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D'Agostini, Giulia (2013) War-scapes: The Nigerian Postcolony and the Boundaries of the Human. [Tesi di dottorato]

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Abstract (inglese)

This dissertation is concerned with the representation of the human and of the relationship between sovereignty and subjectivity in Nigerian literature. It argues that the Nigerian postcolony is portrayed in the texts under investigation as a site of perpetual emergency, where a progressively more vivid biopoliticisation of politics sanctions the reduction of the postcolonial (non-)citizen to what Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has termed “bare life” – a form of life that, exposed to sovereign violence, or caught in the sovereign ban, may be killed without committing homicide. Concentrating in particular, but not exclusively, on contemporary fiction writing, this dissertation aims at examining the aesthetic strategies adopted by a number of postcolonial writers in order to signify the lack of rights protection all too often suffered by the postcolonial (non-)citizen. It will be pointed out that an imagery of war is often employed to describe postcolonial Nigeria as a country where the state of exception and the withdrawal of constitutional protection have become the rule. This study thus will not only investigate the depiction of the Civil War of the late 1960s, but will also show that Nigeria’s fractured post-war times are often configured in terms that recall the Foucauldian definition of politics as “the continuation of war by other means.”

Part One, “The Exception,” aims at analysing the portrayals of moments of state emergency declared in the context of armed struggle. The first chapter is devoted to the discussion of a selected number among the numerous works that, ever since the 1970s, have enlarged the rich corpus of Nigerian Civil War literature. Chapter Two provides a cross-disciplinary, comparative reading of two war novellas which narrate an unnamed conflict and which, through the depiction of their young protagonists, contribute to the heated debates regarding the figure of the child soldier.

As indicated by the title of Part Two, “The Rule,” I will then discuss how war – a period of emergency conducive to the supposedly momentary suspension of the rule of law – is presented as becoming the rule in the normal abnormality of post-war dictatorial Nigeria. In this context, particular attention will be devoted to the literary representation of two sites, namely the autocrat’s overcrowded jail and the dysfunctional postcolonial family, where, it will be argued, the phenomenon of the perpetuation of the exception acquires great visibility.

Part Three, captioned “Camps on the Move,” investigates texts recounting the lives of combative women who, either victims or accomplices of illegal practices, do not resign themselves to their superfluous status within the biopolitical hierarchies produced in the context of ‘war-scapes’ of unending exception. It will be noticed that the characters’ ambitions of upward social and ontological mobility are often reduced to a horizontal movement between Agambenian ‘camps,’ between conditions of essential invisibility, and abandonment, before the law.

The texts under examination, however, do not only protest their protagonists’ exclusion from an effective regime of rights, and thus, paradoxically, from humanity itself. By highlighting without resolving the paradox itself, they also invite to resignify and expand the concepts of the universal and of the human, underscoring the need for an agonistic, future-oriented reconfiguration of the human rights paradigm and of the relationships between the individual and the state

Abstract (italiano)

La tesi analizza le raffigurazioni dell’umano e del rapporto tra sovranità e soggettività nella letteratura nigeriana anglofona. Concentrandosi in particolar modo sulla narrativa di recente produzione, il lavoro parte dall’osservazione di come la Nigeria postcoloniale venga dipinta nelle opere in esame quale luogo di eccezione permanente, i cui soggetti, più sudditi che cittadini, sono sovente ridotti a quel che il filosofo Giorgio Agamben ha definito “nuda vita”: una vita esposta alla violenza sovrana, o al sovrano abbandono, che diventa sempre più impunemente uccidibile. La tesi discute quindi le strategie adottate da più generazioni di scrittori nigeriani dal post-indipendenza a oggi per fornire un’elaborazione, estetica ed etica al contempo, delle declinazioni possibili del vivere umano nello stato d’eccezione e della mancata tutela diritti fondamentali. In questo senso, essa rileva come le opere prese in considerazione facciano ampio uso di un immaginario di guerra e conflitto e registra non solo la riscrittura, a volte astraente, della sanguinosa Guerra Civile di fine anni Sessanta, ma nota altresì che molti dei momenti (pseudo)democratici nella storia del paese vengono configurati in termini che ricordano la definizione foucauldiana di politica come “guerra continuata con altri mezzi”.

La prima parte, “The Exception”, esamina la rappresentazione di momenti di emergenza pubblica dichiarati nell’ambito di un confronto armato. Il primo capitolo si sofferma su una selezione delle molte opere che, fin dagli anni Settanta, hanno proposto una narrativizzazione della Guerra Civile. Il capitolo successivo fornisce invece una lettura in chiave comparata e interdisciplinare di due brevi romanzi che raccontano un conflitto non nominato e contribuiscono, attraverso la descrizione dei due giovani protagonisti, all’acceso dibattito internazionale riguardante la figura del bambino soldato.

La seconda parte, dal titolo “The Rule”, considera opere che narrano del fallimento democratico dello stato nigeriano, sottolineando come l’eccezione e la sospensione costituzionale diventino regola nella normale anormalità della Nigeria dittatoriale del dopoguerra. Particolare attenzione viene dedicata, in questo contesto, allo studio della raffigurazione di due spazi, quelli della prigione di regime e della famiglia postcoloniale, all’interno dei quali questo fenomeno assume evidente riconoscibilità.

La terza parte, intitolata “Camps on the Move”, analizza romanzi che raccontano di donne combattive che, vittime o complici di pratiche illegali, tentano di contrastare la loro dichiarata superfluità all’interno delle gerarchie biopolitiche che si sviluppano nei ‘panorami di guerra’ a cui il titolo della tesi fa riferimento. In questo contesto, il capitolo conclusivo rileva come i desideri di mobilità verticale, sociale e ontologica, dei personaggi tendano a risolversi in un movimento orizzontale tra ‘campi’ agambeniani, tra condizioni di sostanziale invisibilità, ed abbandono, di fronte alla legge.

Si nota infine che i testi studiati non si limitano a denunciare la riduzione dei loro protagonisti a uomini e donne che, secondo la formulazione di Hannah Arendt, non avendo “diritto ad avere diritti” sono paradossalmente esclusi dall’umanità stessa. Ponendo l’accento sul paradosso, senza peraltro risolverlo, essi invitano anche un continuo, ed indispensabile, lavoro di ridefinizione ed espansione delle categorie dell’umano e dell’universale, sottolineando la necessità di riconfigurare il paradigma dei diritti umani e i rapporti tra individuo e stato

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Tipo di EPrint:Tesi di dottorato
Relatore:Oboe, Annalisa
Dottorato (corsi e scuole):Ciclo 25 > Scuole 25 > SCIENZE LINGUISTICHE, FILOLOGICHE E LETTERARIE > LINGUISTICA, FILOLOGIA E LETTERATURE ANGLO-GERMANICHE
Data di deposito della tesi:30 Gennaio 2013
Anno di Pubblicazione:30 Gennaio 2013
Parole chiave (italiano / inglese):Nigerian postcolony, subjectivity, sovereignty, Nigerian Civil War, human rights
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 10 - Scienze dell'antichità, filologico-letterarie e storico-artistiche > L-LIN/10 Letteratura inglese
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Studi Linguistici e Letterari
Codice ID:5838
Depositato il:08 Ott 2013 15:55
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