Date of Award

January 2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Christopher Nelson

Abstract

ABSTRACT

Afropolitanism, in part, accounts for itinerant and so autonomous Africans who shape the contours of a late-modern global history. If Afropolitanism describes the work and activism of 21st century Africans in Euro-America determined to challenge western discourses that malign Africa, it is important to witness the distinctive character and voice Afropolitan women bring to that history defining exercise. Otherwise, as critics and scholars interested in what Afropolitanism brings to the work of reframing master narratives hitherto encircled for western primacy, we risk reinforcing the injustice we address.

To fill this gap in the literature, I employ Selasi’s initial conception of the Afropolitan, what suffices for her consequent theory of an Afropolitan way of being in the world, to distinguish narrative moments and/or character portraits in Adichie’s Americanah (2013) that point to, curate, and witness an Afropolitan feminism tethered to the habits and politics of being American. More specifically, I examine ways Afropolitan feminism, as delineated in Adichie’s novel 1) promotes feminist advocacy for and in behalf of African female migrants, 2) mandates critical consciousness able to interrogate and counter America’s racialized topography, 3) encourages African sisterhood, transnational female kinships precipitated by mutual struggles and aspirations, 4) repudiates white/American paternalism, 5) sanctions transactional Pan-Africanism or Pan-African alliances that allow African-female autonomy, and 6) mandates Sankofa ideation or the émigrés’ return to an African home in the way it signifies an elevated Africa capable of housing the dreams of its wandering citizens.

In other words, I argue that Americanah submits an Afropolitan feminism that valuates voice, the act of speaking and speaking back, as critical counter-hegemonic agency for the African female migrant whose non-American identity supposes voicelessness and/or invisibility in discourses of national exclusion. I conclude that Afropolitan feminism, as delineated in this project, offers initial theoretical framework for distinguishing an Afropolitan feminist literature and narrative tradition undeniably crucial to an emergent discipline interested in accounting for, as other disciplines have, Black women who upstage systemic arrangements historically-tailored to exclude them. I further conclude that Afropolitan feminism provides opportunities for reframing intersectional feminism in the way the former accounts for African female standpoints and experiences otherwise subsumed under white and/or American mediated discussions of race, class, and gender.

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