Cosmopolitanism and social change in a Zambian thriller
Research in African Literatures, 41, (3), . (doi:10.2979/RAL.2010.41.3.49).
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This article challenges two common perceptions: that detective fiction is by definition geared towards representations of maintaining the social status quo, and that Zambian literature--preoccupied as it is with the city/country and modernity/tradition binaries--lacks cosmopolitan engagement. In Africa, as emergent research is showing, crime fiction has often been instrumental in both representing and transmitting social change. Furthermore, self-conscious cosmopolitanism is, in fact, far from absent from Zambian writing. Rather than being inward-looking and static, Zambian novels in English (thrillers included) often construct imaginary regional geographies in which local discourses speak to transnational spaces, and social change (in which the novels are crucially interested) emanates from the tensions between the national ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ as much as those between ‘modernity’ and ‘tradition’, however defined. The article seeks to further substantiate these claims by offering a reading of Grieve Sibale’s Murder in the Forest (1998). Set largely in the countryside, this thriller/courtroom drama (which is in several ways continuous with Sibale’s previous Between two Worlds) features a detective whose identity undergoes a profound transformation in the course of the narrative. The article examines the temporal underpinnings of this transformation in order to show how they are imbricated with the interlinked notions of cosmopolitanism, detection and social change constructed by the novel.
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