Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Translating the transatlantic: West African literary approaches to African American identity
by Secovnie, Kelly O., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2009, 305; 3352617
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation, Translating the Transatlantic: West African Literary Approaches to African American Identity, takes a literary-historical approach to the question of Anglophone West African conceptions of African American identity, an often overlooked topic. It represents an important intervention in the fields of African diaspora and African literary studies, both of which continue to suffer from a US-centric view of Africa, and supplements work done in postcolonial theory and cultural studies to include West African conceptions of cultural translation. My project also examines numerous plays by Ghanaian and Nigerian playwrights to understand the ways that African American characters and culture are utilized to reflect on West African identity. Thus, this project takes a distinctly historical approach, while preserving literature as both an aesthetic and a cultural object of study.

Chapter one, “Pan-Africanism for the Africans?” examines the history of Pan-Africanism in West Africa and reveals the ways that West African conceptions of Pan-Africanism differed from those of New World Pan-Africanists. Chapter two, “Cultural Translation and Ghanaian and Nigerian Drama,” examines the paradigm of cultural translation and interrogates and supplements the work done by Homi Bhabha and others by looking at the role of translation in West African cultural traditions. “Translating Identity in ‘the Motherland,’” the third chapter, demonstrates how several Nigerian and Ghanaian playwrights draw on cultural translation as a new metaphor to challenge previous theories about Pan-Africanist links between West Africans and African Americans. In chapter four, titled “African American Culture in West African Drama,” I argue that the use of African American characters and culture highlights key debates in the study of West African drama, including questions of political activism and socio-economic mobility within West African society.

By closely examining the ways that West African playwrights and intellectuals theorize African American identity, I decenter the emphasis in Black Atlantic studies on African American concepts of African identity. Further, I intervene in postcolonial discourses that privilege the colonizer/colonized dyad and suggest new ways to examine postcolonial relations and their impact on identity formation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Griffith, Glyne
Commitee: Caminero-Santangelo, Byron, Jean-Baptiste, Rachel, Thompson, Lisa B.
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: English
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African literature, Black studies, African history, Ethnic studies
Keywords: African-American, Cultural translation, Feminism, Ghana, Nigeria, Postcolonial, Translation, Translation studies, West African drama
Publication Number: 3352617
ISBN: 9781109104783
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