Migrant fictions : theorising the writing and reading of Nigerian stories by expatriate authors and publics
This thesis is about the inter-relationship between migrancy and narrative. It is based on research carried out among expatriate Nigerians, studying the stories that they told of their time abroad and of their relationship with Nigeria. It is also based on research examining the cross-cultural reception of two contrasting novels in various parts of Scotland, and in Plateau State, Nigeria. The thesis argues that western cultural history from the 1980s forwards had tended to celebrate migrancy in general, and the migrant intellectual specifically, in a way that privileges homelessness over residence, and in a fashion which allocates an undue voluntaristic power of achievement to acts of imagination, ignoring the delimiting effects of class position and economics on individual subjects. This aggrandisement of the migrant, it is argued, is part of a long-standing western romantic tradition in which the outsider is seem to hold a unique, vatic perspective on social life. While there is some sociological truth in such a proposition, the research presented here demonstrates how such a dominant intellectual attitude exerts a pressure against the production of fiction written locally in Africa, for African readers. It also demonstrates how the privileging of the distanciated perspective can give the cue for migrancy to become, in itself, a form of symbolic capital held over and against the sedentary local. In both of these cases what appear to be purely cultural effects - changes in perspectives and attitude - are at the same time disguised expressions of an economic privilege. The contribution of this dissertation then, is to examine these cultural questions from a materialist position and to suggest how it has come about that even in its discussion of migrancy, the deterritorialization of identity, and the death of the nation, western cultural theory has managed to re-enforce its own hegemonic and institutional grip.