Idowu Emmanuel Adeniyi: Major-Minor Binary: Subversion of Metropolitan Language and the Construction of Home-Grown Epistemology in African Literature of English Expression

The conception of minority literature by Deleuze and Guattari as literature which does not come from a minor language, but a literary mode that a minority constructs within a major language leaves one wondering as to how a dominated literature ensconced on the margins of the literary world expresses peculiar indigenous experiences in major/Metropolitan language(s) without creating paradoxes. This concern is primal in postcolonial African literature. The literature fixates on the major-minor dichotomy in terms of subject matter, the language/machine of expression used by African writers, and the perception of these writers whom Anthony Appiah pigeonholed as comprador intelligentsia – because of their misrepresentation of Africans to the West through their shamanist obscurantism or Westernism. A new sensibility, however, seems to have gripped the third generation of African writers who, although write in dominant European languages, avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors by deploying linguistic and literary tropes to subvert power relations between dominant and dominated literatures. The zeitgeist is a sort of cultural consciousness that endears the writers to their indigenous languages who ultimately insert into their works cultural terms that convey their home-grown epistemologies and philosophies, thereby giving the works a syncretic outlook. The postcolonial model that explains this practice is the metonymic gap. The use of this model answers the question to how African literature (re)-constructs peculiar experiences within the body of a major language. Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu are examined to expound the creative use of Yoruba and Luganda cultural terms in African texts written in English. While the writers deliberately project their cultural identities, create linguistic hybridity, and fulfil their political cum revolutionary agenda of undermining the strength of European language(s) used in African literature, they also redefine African literature and challenge its minor/subaltern status.

Idowu Emmanuel Adeniyi is a World Journalism Institute Belz Fellow. He is trained as a journalist and has worked as a feature editor/reporter for the oldest surviving newspaper in Nigeria – the Nigerian Tribune – and many other newspapers in the country. He gained his master’s degree in English from the University of Ibadan, and received his PhD in African (Diaspora) Literature from the same university. He is a poet and currently working on his debut poetry collections. He is a culture enthusiast and an Africanist passionate about Black Studies and African culture. This passion informed his doctorate research on the identification of agencies of retention and the mutation of African cultural elements in the Americas after the many centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. He currently teaches (African) Oral Literature, Creative Writing, African Literature, African-American and Afro-Caribbean Literatures, Literary Theory and Criticism in the Department of English and Literary Studies, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria. His research interest includes Diaspora/Migration Studies, Literary Theory and Criticism, Eco-criticism, Oral Literature, Cultural Studies, Gender and Minority Studies, Creative Writing, Media and Film Studies, the intersection between music and literature, African Literature, Transcultural Studies, and Literary Stylistics. His scholarly publications have appeared in reputable journals based in Africa, Asia, and Europe.


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