover, as Stephen Greenblatt (2010, “Mobility”, 250) argues, it is “only when conditions directly related to literal movement are firmly grasped will it be possible fully to understand the metaphorical movements”. In the text corpus analysed, representations of concrete mobility practices have been central in the construction of an understanding of the movement between, for example, centre and periphery/​margin, belonging and unbelonging, and the private and the public, and in processes of transformations and transitions from one identity to another. By approaching such symbolic mobilities through the tangible imagery of mobility it is possible to paint a fuller picture of the meanings of mobility in African and Afrodiasporic literatures.

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My analysis of mobilities has also been motivated by the idea of drawing attention to the texts’ literary strategies in translating the mobility theme into the literary form. Obviously, given that the text corpus consists of a wide variety of different literary texts by different authors, it is not possible to argue that there is one single poetics of mobility that could be regarded as characteristic of the entire text corpus and that would manifest itself in it in a consistent way. I have analysed the poetics of mobility through the texts’ use of mobility-​ related tropes; as a generic feature; in terms of narrative speed and narrative transitions; as literary adaptations of typical elements of mobile technologies; narrative gaps and silences; mobile spaces as chronotopes; and as mobile figures that attest to the cultural mobilities between African and the rest of the world. What I have tried to demonstrate in this study is that through such literary strategies the texts under discussion convey meanings of mobility in a wholesale manner on both the thematic and also on their formal level. It is precisely in these literary strategies that the power of the literary meaning-​making of mobility lies: the strategies intensify and complicate our understanding of real-​life mobilities and illuminate them by allowing us to see them from a new perspective, through new meanings. As my analysis of the text corpus suggests, different forms of mobility are closely intertwined. Imaginative, virtual, and communicative modes of travel often trigger physical travel; this element runs through all of the categories of mobility and cosmopolitanisms, ranging from the ‘business class’ to the popular, débrouillard and abject categories of African and Afrodiasporic literary mobilities. These non-​physical modes of mobility are extremely important for the analysis of mobility in African and Afrodiasporic literatures and even more so for the fact that they often convey the discrepancies between ideas and the reality, such as the ways in which distant places, e.g., the destination of one’s migrant journey or one’s former home country, are imagined prior to the physical journey itself. The non-​physical modes of mobility are also of great importance in the conceptualisation of forms of cosmopolitanism that do not rely on transnational human travel but that may be more rooted in specific local contexts. By focusing on the representations of mobilities and cosmopolitanisms, this study also represents an attempt to ride two horses simultaneously, so to speak. While discussions of the potentials and limits of cosmopolitanism and, above all, Afropolitanism will certainly continue in the field of African literary studies, it would be interesting to see more work being done on mobilities –​ in the concrete and diverse mobilities studies sense of the term. Interesting future venues for research would be to take the dialogue between postcolonial literary studies and mobilities research further, especially in terms of

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210 Coda exploring the notion of the poetics of mobility in greater depth and in diverse spatio-​temporal contexts and across literary genres. As portrayals of concrete mobility practices often feature in short passages and, as such, form somewhat marginal parts of literary texts, research focusing uniquely on literary representations of concrete forms of mobility would probably necessitate an explicitly mobile, comparative reading method –​in the sense of moving between multiple literary works in the search for fragments in order to paint a wider picture. Moreover, another extremely important research topic would focus on literary representations of mobility on the African continent itself. Today, most studies of African literatures tend to focus on diasporic literatures, and ‘mobility’ is most frequently understood as a synonym for global migratory movements from Africa to the Global North. Portrayals of local African and intracontinental mobility practices –​and not simply those limited to ‘modern’ mobile technologies –​would certainly deserve further critical attention. By focusing on representations of mobilities on the African continent, research might find some interesting literary mobile subjectivities/​figures whose come-​into-​being might be less affected by the colonial project or which adapt colonial mobile technologies in ways that attest to creative, alternative Afromodernities. And finally, it would also be interesting to read more about characteristically middle class mobilities in African and Afrodiasporic literatures. Because of the global urgency, narratives of coerced migration are currently receiving much needed attention. These often stand in flagrant contrast to affluent mobilities as embodied in the figure of the Afropolitan. But the ground in between, namely the banal, everyday mobilities of the African and Afrodiasporic middle class, tends to remain somewhat overshadowed by these two extremities.

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Index Aatkar, Sofia 2n1, 70, 165–​166 Abderrezak, Hakim 169n3, 170–​171, 177, 196 Abject 14–​15, 24, 150–​151, 159–​160, 162–​166, 168, 171–​173, 176–​178, 181, 183, 188–​190, 192, 195, 201 Adenekan, Shola 50, 94n3, 98 Adesanmi, Pius 29, 67 Adey, Peter 2, 47, 87 Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi 14, 22, 23, 47–​63, 87–​88, 93, 95–​96, 103–​105 Adventurer/​aventurier, 128, 129n7, 130–​136, 138–​140, 139n13 see also Vagrant Afroeuropean 126–​127, 126n1, 127n4 migrant mobilities 24, 126–​128, 131, 132–​133, 138, 144, 169, 172–​173, 177–​178, 190–​192 Afropolitan  and diaspora 5, 10–​11, 32, 41–​42, 50, 151 and privilege 40–​41, 43, 51, 104, 156–​157, 171–​172 antithesis of the 150–​151, 177–​178 as an identity position 10–​11, 32, 32n3, 40–​41, 151 avant la lettre, 22, 40–​45 limits of the concept of the 40–​41, 51, 156–​157, 166–​167, 171–​172, 187 parody of the 160–​162 Afropolitanism 10–​11 and consumerism 40–​41, 43, 161–​162 and mobility 5, 29–​30, 50, 89–​90, 151, 156–​157 criticism of 10–​11, 40–​41, 51, 151–​152, 156–​157, 162 Agamben, Giorgio 188, 188n1 Agier, Michel 137, 139, 150, 171, 176 Aguiar, Marian 1, 15, 17 Aidoo, Ama Ata 13–​14, 20, 22, 29–​46, 48–​49, 50, 56–​57, 59–​60, 133 Airport 61, 118, 153–​155, 195 Amad, Paula 78–​79 Ameel, Lieven 120, 122, 123 Amit, Vered 6, 9–​10, 116, 136–​137, 152, 153, 156, 159 Anyinefa, Koffi 2n1, 108, 200

Appiah, Kwame, Anthony 6, 116 Ashcroft, Bill 31, 109n1 Asibong, Andrew 170n5, 173, 178 Atta, Sefi 14–​15, 20, 22, 25, 47–​63, 160, 168–​ 187, 188, 191 Augé, Marc 48, 53, 54 Automobility 4, 30, 32–​36 Averis, Kate 16, 48 Bakhtin, Mikhail 56 Bates, Charlotte 36, 49 Beck, Anna 107, 108 Beck, Ulrich 6, 11, 40, 88–​89, 116, 151 Bekers, Elisabeth 194, 195, 196 Bender, Thomas 72, 156–​157, 165, 166 Berensmeyer, Ingo 13, 14, 17, 19, 91, 109, 115 Boehmer, Elleke 18–​19, 67, 88n1 Bond, Emma 2, 16 Border 11, 17, 126–​127, 134, 149–​167, 168, 171, 172, 183, 188 and cosmopolitanism 109, 137, 138–​ 140, 150 crossing of 9, 10, 24–​25, 40, 61, 136, 192–​193 Bosch Santana, Stephanie 40–​41, 161 Boym, Svetlana 67, 72, 73 Bridet, Guillaume 6, 10, 156 Bridgen, Noelle 1, 107, 191, 192–​193 Buhr, Franz 110–​111, 118 Bulawayo, NoViolet 14, 23, 87–​88, 91, 93–​94, 96–​98, 100–​101, 160 Calhoun, Craig 6, 43, 89–​90, 118, 150, 161 Canavan, Gerry 188–​189, 198 Chambers, Iain 149–​150, 168, 171, 172–​173, 188–​189, 192 Chassot, Joanne 193, 195 Cheah, Peng 6, 116, 151 Chikwava, Brian 15, 21, 24–​25, 149–​167, 188 Chipfupa, David 153, 155 Cidell, Julie 107, 110 Clifford, James 37, 47 Cohen, Robin 6, 162, 199 Cole, Teju 79–​80, 166 Cosmopolitanism 

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241

Index and elites 10, 40–​41, 115–​116, 118, 136–​137, 153, 156 aspirational 6, 11–​12, 137–​138 as survival strategy 24, 115–​119, 128, 138–​ 141, 144–​145 critical 6, 11–​12, 172 débrouillardise, 24, 115–​119, 128, 136–​141 failures of 6, 9–​10, 11–​12, 24–​25, 149–​167, 172, 177, 199–​202, 207 popular 14, 23–​24, 87, 90, 128, 136–​137, 156–​157, 170 pragmatic 87, 88–​90, 109, 116, 136–​137 utopian 6, 11–​12, 41, 116, 151–​152 Cousins, Helen 50, 98 Cresswell, Tim 1–​3, 5–​6, 14, 15–​17, 18, 29, 31, 49, 97, 107, 108, 115, 131–​132, 139, 168 Cuvelier, Jeroen 3–​5, 55n5

Greenblatt, Stephen 9, 47, 107, 208 Green-​Simms, Lindsey 2n1, 30, 32–​34

Dabiri, Emma 10, 40–​41, 51, 161, 162 Davidson, Ian C. 19, 108, 115 Davidson, Robert 36, 48, 57, 123 Delanty, Gerard 155, 156 Dessy, Clément 108, 126, 200 Di Maio, Alessandra 169, 183–​184 Diome, Fatou 91, 130, 169, 170 Durante, Erica 154

Immobility 3–​4, 13–​15, 33, 45, 51, 55–​56, 61, 63, 124, 132, 165, 173, 183, 192–​194 see also Stagnation Irving, Andrew 12, 90, 137

Eckhard, Petra 109, 113 Ede, Amatoritsero 42 Ehland, Christoph 13, 14, 17, 19, 91, 109, 115 Ellis, David 198, 201–​202 Essomba, J.R. 15, 21, 25–​26, 110, 188–​206 Ewers, Chris 19, 20, 108 Eze, Chilozona 42 Finch, Jason 120, 122, 123 Fischer-​Hornung, Dorothea 189–​190, 189n3 Flâneur 70, 165–​166 Forsdick, Charles 2n1, 8, 64, 77 François, Anne 67, 67n3 Gardiner Barber, Pauline 6, 9–​10, 116, 136–​137, 152, 153, 156, 159 Garnier, Xavier 109, 126 Gikandi, Simon 9, 43, 50–​51, 66–​67, 90, 100, 149–​150, 152, 171, 172, 186, 198, 199 Gilroy, Paul 6, 116 Glick Schiller, Nina 3, 12, 14, 18, 90, 137 Glover, Kaiama L. 135, 189–​190, 192, 198, 202

Hannam, Kevin 2, 3, 36, 108 Hansen, David 41, 151 Harris, Ashleigh 7, 7n5, 10, 51, 94, 138, 153, 156–​157, 165 Harris, Oliver 95, 96, 98 Hart, Jennifer 4, 33–​34, 33n4, 35 Herk, Aritha van 36, 37–​38, 57, 58, 58n6, 60 Hollis-​Touré, Isabel 16, 48 Hogarth, Christopher 127, 127n4 Hotel 20, 22, 36–​40, 47–​63, 69–​70, 122–​124 Huck, Christian 20, 109 Huggan, Graham 47, 73, 131–​132, 153–​154 Hypermobility 14, 20, 43, 44–​45, 55–​56, 62, 115, 124

Jensen, Ole B. 107 Johansen, Emily 11, 137–​138, 152 Johnson, Erica L. 74, 108–​109, 113–​114, 121 Jordan, Shirley 177, 183 Kabelik, Roman 16–​17, 19 Kanor, Fabienne 14, 21, 24, 126–​145, 157, 165, 169, 170, 176 Keskinen, Mikko 91, 98 Kihindou, Liss 14, 23, 87–​88, 91–​92, 94–​96, 97–​100 Knox, Katelyn 117n5, 193–​194, 195–​196, 201, 205 Knudsen, Eva Rask 5, 50, 66, 90, 156–​157, 163 Kordas, Ann 196, 201n11 Krishnan, Madhu 7, 7n5, 29n1, 31, 153, 159, 193n9 Kristeva, Julia 162, 171–​172 Kuietche Fonkou, Aubin 109, 126 Kurasawa, Fuyuki 6, 11–​12 Larsen, Jonas 50, 87 Lauro, Sarah Juliet 189–​190, 189n2, 189n3, 190, 191n6, 192 Ledent, Bénédicte 8, 68, 177, 194, 194n10, 197 Lemos Horta, Paulo 115–​116, 136, 138, 172, 199

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242 Index Lisle, Debbie 73, 77 Lombardi-​Diop, Cristina 175, 181, 184 López Ropero, María Lourdes 65–​66, 67 Mabanckou, Alain 4–​5, 8, 14, 20, 22–​24, 64–​84, 107–​125, 130 Mainwaring, Ċetta 1, 107, 191, 192–​193 Marschall, Sabine 68, 77 Matereke, Kudzai, P. 3–​4, 9, 13, 89 Mathieson, Charlotte 1, 15, 17 Matthias, Bettina 36, 48–​49, 51, 53–​54, 56, 61–​62 Mavhunga, Clapperton Chakanetsa 3–​5, 55n5 Mazauric, Catherine 2n1, 6, 128, 128n6, 169, 176 Mbembe, Achille 6, 29–​30, 32n3, 40, 55n5, 71, 88–​89, 139–​140, 156, 170 McCluskey, Alan 201n12, 202 Mediterranean 25, 132–​133, 168–​169, 169n2 & n3, 170–​171, 173, 177, 181, 183–​185 Mendes, Ana Cristina 9, 152, 172 Merriman, Peter 2, 15, 17 Mezzadra, Sandro 126–​127, 149–​150 Middle Passage 21, 181, 183–​185, 191–​192, 193–​194, 205, 206 see also Transatlantic slave trade Mobility  and anxiety 13, 14, 29–​46, 48–​49, 50, 109, 112, 114, 115, 122 and freedom 14, 30, 31, 34–​35, 46, 60–​61, 139, 154, 165, 171, 192 and gender 29–​30, 32–​34, 36, 38, 57–​58, 59–​61, 108, 129n7, 175–​176, 182, 185 and literary genre 19–​20, 64–​65, 91–​92, 109, 210 and modernity 3–​4, 19, 29–​46, 108, 115, 200 and technology 3–​4, 20–​21, 23, 32–​34, 33n4, 43–​44, 45, 50, 87–​106, 115, 210 and transformation 14, 109, 115, 123, 125, 155–​156, 197–​198 interrupted 13, 14, 34–​35, 115, 130, 154, 191 poetics of 19–​21, 35, 40, 51, 62–​63, 91–​94, 108, 112, 125, 144, 160, 180–​183, 190–​191, 209 of clandestine migrants 126–​145, 168–​187, 188–​206 representation of 1–​3, 5–​6, 15–​21 transnational 9, 25, 29, 43, 50, 61, 99, 105, 137, 149, 151, 157, 207

Moudileno, Lydie 109n2, 121, 126, 126n2, 170n5, 177 Moudouma, Sydoine Moudouma 171 Moynagh, Maureen 64, 64–​65n1, 71 Muchemwa, Kizito Z. 149, 153, 161 Mueller, Monika 189–​190, 189n3 Muponde, Robert 88, 94n3, 101n6, 149 Murray, Lesley 16–​17, 107, 110 Musila, Grace 10, 51, 172 NDiaye, Marie 15, 25, 168–​187, 188 Ndione, Abasse 126, 132–​133 Ndlovu, Isaac 159–​160 Neilson, Brett 126–​127, 149–​150 Ng, Maria Noëlle 36, 38, 59–​60, 61 Niang, Mouhamédoul Amine 88, 91 Ní Loingsigh, Aedín 1, 2n1, 48n2, 64, 64–​65n1 Non-​arrival 14, 69, 170, 191–​192, 200, 206 Nostalgia 23, 37, 66–​67, 69, 72–​77, 95–​96 Nowicka, Magdalena 137, 155 Noxolo, Patricia 155 Nyers, Peter 162–​163, 171 Nyman, Jopi 11, 13, 53, 150, 171, 180 Oho Bambe, Marc Alexandre 169, 170 Olaussen, Maria 30, 30n2, 34, 39, 59–​60, 168 Opoku-​Agyemang, Kwabena 30 Palmer, Andrew 65, 77 Papastergiadis, Nikos 135, 177, 179, 188–​189, 192, 196–​197, 204 Parent, Anne Martine 177–​178 Paris metro 107–​108, 111–​112, 114–​115, 117–​119, 200 Passport 61, 154–​155, 174–​175, 176, 178 Patell, Cyrus R. K. 89, 138, 155, 159 Pearce, Lynne 1, 15, 17, 19, 30, 44, 50 Pearson, Justine Shih 153 Peeren, Esther 119–​120, 131–​132, 134 Perfect, Michael 107, 149n1, 153, 158 Periphery 119–​124, 126–​128, 129–​136 Pettinger, Alasdair 68–​69 Petzold, Knut 5, 9 Phillips, Caryl 15, 21, 25–​26, 65–​66, 188–​206 Pickering, Sharon 128, 190, 192 Pirie, Gordon H. 89, 130 Poeze, Miranda 128n5, 132, 139n13, 169, 179n9 Pokornowski, Steven 189, 199, 202

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243

Index Pollock, Sheldon 136–​137, 151, 156, 176 Pratt, Mary Louise 77 Primorac, Ranka 88–​89, 89n2, 107, 149 Prytherch, David 107, 110 Public transport 24, 35, 110, 113, 120, 122, 123, 164 Pype, Katrien 3–​5, 55n5 Quayson, Ato 6, 17, 18, 29, 33, 38, 65n2, 138 Rahbek, Ulla 5, 50, 66, 90, 156–​157, 163 Rakotoson, Michèle 14, 21, 23–​24, 107–​125, 157 Ravi, Srilata 66–​67, 72, 75, 76–​77 Returnee 42, 64–​84, 90, 130 Robbins, Bruce 6, 41, 115–​116, 136, 172, 199 Rofheart, Mahriana 88n1, 171n6 Rosaldo, Renato 73, 74 Rosello, Mireille 17, 115, 136n11, 150 Rotunno, Laura 91, 96, 98 Rovisco, Maria 5, 137, 155 Rubin, Martin 109, 111, 117, 123 Salazar, Noel B. 3, 14, 18 Salmela, Markku 120, 121, 123 Sarr, Mohamed Mbougar 126, 133, 169, 170 Savonick, Danica 2n1, 34 Schapendonk, Joris 1–​3, 107, 128, 129–​130, 169, 169n4, 173, 190–​191 Schwetman, John D. 111, 118 Schimanski, Johan 126–​127, 150, 166 Schulze-​Engler, Frank 126n3 Scott, David 30–​31, 46, 49, 173–​174, 174n7 Selasi, Taiye 10, 32, 40–​42, 149–​150, 151–​152, 160, 161, 171 Sharpe, Jenny 194, 205 Shaw, Kristian 12, 87, 89, 137, 151–​152, 172 Sheller, Mimi 2–​3, 9, 14, 30, 31, 36, 44, 48–​49, 58, 87, 88, 107–​108, 123, 128 Short, Emma 19, 36, 39, 49, 51, 53–​54, 57–​58, 59–​60 Simpson, Waleska Saltori 37, 45 Smallwood, Stephanie E. 135, 191, 193, 194 Sow Fall, Aminata 154 Spencer, Robert 6, 11–​12, 41, 116, 151–​152, 172 Stević, Aleksandar 11, 137–​138, 167, 172 Stagnation 14–​15, 33–​34, 39, 60, 132, 154, 172–​173, 176, 183  see also Immobility

Stratton, John 135, 188 Stuit, Hanneke 119–​120, 131–​132, 134 Swanson, Lucy 135, 190n5 Tadjo, Véronique 14, 23, 87–​88, 92–​93, 101–​103 Thomas, Dominic 117n5, 126–​127, 168, 168n1, 169, 170, 170n5, 177–​178 Tihanov, Galin 137, 152, 157 Toivanen, Anna-​Leena 10, 41, 103, 154 Topping, Margaret 78–​79, 79n6 Tourism 37, 47–​48, 68, 77, 131–​132, 133–​134, 138–​139 Tournay-​Theodotou, Petra 201n12, 205 Transatlantic slave trade 25, 47, 127, 130–​131, 185–​186, 187, 195–​196 see also Middle Passage Travel  communicative 2–​3, 23, 87–​106 for business 29–​30, 42–​43, 45, 52–​53, 57, 133, 154 for leisure 22, 29–​30, 42–​43, 47–​49, 55–​56, 62–​63, 130, 132 imaginative 3, 15, 23, 50, 72, 87, 88–​89, 100 maritime 132–​133, 170–​171, 191–​192 virtual 3, 15, 23, 50, 87, 88–​89, 100 writing 20, 22–​23, 47n1, 64–​67, 68–​69, 71–​72, 73, 77 Treadwell, Sarah 39, 58, 58n6, 123 Treiber, Nicolas 109, 113–​114, 126 Triulzi, Alessandro 169n2, 174, 174n8, 184n11, 185n13, 196 Tsang, Philip 11, 137–​138, 167, 172 Tunca, Daria 2n1, 8, 68 Unbelonging 14, 20, 22, 43, 49, 50, 51–​57, 66–​67, 70–​71, 72, 75, 82, 84, 101, 162–​166, 208 Upstone, Sara 2n1, 15–​17, 107, 110 Urban  mobility 20, 23–​24, 32–​36, 70, 107–​125, 138, 165–​166 space and cosmopolitanism 11, 115–​116, 152–​153 uncanny 108–​109, 113–​114 Uriarte, Javier 69 Urry, John 2–​3, 30, 33, 35–​36, 44, 48, 50, 58, 77, 87, 88, 108, 123, 154, 191n7

Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1

244 Index Vagrant 132 see also Adventurer/​aventurier Vertovec, Steven 6, 162, 199

Wolfe, Stephen, F. 17, 126–​127, 136n11, 150, 166, 183 Wolfreys, Julian 108–​109, 113

Walder, Dennis 67, 73 Weber, Leanne 128, 190, 192 Werbner, Pnina 11, 152, 158, 165 Weyenberg, Astrid van 119–​120, 131–​132, 134 Wicomb, Zoë 153, 165 Wihtol de Wenden, Catherine 127–​128, 169, 173, 175, 184–​185, 186

Youngs, Tim 47n1, 82 Zegeye, Abebe 88, 94n3 Zembylas, Michalinos 168, 188–​189 Zombie 21, 25–​26, 131, 135–​136, 188–​206

Anna-Leena Toivanen - 978-90-04-44475-1