Animist Eco-logics: The Speculative Ecosystems of Amos Tutuola

Presented by Kirk Sides

Monday, 6 September, 2021 - 16:00

This paper looks at the work of Nigerian author Amos Tutuola arguing that Tutuola’s first works, The Palmwine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, inaugurate a negotiation over which poetics and politics were best suited to imagine and thus write a post-colonial future. The fraught reception of Tutuola’s initial works represents a larger contestation over the cultural and ideological thresholds between colonial and postcolonial modernity. While much of the literature of the African continent and indeed the decolonizing world more generally pointed towards a mode of ‘rational’ literary expression in various formations of realism, for Tutuola decoloniality as a cultural, aesthetic imaginary is expressed through speculative modes of writing. These speculative imaginaries are built upon and located within representational strategies for articulating the ecosystemic and ecological connections of local environments. I want to position Tutuola as part of a long genealogy of writing from the African continent that works with an ecological imaginary informed by Harry Garuba’s sense of “animism.” It is the speculative mode for writing the environments of the bush, which I ague also links Tutuola to later generations of African writers who have been more conspicuously labeled as part of an African science/speculative fictional turn.
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