Projecting Afrabia: North Africa and the Afro-Arab Interface in African Literature


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




Dominant African literary criticism offers an essentialist reading of African literature as notionally 'black' and geo-culturally 'sub-Saharan' to the relative neglect of North African writing, which is often considered 'Arabized'. This study seeks to redress this gap by asserting the Africanness of North African writing as uniquely 'Afrabian' (Afro-Arab), showing how this identity has deeply impacted on the postcolonial dynamism of African literature. Exploring the appropriation of the Arabian Nights story-telling tradition in the North African novel, the research will reveal, among other things, that North African writing echoes what Ali Mazrui calls 'trans-Saharan pan-Africanism' which contests the limitations of black-centred pan- Africanism/Afrocentrism. Deploying a postcolonial reading of purposively selected texts, this study will question the often paraded 'two world' (African-European) theory of the making of modern African literature, suggesting a more pragmatic 'three world' (African-Arab-Western) proposition. The study aspires to signally project the Afrabian legacy in African literature.