Out of Africa: Ecocriticism beyond Environmental Justice

  • Sule Emmanuel Egya Department of English, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Nigeria
Keywords: Africa, Literature, natural world, spiritual practices, decentredness

Abstract

      This essay is an attempt to present a broader view of ecocriticism in Africa. Ecocriticism, in theory and practice, appears to have limited itself to the notion of environmental justice, with the aim of raising consciousness against institutional powers behind ecological crises. The reason for this is not far-fetched. International scholarship on African ecocriticism tends to focus on the activism of the Kenyan Wangari Mathai and the Nigerian Ken Saro-Wiwa; and on the fiction of a few writers concerned with environmentalism and conservation. This kind of ecocriticism, under the rubric of postcolonialism, is, in my view, narrow, too human-centred, and should, in fact, be decentred for an all-inclusive mapping of African ecocriticism. I attempt to shift this paradigm by foregrounding a narrative that stages the role and agency of nonhuman and spiritual materiality in practices that demonstrate nature-human relations since the pre-colonial period. I argue that for a proper delineation of the theory and practice of ecocriticism in Africa, attention should be paid to literary and cultural artefacts that depict Africa’s natural world in which humans sometimes find themselves helpless under the agency of other-than-human beings, with whom they negotiate the right path for the society. I conclude by making the point that a recognition of this natural world, and humans’ right place in it, is crucial to any ecocritical project that imagines an alternative to the present human-centred system.       

Keywords: African ecocriticism, natural worlds, spiritual materiality, nonhuman agency

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Author Biography

Sule Emmanuel Egya, Department of English, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Nigeria

Sule Emmanuel Egya is professor of African Literature and Cultural Studies at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Nigeria. His research interests include literature and environment, literature and politics, and feminism. He is the author of over one hundred scholarly articles and literary essays some of which have appeared in Journal of African Literature Association, Research in African Literatures, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Journal of African Cultural Studies, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Matatu, and English in Africa. He also writes fiction and poetry under the pen-name E. E. Sule. His fictions include Sterile Sky (winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize for Africa Region), and Makwala (winner of the 2019 Association of Nigerian Authors’ Prose Prize). His poetry volumes include What the Sea Told Me (winner of ANA Gabriel Okara Prize), Naked Sun (2006), and Knifing Tongues (2005). His latest monograph is Nature, Environment and Activism in Nigerian Literature (Routledge, 2020).

Published
2020-10-06
Section
Articles: Literature, Landscape and Identity in Nations and Regions