Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Imagining Kenya in Ngugi's fiction Public Deposited

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  • The relationship between literature and nation-building has been one of the most crucial issues in postcolonial studies. The novel in particular is regarded as a means by which writers forge national consciousness among the colonized during the time of colonization. Many African writers themselves, for example, conceive of their work as an arena of resistance to European colonialism which disfigures the identities of Africans and denies their history. In this study, I investigate how Ngugi wa Thiong'o, the foremost Kenyan writer, attempts to construct what Benedict Anderson calls "imagined communities" in Kenya during the colonial era, decolonization, and the post-independence period as reflected in three of his novels: The River Between (1965), A Grain of Wheat (1967), and Petals of Blood (1977). Far from being an unchanging entity, nationalism is a social construct that is constantly redefined and historically contingent. In The River Between, Ngugi draws upon Gikuyu cultural practices, especially the contested and value-laden rite of female circumcision, as sources of collective identity on which Kenyans might build to construct a nation. As he moves toward A Grain of Wheat, he identifies Kenyan nationhood with the Mau Mau struggle against British rule. In this novel, Ngugi not only contests the British account of the national liberation movement as barbaric, criminal and tribal, but also critiques the government that urges the Kenyan to forget about the Mau Mau because of its violence. In Petals of Blood, Ngugi delegitimates the nation-state as it betrays the hope of the people in postindependence Kenya. Instead of materializing the ideals of the nationalist movement, the nation-state controlled by the elite and the national bourgeoisie fully embraces the ideology of capitalist neocolonialism which, like its cousin colonialism, exploits the marginalized peasants and working-class people. The clear-cut class divisions engendered by neocolonialism indicates that Ngugi's imagined "Kenya," a civil society that gives full value to its people, has not yet come into being, and the struggle of the masses for independence will continue.
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