The Village as African and Diasporan Space

Joseph McLaren
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The “village” is a well-known literary space and setting in African novels, sometimes associated with the common rural-urban binary or ideas of “traditional culture.” This perception of African space as bifurcated also has relevance to notions of modernity and Western conceptions of “progress.” In positing a transDiasporan fictional aesthetic, it is possible to perceive of the “village” as a literary space that has parallels in certain Diaspora locations. For example, the persistence of village settings in African literature can be seen in the recent novel of Shimmer Chinodya, Dew in the Morning (2001), which is historically retrospective, as well as in a pair of novels from Jamaica, Vanessa Spence’s The Roads Are Down (1993) and Opal Palmer Adisa’s It Begins with Tears (1997). The way certain authors from Africa and the Caribbean Diaspora depict the village goes beyond mere binaries to a suggestion of cultural and perhaps ethical realities. The Jamaican “village” and its African counterpart can be used in a literary sense to show commonalities and disjunctures in novelistic treatments. The village can be a setting in which to relate personal or familial dilemmas as well as relationships to the State or the Nation. Furthermore, novelists presenting village communities are often faced with questions of language, the retention of the rural voice, mother tongues or patois, thus complicating the task of the African and Caribbean novelist who chooses to present inter-generational relationships.

Keywords: Africa, Village, Diaspora, Caribbean
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Joseph McLaren

Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Hofstra University
Hempstead, New York, USA

Joseph McLaren is Professor of English at Hofstra University in New York. He specializes in African and African Diaspora literatures and is the author of Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943 (1997). In addition, he co-edited Pan-Africanism Updated (1999) and African Visions (2000).

Ref: I07P0340