Everyday childhoods in contemporary African fiction

by Veronica Barnsley

01 Jun 2022
Journal of the British Academy
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Number of pages
14 (pp. 283-296)

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Abstract: This article contends that humanitarian imagery and sociopolitical discourses that present African childhoods as ‘lacking’ are being rigorously challenged by African fiction that illuminates the diversity of childhood experiences that make up the everyday. The article aims to show that neither the trope of the African child as silent victim nor the globalised African child whose trajectory is characterised by escape from local and national ties is able to capture the complexity and plurality of ‘parochial’ (Jaji 2021) childhoods and suggests that new versions of childhood are emerging in African writing. By analysing the role of the everyday and the ambiguity of play in fiction by Tsitsi Dangarembga, NoViolet Bulawayo, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Khadija Abdalla Bajaber, alongside stories from the 2021 Caine Prize shortlist, the article showcases the fresh and adventurous narratives of childhood to be found in contemporary African fiction.

Keywords: African childhoods, Caine Prize, Tsitsi Dangarembga, NoViolet Bulawayo Jennifer Makumbi, Khadija Abdalla Bajaber.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 10, supplementary issue 2 (Searching for the Everyday in African Childhoods).

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