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EVENT Nov 11
ABSTRACT Apr 15
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Nnedi Okorafor: Destruction and Wholeness (PAMLA Annual Conference)

Las Vegas
Organization: PAMLA
Event: PAMLA Annual Conference
Categories: Literary Theory, African & African Diasporas, Miscellaneous
Event Date: 2021-11-11 to 2021-11-14 Abstract Due: 2021-04-15

IN-PERSON SESSION: Date to be set (conference runs Nov. 11-15, 2021)

Abstract

Terrible destruction – or the possibility of it – is a frequent presence in Nnedi Okorafor’s tales of Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism. Sometimes, the destructive element becomes reincorporated into the whole, or is revealed to have always been part of it. Sometimes, it is as close to home as the protagonist herself. The session considers the complex ways in which Okorafor’s writing interrogates binary oppositions, folding back into its logic what might otherwise have been excluded – even when the excluded element may seem irredeemably catastrophic.

Description

Societies around the globe have recently found themselves united, in a sense, by destruction as they share in the common threat of a pandemic and a common goal to eradicate it. At the same time, in the United States, multiple threats have converged to threaten the destruction of our democracy. Conventionally, such threats are often constructed as alien to an original wholeness; society was well (more or less), but a destructive disease came along and corrupted it from outside. While such constructions often make a certain amount of sense (especially where a particular threat has been identified for eradication), they may also obscure ways of seeing and understanding that do not hinge on such binary oppositions. Nnedi Okorafor’s writing often seems committed to the interrogation of such constructions, guided by a kind of voracious intellectual commitment to the possibilities that may emerge when we are willing to stop saying either/or. In this, she seems influenced by Julia Kristeva’s critique of binarisms such as human/animal and human/machine. Of particular interest to Okorafor here is the relationship between life and death. In Okorafor’s most recent novel, Remote Control, for example, a young girl becomes the Adopted Daughter of Death through her contact with an alien artifact, and discoveres she has the power to annihilate. Her journey into understanding her new identity threatens any number of other oppositions; as an NPR reviewer puts it, “between worship and fear, between machine and flesh, between corporation and culture, and between death and reclamation.” In a world where the greatest potential for destruction may lie in our tendency to define all things through antagonistic opposition, Okorafor’s work invites us, even pushes us, to rethink how we think.

Please submit your abstract here: https://pamla.ballastacademic.com/Home/S/18272

Please send any inquiries to Graeme Wend-Walker (graeme@txstate.edu)

graeme@txstate.edu

Graeme Wend-Walker