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Forum Africa Centre

Be/longing: Contemporary Afro-Diasporic Women Writing

Constructions of spatiality have always been part of critical postcolonial discourses in literature and culture: the colonial period and its Western actors thrived on an extreme will to expand and occupy habitats in order to explore/create "new worlds" in violent ways.

Literatures that deal with this legacy are therefore inevitably confronted with the problem of allocating space and the question of foreign and proper spaces. This is particularly striking in texts from former colonies or in more recent diasporic conceptions of identity in a globalized world, which deal with home, belonging, alienation, and displacement in the most diverse ways.

Between London and Lagos, Mogadishu and Mumbai

Questions of space and belonging are also at the heart of the literary texts this dissertation project examines-whether the fraught transnational relationships between Nigeria, America, and Europe in Chimamanda Adichie's novel Americanah, the multilayered postcolonial metropolis of London in Zadie Smith's work, Helen Oyeyemi's imaginative recasting of the chalk cliffs of Dover in White is for Witching, or the perilous oceanic waterways between Somalia and Europe or India and Kenya in the poetry of Warsan Shire and Shailja Patel.

In-Between Spaces and Border Crossings

These texts are all different from one another in a variety of ways, yet they are united by a focus on interpersonal relationships, love and desire, female sexuality and eroticism, alternative non-heteronormative lifestyles, and communality. The project thus uses conceptualizations of love and space as interpretive tools to engage texts by Afro-diasporic women writers in a process of counter-reading. Such counter-reading as a feminist and postcolonial strategy promises to uncover previously undiscovered and suppressed voices: female voices that exist in in-between spaces and at border crossings.

Jennifer Leetsch's book "Love and Space in Contemporary African Diasporic Women’s Writing: Making Love, Making Worlds" was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2021.

Contact & Links

Dr. Jennifer Leetsch worked as a research assistant at the Department of English Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Würzburg after studying English, American and Comparative Literature in Munich and London. She primarily teaches courses on gender and feminism, as well as postcolonial literatures. Her doctoral research focuses on contemporary Afro-diasporic literature and concepts of home, belonging, and affect. She is now based at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies.