Identities and spaces in selected writings of black, Indian and white east African writers, 1950s to 1980s.
Mwairumba, Yuvenalis Mukoya
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This study analyses identity and space in five works of East African Asian, black and white writers based on the reasoning that these are significant issues in East African literature that reflect the nature of contemporary social relations in the region. The study uses a post-structural and postcolonial conceptual framework. Using comparative textual analysis, the study examines Going Down River Road by Meja Mwangi Homing in by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, The In-between World of Vikram Lall by M. G. Vassanji, In a Brown Mantle by Peter Nazareth, and Kosiya Kifefe by Arthur Gakwandi. The premise of the comparison is that the writers‘ different races have a bearing on their representation of Asian, black and white characters. Consequently, the basis of selecting these texts is threefold: the writer‘s race (and place of birth); the presence of Asian, black and white characters; and setting. The main objective is to show how characters from each of the three races perceive their own identity and that of characters from other races, and how the characters‘ location influences their sense of identity in relation to these places. The study further aims to show how the process of identity formation is represented. The study concludes that all the texts recognise that place and place meanings are significant in the formation of identity and that it is for this reason that groups seek to dominate place. It is the meanings attached to place, race and other categories that denote community that determine the type of spaces that the same produce. Prominent among these meanings is tradition which is important both as a space within which identities form and as the discourse with which communities define themselves.The study finds that a writer‘s race is a discursive position that infiltrates texts in subtle but significant ways, and that for the studied texts this does affect some of the writers‘ ability to deal with characters from other races. In relation to this, the study argues that those writers who write from marginal positions are more sensitive to cross-racial representation than those from dominant races. It is further argued that instabilities in the meanings of the lexical items that that characters rely on for self description and the description of others are responsible for the uncertainties in their identities.