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Gift, Space, and Return: The Body in African Literatures on Migration and Sex Work

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date12/05/2027
Number of pages319
Awarding Institution
Award date12/05/2023
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis asks two principal questions. First, what insights could a gift approach to criticism bring to bear on African feminisms and feminist literary theory? Second, in what ways does gift-giving undergird contemporary African fiction on migration and prostitution? Both questions interrogate the need for alternative ways of engaging postcolonial (African) literatures in the age of global mobility. The argument is structured in four chapters in which questions about the relationships between gender and economies of exchange, space and subjectivity, commodifying bodies and the gift economy, and finally remittances and returns are engaged. First, I focus on the oikos as an arena where the female body circulates as the given, the giver and as resistant to the gift culture. The chapter also offers an alternative gift approach relevant to re-tooling African feminist theories through the concept of Nwanyịbuife. Second, I explore the link between identity and space politics within postcolonial cities of the South and the global cities of the North. Addressing spatial governance and practice, I also employ the phenomenologies of Franz Fanon, Emmanuel Levinas, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty to examine the complex gift of hospitality. Third, I scrutinize the connection between narrative, prostitution, and neoliberalism and in doing so, question/probe the link between capitalism and the gift. I interrogate how the gift drives the narrative structure of texts and is embedded in transactions on bodies. Finally, I investigate how the cargo myth of an earlier generation of African writers is being re-written as a contemporary narrative of returns and of contestations of power and belonging. Although references are made to other texts, when necessary, this work is based on five novels: Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street (2007) and Night Dancer (2011), Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon (1995), Abidemi Sanusi’s Eyo (2009) and Inongo vi Makomè’s Natives (2015).