Writing postcolonial African genocide: the Holocaust and fictional representations of genocide in Nigeria and Rwanda

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Anyaduba, Chigbo
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This study examines fictional representations of genocides occurring in postcolonial Africa. By addressing the historical, political and cultural dimensions underpinning writing about mass atrocities in 1966-1970 Nigeria and 1990-1994 Rwanda, the study highlights the evolving patterns of imagining violent encounters in postcolonial Africa centred on the idea of genocide. This idea of genocide, I argue, derives significantly from an association of African genocidal suffering with the Nazi Germany genocide of Jews in Europe – the Holocaust. Thus, I work to illustrate the ways and forms in which fictional representations of largescale violence in Nigerian and Rwandan contexts invoke the cultural memories and representational practices associated with the Holocaust in order to give distinctive shape and character to our understanding of violent experiences in these countries. Drawing on novels written in response to the genocides in Nigeria and Rwanda, I call attention to a body of imaginative literature that presents a compelling picture of the scope, strategies and prevailing thematic concerns that have preoccupied discussions about violence, identities, morality and justice in Africa. I argue that these novels show significant influence by popular tropes of Holocaust writing in terms of their thematic and stylistic elements. These novels establish a clear link between African genocides and the Holocaust, minimally through direct comparison of African atrocities to atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews, and also through their deployment of notable tropes characteristic of Holocaust literature. The nexus of traumatic Holocaust and African atrocity memories in fictional representations of African genocides, I go on to argue, has significance for reasons not generally accounted for in scholarly works on African genocide literature. This significance emerges from the critical consideration of literary projects that moralize their genocide narratives.
African Genocide, Literature, the Holocaust, the Postcolony, Nigeria, Rwanda, Genocide Novel, African Genocide Literature, The Novel, Fictional Representation