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Archipelago-izing or Re-continentalizing Africa: Oceanic Paradigms in Two Recent West African Novels
ABSTRACT This article examines two contemporary African literary engagements with Black diasporic history and culture and the meaning of the diaspora for African identity. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (2018) turns to diasporic cultures and the history of slavery in order to develop an understanding of its protagonist’s identity within Igbo cosmology and to seek a new wholeness achieved by shattering and mutilation: a process that might be described as archipelagic thought (Édouard Glissant). In contrast, The Sacred River by Syl Cheney-Coker (2014) eventually imagines the continent washed clean, purified of diasporic—particularly Haitian—influences, a paradigm that I, drawing on the work of Glissant in Philosophie de la Relation, call re-continentalization: both a forgetting of the influence of the diaspora in Africa and a reinstatement of origins, linearity, and hierarchy.
KEYWORDS archipelagic thought, Édouard Glissant, queer diaspora, African literature