Re-mapping the Atlantic
: Transatlantic mobility in contemporary African literature in French and English

  • Thomas Murray

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The first two decades of the twenty-first century have seen a number of authors of African origin and from the recent diaspora writing in English and French produce works of prose fiction that explore the Atlantic from the perspective of young African characters on the move through that space. This thesis examines a representative sample of five texts taken from that emergent and growing body of writing: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013), Blick Bassy’s Le Moabi Cinéma (2016), Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (2013), Abdourahman A. Waberi’s Passage des larmes (2009), and Léonora Miano’s Crépuscule du tourment duology (2016/17). It argues that, in addition to documenting the racism that continues to blight the African and diasporic experience of the space that Paul Gilroy famously called ‘The Black Atlantic’ (1993), these texts also articulate novel African identities that complicate longstanding popular and scholarly models of both blackness and Africanness, models that have existed in Europe and America for decades, even centuries. Specifically, the thesis claims that this body of writing challenges enduring associations of black and African culture in general, and literature in particular, with narratives of victimhood, displacement, and ethnocentrism. In order to do this, a critical framework that combines the decolonial thought of Achille Mbembe with recent insights from the field of Mobilities Studies will be adopted. This critical approach allows for examination of how Adichie, Bassy, Selasi, Waberi, and Miano contribute to the development of a novel literary sensibility that can be described as ‘decolonial’ and ‘mobile’. This thesis claims that this novel transatlantic African literary sensibility is in turn engaging with and re-mapping the Atlantic from the perspective of a young African demographic that is on the move through that vast and storied oceanic space.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2023.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsAHRC Northern Bridge DTP
SupervisorMaeve McCusker (Supervisor) & Debbie Lisle (Supervisor)

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