British Journal of Canadian Studies

Affiliation and antimodernism in Margaret Laurence’s African writings

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2018), 31, (1), 1–21.

Abstract

This article argues that Margaret Laurence’s writings about Somalia and Ghana offer a critical yet ideologically loaded conception of development, modernity, and affiliation. It contends that these writings anticipate Anthony Smith’s recognition of the way ethnic identities predate and underpin conceptions of the nation; in so doing, Laurence’s work challenges theorisations of nationalism such as those of Benedict Anderson. At the same time, Laurence’s writings employ a type of Eurocentrism in that they formulate an antimodernism that conceives of African cultures as having the potential to revitalise the West not by being immemorially pre-modern, but rather by existing at an earlier, pre-national phase in a Western model of social development. Her African writings both use and subvert a progress narrative in which Western experiences of modernisation are universal; accordingly, they highlight a shortcoming that is common to theorists such as Anderson and others whose more nuanced theorisations Laurence anticipates.

Cet article fait valoir que les écrits de Margaret Laurence sur la Somalie et le Ghana présentent une conception critique du développement, de la modernité et de l’affiliation bien que chargés idéologiquement. Il affirme que ces écrits ont anticipé la reconnaissance faite par Anthony Smith de la façon dont les identités ethniques précèdent et sous-tendent les conceptions de la nation; ce faisant, l’oeuvre de Laurence remet en question les théories de nationalisme telles que celle de Benedict Anderson. Dans le même temps, les écrits de Laurence emploient une forme d’eurocentrisme en ce sens qu’ils formulent un anti-modernisme qui conçoit les cultures africaines comme ayant le potentiel de revivifier l’Ouest non comme étant prémoderne d’une manière immémoriale mais plutôt comme ayant existé à une phase pré-nationale antérieure dans un modèle occidental de développement social. Ses écrits africains utilisent et renversent à la fois un récit du progrès dans lequel les expériences occidentales de modernisation sont universelles; en conséquence, ils mettent en évidence une faille commune aux théoriciens tels qu’Anderson ou d’autres aux théories plus nuancées que Laurence a devancés.

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Details

Author details

Watts, Carl