CROSSING BORDERS: A Study of Transnational Living in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (2014) and No Violet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (2014)
Abstract: A number of authors of African descent published ‘Afropolitan’ novels around the year 2010. Several of these diaspora novels dominated the literary scene and caused intense debates about the contested concept of Afropolitanism. The authors Taye Selasi and No Violet Bulawayo challenge colonial images of Africa in their writing. They ask the pivotal question: “Who Is an African?” while presenting immigrants of first and second generation who freely move from the African continent to the West and sometimes back again. The novels, Ghana Must Go (2013) and We Need New Names (2014) depict migrants crossing borders and describe the transnational subjects’ views of themselves. In the first part of the essay, I discuss the trope of mobility in relation to feelings of anxiety and alienation in Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, mainly from the perspectives of home, belonging, and estrangement. In part two, I discuss Bulawayo’s We Need New Names from the aforementioned perspectives but with an emphasis on the crossing of political borders. This thesis contributes to the discussion of migrant theories that consider the physical and psychological effects of crossing geographical, political, social, and emotional borders. By applying multiple theories on transnational living in combination with Sara Ahmed’s theories about estrangement, alienation, and dislocation and their impact on the body, my main argument, concerning these two novels, is that subjects change continually and gradually in a multidimensional process. Experiences of changing cultural and social contexts and practices within Africa and the U.S.A. make the fictional characters reconsider their self-identity, transform their subjectivities, and transfer idealized and imaginary localities between the continents.