Ndakalako-Bannikov: Local Places, Global Spaces: Namibian Literary Production in the Landscapes of World Literary Space
In a Facebook post concerning the end of the fictional narrative, The Dream of a Kwanyama Girl, the anonymous author offered an explanation that encapsulates the precarious position of Namibian literature in the context of world literature. This posting revealed to the public that the author found a publisher eager to print their work as a book: “If I die today” they writes, “this page will end…it will only be said [opuwo ngaho… Takutiwa ngo] ‘there was once a page called The Dream of a Kwanyama Girl.’” Despite the online popularity of the Facebook narrative, the author acknowledged that being able to truly enter into the world Republic of Letters relied on the publication of their writing as a physical, tangible book. The author’s desire to be read beyond Facebook reveals both the transformative power of what Pascale Casanova calls “an international literary law” as well as the undemocratic and precarious nature of online spaces.
The Dream of a Kwanyama Girl’s emergence and circulation both within the local and global context are characteristic of the problems that African literatures encounter as they are produced and circulated in the world. If African literary traditions are inherently transnational and multilingual, then African literature ought already to be understood as world literature, readily circulating across languages, territories and reading communities. And yet, from Casanova to Damrosch to Deleuze, African literature is only infrequently referenced in discussions of world literature. The Dream’s dependence on Facebook as a platform for its serialized production and eventual dissemination affirms a complex interplay between the local and regional in literary production and circulation. The novel grows out of local events specific to Namibia, and its genre echoes that of similar digital writing across Southern Africa. Furthermore, its interactive composition—in which Facebook allowed the author to interact with the readers in the writing process—facilitates a broader “space of literary communication” with implications both for fictional characters and the overall direction of the story. With its entwined modes of composition, address and publication, The Dream of a Kwanyama Girl allows us to provincialize the Eurocentric print history that often structures the genres and circulation practices integral to discussions of world literature more generally.
Martha Ndakalako-Bannikov is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon. Her research engages Namibian literatures within the context of African literary history, global anglophone and world literature. Focusing particularly on literary works by and about women, this research considers the politics of literary production that these literatures highlight, as well as their relationship to activism as they afford a perspective of Namibian sociocultural concerns that have implications beyond the Namibian national boundaries.