The Postcolonial Ecopolitics of Consumption: Reimagining the Kola Nut in Chris Abani’s GraceLand

James M. Hodapp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


For the Igbo people, the kola nut has traditionally held a central place in many religious ceremonies, as well as in everyday greetings and gatherings. With colonialism, however, these traditions were partially ruptured and uprooted, as told in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Achebe describes the transformation of the kola as a cultural sign in his novel to characterise the cultural violence instigated by British colonialism. Chris Abani's GraceLand continues Achebe's use of the kola nut as a powerful sign of cultural signification, moving beyond the colonial era into the early stages of globalisation. For Abani, the kola nut is more problematic though because despite its potential abilities to offer organisation, roots, and alternative routes in the postcolonial Nigerian slums of Lagos, it also has become an almost entirely dormant sign incapable of mobilising the Igbo population. Moreover, scholars of Abani's novel have endorsed the notion that the uses of kola in it are not relevant to the main body of the novel. This essay mobilises Roland Barthes's foundational insights into food theory and Ann Stoler's work on colonial ruination to challenge this easy dismissal of kola in the novel, reasserting its potential relevance in the age of globalisation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Arts
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2018


  • Chinua Achebe
  • GraceLand
  • Igbo
  • Things Fall Apart
  • postcolonial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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