Concepts of development in postcolonial Kenyan literature

  • This habilitation project on “Concepts of development in postcolonial Kenyan literature” approaches the history of “development” in the area East Africa through the lens of postcolonial Kenyan writing.

My research departs from the assumption that fiction and narrative open an inclusive space for voices, experiences and visions excluded from representation within the institutions and organisations of development. They distinguish themselves from institutional discourses on development with regard to what and how they know about change. Their different way of knowing will be elaborated through narrative analysis and through relating stories told in fiction and narrative to trends and debates in development theory and research.

The locus from where this project deconstructs conventions of knowing and speaking about development is postcolonial Kenyan fiction and narrative writing. The research corpus will be organised under four aspects:

- ‘Versions of productivity and wealth’,
- ‘Developing the human being’,
- ‘Negotiating knowledge’,
- ‘Moving into the world/worlds moving into the local.

This framework builds on recurring literary subjects and motives while at the same time responding to essential components of the postcolonial development paradigm. How do narratives reflect on capitalist growth and changing modes of production? How do they reflect on education and learning? How do they relate different systems of knowledge and belief? How do they reflect on processes of trans-nationalisation and globalisation?

Combining a comparative approach with a close reading of individual text the project investigates shifts and continuities in narrative representations of interventions into economic, social, epistemological and spatial orders and relates them to trends and debates in development theory and research.

The project runs within the Elise-Richter program of the Austrian Science Funds (FWF)