ʻOut of placeʼ: Abjection in the early fiction of Abdulrazak Gurnah

Ndonye, Connie M
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This study focuses on the theme of abjection in Abdulrazak Gurnah’s first three novels, Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way and Dottie. More specifically, it engages the way the subjects of these novels share in narratives that position their bodies and identities as a type of borderland where they are caught up in a cycle of power and subjection to various institutional apparatuses, social exclusions and abuse. As such, their bodily and psychic experiences have been subjected to numerous forms of neglect, deprecation, or condemnation and are the expression of all that has been objectified through the process of abjection. Through this lens, this study examines ideas of home, bodies, belonging and the migrant experience by engaging the social and political dynamics of the settings of Gurnah’s novels. The research relies on theories of migrancy, home and abjection for its reading and examines the cultural, historical and literary background from which Gurnah’s writing has emerged. The study also examines the manner in which Gurnah’s fiction engages the abject body to underscore the anxieties and material conditions of existence of migrant subjects. Different ideas of ‘home’ are presented, which I argue project home as the primary site of abjection, suffering and displacement. Finally, while recognizing the author’s contribution to diasporic writing in African Literature this study further highlights some of the finer nuances that enable a deeper understanding of the connections between abjection and migrancy.