Between imagination and delusion: Cosmopolitan postcolonial critique in Ken Walibora's Ndoto ya Amerika [The American Dream]

Evan Mwangi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper reads Ken Walibora's Kiswahili children's book Ndoto ya Amerika [The American Dream] as a critical intervention in the politics of the imagination in Kenya. I argue that although the story is radical in its subtle criticism of the West, its main focus is the disillusionment with the post-independence dispensation in Africa. By tracking the story's imaginative engagements with the Kiswahili language, the African American diaspora, and the disciplinary apparatus of the postcolonial Kenyan state, I find that Walibora promotes rooted cosmopolitanism as a framework for literary and political development. Despite its artistic innovativeness in addressing the problems that African nations face, Ndoto ya Amerika has received little critical attention. It behoves the postcolonial critic to consider popular and children's texts in indigenous languages of the Global South, as texts like Ndoto ya Amerika offer an energetic critique of universalized notions of cosmopolitanism while proposing alternative cosmopolitan practices. I read Ndoto ya Amerika as undermining dominant notions of cosmopolitanism which, in their triumphalist perception of globalization, privilege the affluent postcolonial subject based in the West.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-137
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Volume46
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2010

Keywords

  • African cosmopolitanism
  • African diaspora in America
  • Ken Walibora
  • Kiswahili
  • children's literature
  • crime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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