States of nomadism, conditions of diaspora : studies in writing between South Africa and the United States, 1913-1936.
Courau, Rogier Philippe.
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Using the theoretical idea of ‘writing between’ to describe the condition of the travelling subject, this study attempts to chart some of the literary, intellectual and cultural connections that exist(ed) between black South African intellectuals and writers, and the experiences of their African- American counterparts in their common movements towards civil liberty, enfranchisement and valorised consciousness. The years 1913-1936 saw important historical events taking place in the United States, South Africa and the world – and their effects on the peoples of the African diaspora were signficant. Such events elicited unified black diasporic responses to colonial hegemony. Using theories of transatlantic/transnational cultural negotiation as a starting point, conceptualisations that map out, and give context to, the connections between transcontinental black experiences of slavery and subjugation, this study seeks to re-envisage such black South African and African-American intellectual discourses through reading them anew. These texts have been re-covered and re-situated, are both published and unpublished, and engage the notion of travel and the instability of transatlantic voyaging in the liminal state of ‘writing between’. With my particular regional focus, I explore the cultural and intellectual politics of these diasporic interrelations in the form of case studies of texts from several genres, including fiction and autobiography. They are: the travel writings of Xhosa intellectual, DDT Jabavu, with a focus on his 1913 journey to the United States; an analysis of Ethelreda Lewis’s novel, Wild Deer (1933), which imagines the visit of an African-American musician, Paul Robeson-like figure to South Africa; and Eslanda Goode Robeson’s representation of her African Journey (1945) to the country in 1936, and the traveller’s gaze as expressed through the ethnographic imagination, or the anthropological ‘eye’ in the text.
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