East African literature and the politics of global reading

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This article uses M. G. Vassanji's first novel, The Gunny Sack, to consider the compatibility of postcolonial theory and academic treatments of globalization. The first section of the essay suggests that recent accounts of globalization do not employ a sufficiently complex historical narrative of international exchange, especially with respect to East Africa and nineteenth-century Indian Ocean trade. As a reading of The Gunny Sack reveals, European imperialism and North Atlantic capitalism were not the only, not even the primary, means of facilitating a transcontinental cultural milieu in East Africa. Postcolonial theory's attention to historical nuance and narrative ambivalence may offer tangible benefits to accounts of globalization. The second part of the essay turns the tables, arguing that globalization theory may help postcolonial literary studies better understand its position as an academic enterprise with transnational affiliations. In particular, postcolonial theorists need a greater awareness of how we produce and circulate knowledge in a global academic context. The Gunny Sack's clear marking as a text about a marginal community speaks to some of the contradictions embedded in the field of postcolonial studies, conditions that are directly related to the emergence of a global publishing industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of 'East African literature and the politics of global reading'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this