War and the subaltern: Voice as power in Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra
Keywords:war, subaltern, voice, power, Nigerian civil war, androcentrism, Subaltern Studies, postcolonial criticism
In Africa, as in most other parts of the world, whenever there is war (or massive violence of any other hue), the common people are used as cannon fodder to protect the powerful upper class formulators of the letters of the war. Women and children are easily the most vulnerable. They are raped, tortured, murdered, starved, widowed, and exposed to all sorts of insecurity and depredation. In the end they are marginally characterized in upper class, male-centered war discourse. In this research, we locate the voice of the subaltern in Buchi Emecheta’s civil war novel, Destination Biafra (1982). We utilize Subaltern Studies in a qualitative approach to offer the needed agency to female subalterns as well as a few other marginalized groups. We map the trajectory of these voices and show that the subaltern woman and the other margins denounce colonial complicity in the androcentric war, and would rather the society eschewed violence as conflict resolution strategy. With this study we fill an existing gulf in the Nigerian Civil War narrative and create an alternative discourse against the largely upper class, male-centered voices that have hitherto characterized civil war novels.
Adichie, Chimamanda N. Half of a Yellow Sun. Farafina, 2006.
Bondarev, Yuri. “Why Do We Write About the War? Do the Russians want War?” Literaturna Gazeta 1975, p. 197.
Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal vol. 40, no. 4, 1988, pp. 519–31. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3207893.
Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “Trafficking in History and Theory: Subaltern Studies.” Beyond the Disciplines: The New Humanities, edited by K. K. Ruthven. Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1992, p. 102.
Chatterjee, Partha & Richard McGrail. “Subaltern Studies: A Conversation with Partha Chatterjee.” Cultural Anthropology. n. d. https://journal.culanth.org/index.php/ca/subaltern-studies-partha-chatterjee.
Chinweizu, Ibekwe. Anatomy of Female Power. Pero, 1990.
Riberio, Célia Margarida Da Silva. “Representations of Rape in Selected Fiction by African Women.” MA Thesis. U of Aveiro, 2005.
Das, Veena. “Subaltern as Perspective.” Subaltern Studies 6: Writings on South Asian History and Society, edited by Ranajit Guha. Oxford U P, 1994.
Dharmaraj, M. “Indian Writing in English: Subaltern Literary Concept—Oppression of Untouchables in Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.” International Journal on English Language and Literature, vol. 2, no. 1, 1994, pp. 36–8.
Emecheta, Buchi. Destination Biafra. Heinemann, 1994.
Gramsci, Antonio F. “Notes on Italian History.” Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, edited and translated by Quentin Hoare & Geoffrey N. Smith. Elec, 1999, pp. 202–64.
Guha, Ranajit. Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India. Oxford U P, 1983. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/90.2.474-a.
Guha, Ranajit. “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India.” Selected Subaltern Studies, edited by Ranajit Guha and Gayatri C. Spivak. Oxford U P, 1982, pp. 37–43.
Igwedibia, Adaoma & Dina Yerima. “Women and Children at the Crossroads of War and Violence in Cyprian Ekwensi’s Survive the Peace.” Ikenga: International Journal of Institute of African Studies vol. 18, no. 1, 2018, pp. 272–8.
Iyayi, Festus. Heroes, Longman, 1986.
James, Adeola. In Their Own Voices: African Women Writers Talk. Heinemann, 1990.
Johnson, Samuel. “Assault on Abeokuta, City of the Egbas.” Two Centuries of African English; a survey and anthology of non-fictional English prose by African writers since 1769, edited by Lalage J. Bown. Heinemann, 1981, pp. 106–9.
Kaplan, Charles & William Davis Anderson, eds. Criticism: Major Statements. 4th ed. Bedford St. Martin’s, 2000.
Kivai, Georgiards Mboya. “The Female Voice and the Future of Gender Relationships in the Nigerian Nation in Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun.” M. A. Thesis. Kenyatta U, 2014.
Lim, Tae Yun & Shin Haeng Lee. “The Stories That Have Not Been Told: Comfort Women, Nora Okja Keller’s Novels and the Subaltern’s Performance of History.” Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies vol. 45, no. 2, 2019, pp. 3–26.
Long, Jill. “What is war? A New Point of View.” Small Wars Journal, 2012. https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/what-is-war-a-new-point-of-view.
Ludden, David, ed. Reading Subaltern Studies: Critical History, Contested Meaning and the Globalization of South Asia. Permanent Black, 2002.
Machiko, Oike. “Becoming a Feminist Writer: Representations of the Subaltern in Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra.” ALT 26 War in African Literature Today, edited by Ernest N. Emenyonu. Heinemann, 2008, pp. 60–70.
Mambrol, Nasrullah.“Key Theories of Gayatri Spivak.” Literary Theory and Criticism. 7 Apr. 2017. https://literariness.org/2017/04/07/key-theories-of-gayatri-spivak/. ¬¬¬¬¬
Nwachukwu-Agbada, J. O. J. “Songs from Thunder: Nigerian War Poetry.” A Harvest from Tragedy: Critical Perspectives on Nigerian Civil War Literature (revised and enlarged edition), edited by Chinyere Nwahunanya. Springfield, 2011.
Nwankwo, Chimalum. “The Muted Index of War in African Literature and Society.” War in African Literature Today, edited by Ernest Emenyonu. Heinemann, 2008, pp. 1–14.
Nwuga, Charity O. “Part Nigerians, Part Biafrans: Double Consciousness and the Tragedy of Biafra in Chinua Achebe’s There was a Country.” Ikenga: International Journal of Institute of African Studies vol. 18, no. 1, 2018, pp. 194–204.
Prakash, Gyan. “Subaltern Studies as Postcolonial Criticism.” The American Historical Review vol. 99, no. 5, 1994, pp. 1475–90. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2168385.
Rackley, Lauren, E. “Gender Trauma and Orality in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus.” MA Thesis, U of Mississippi, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, 2015.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. The Great Books Foundation, Set Three, Volume Five, n. d.
Spivak, Gayatri C. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Marxism and Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson & Lawrence Grossberg. U of Illinois P, 1988, pp. 271–313. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-13213-2_84.
Spivak, Gayatri C. “The Making of Americans, the Teaching of English, and the Future of Culture Studies.” New Literary History vol. 21, no. 4, 1990, p. 781–798.. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/469185.
Spivak, Gayatri C. “The Rani of Sirmur: An Essay in Reading the Archives.” History and Theory vol. 24, no. 3, 1985, pp. 247–72. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2505169.
Spivak, Gayatri C. “The Trajectory of the Subaltern in my Work.” UCTV. 13 Sep. 2004. https://www.uctv.tv/shows/Gayatri-Spivak-The-Trajectory-of-the-Subaltern-in-My-Work-8840.
Von Clausewitz, Clemensartz. On War, edited and translated by Michael Howard & Peter Paret. Princeton U P, 1984.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Tydskrif vir Letterkunde
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.