Faculty Brown Bag w/ Prof. Ian MacDonald Wednesday, 4/27 @ 11am (Zoom)
Our fourth Brown Bag talk of the semester will feature Dr. Ian MacDonald on Wednesday, April 27th at 11am (on Zoom). Prof. MacDonald's talk is titled “Cyber Biafras.”
From 1970 on, an unwritten dictum seemingly obtained that every Nigerian author must write a Biafra story—from Achebe, Soyinka, Amadi and Nwapa in the years just following the conflict; to Ojukwo, Saro-Wiwa, and Emecheta in the 1980s; to Uzokwe, Adichie, and Okparanta in this century, a tradition of Nigerian literature has made the civil war its focus. These retrospective engagements with the briefly existing state of Biafra, in addition to considerations of its genesis, aims, prosecution, and closure, often also drew utopian delineations around the nation’s emergence: especially, but not only, for the Igbo. Throughout the decolonial movements of the twentieth century, independence was regularly intersected by such utopian potential, often followed by dystopic or apocalyptic treatments of post-/neo-colonial realities. More recently, Nigerian authors born long after the war have taken up the mantle of the Biafran account from a speculative historicist perspective, attempting to revisit and re-interpret the events, at times, as a gesture of sustained genealogy, impregnating the three-year crisis with the proleptic potential to have shifted possible futures in the region. These accounts resituate the recursivity of memory as future projection, seeking to, in Bhabha’s (1994) terms, “re-figur[e] it as a contingent ‘in-between’ space, that innovates and interrupts the performance of the present,” a proleptic crisis heterotopia that nonetheless maintains the dangling promise of the “not-yet” within the conceptual borders of independence and its resulting identities. This paper will assess such utopian and dystopian gestures in the worldbuilding of two recent “cyber-Biafras”—Tochi Onyebuchi’s War Girls (2019) and Tade Thompson’s Rosewater: Insurrection (2019)—wherein the authors project the Biafran conflict into Nigeria’s future (the years 2172 and 2066 respectively) as a novel means of revitalizing Biafra’s utopian potential in the present.