Speculating Worlds

Against the Idea of Africa as “Absolute Dystopia”: Pragmatism and Possibility in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah and After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun

Paulette Coetzee

Research Article
Accepted: Nov 11, 2019


This paper examines two works that anticipate Africa-centred futures as positive and possible, without promising utopia. Americanah and After the Flare both embrace contradiction and complexity. Furthermore, their treatment of societies (mis)shaped by historical violence includes acknowledgement of their own imbrication in global structures of capitalist modernity. Against the grim backdrop of rising inequality, resurgent racism and the effects of climate change – a moment in which dystopic visions tend to predominate – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Deji Bryce Olukotun’s novels embody a kind of hope. Nonetheless, these alternatives to dystopia do not imagine that the problems and abuses of the present might easily be overcome. Thus, despite their employment of popular genres that invite rather than disavow pleasure, these fictions do not simply offer a form of escapism to distract us as the world burns. Rather, I would argue, they provide useful perspectives on Africa, on race and on humanity, that also have relevance in terms of current discourses of the Anthropocene. Before elaborating my argument in relation to Adichie and Olukotun’s works, I will examine some aspects of the contexts within and against which they operate – in terms of history, geography and representation concerning race, blackness, humanity, and Africa.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Deji Bryce Olukotun, blackness, ecology, Africa, science fiction,