The Webs ‘We’ Tell Making community through ‘conversations’ across contemporary Afrodiasporic literature
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the recognition of an African diaspora has expanded from marginal political movements to supra-national institutions (United Nations, European Union, African Union). Yet defining and characterising such an entity, marked by displacement and scattering across time and space, can hardly rely on political discourse alone. Rather, the African diaspora, as a transtemporal and trans-local community, must also be understood as one of constant (re-)imagination and narration.
In my research project, I read contemporary literary works alongside material collected online and from interviews with authors in order to understand how literature functions as a site of community-making across a spectrum of people of African descent marked by differences in language, culture, class, and gender, among other aspects. The focus of the project is on the way grand narratives are (re-)negotiated and complexified by contemporary authors of the diaspora in and around text. It examines how the praxis of conversation is used in Afrodiasporic literature as a means of representing, enacting, and producing complex understandings of community. The analysis covers both the way these ‘community conversations’ play out at the level of the story, and the role of intertextuality as an additional layer of this conversation. Looking at the ways existing narratives are referenced, altered, and complexified in the process of circulation, the research project puts emphasis on transmedial forms of intertextuality, as a literary conversation between prose, poetry, archive, and spoken or sung text. This project thus actively draws attention to literature as “a transdisciplinary site of knowledge production” (Mignolo, 2012) and challenges the binary (and often hegemonic) differentiation between orality and written text. It aims at registering referencing practices within an expansive understanding of a literary corpus, and by looking at text as that which, in circulating, constitutes the Afrodiasporic narrative ‘web’, weaving an evolving community.