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How representations of land and landscape perform important metaphorical labor in African literatures

Table of contents

Table of Contents
Introduction: Land & Landscape in Literature from Eastern & Southern Africa
Chapter 1: Settlers, Lands, & Landscapes: Mystical Realism and the Presence of Nonhuman Life
Chapter 2: Land & Landscape in Zimbabwean Narratives of Transcendence
Chapter 3: Belonging & Mobility: Representations of Kenyan & Tanzanian Urban Landscapes
Chapter 4: African Languages, African Socialisms, & Representations of Lands & Landscapes
Chapter 5: Representations of Lands & Landscapes at the Humanity-Ecology Interface
Coda: This Future Lies in the Past
Works Cited


Across contiguous nation-states in Eastern Africa, the geographic proximity disguises an ideological complexity. Land has meant something fundamental in the sociocultural history of each country. Those concerns, however, have manifested into varied political events, and the range of struggles over land has spawned a multiplicity of literary interventions. While Kenya and Uganda were both British colonies, Kenya's experience of settler land alienation made for a much more violent response against efforts at political independence. Uganda's relatively calm unyoking from the colonial burden, however, led to a tumultuous post-independence. Tanzania, too, like Kenya and Uganda, resisted British colonial administration—after Germany's defeat in World War 1.

In Writing on the Soil, author Ng’ang’a Wahu-Mũchiri argues that representations of land and landscape perform significant metaphorical labor in African literatures, and this argument evolves across several geographical spaces. Each chapter's analysis is grounded in a particular locale: western Kenya, colonial Tanganyika, post-independence Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Anam Ka'alakol (Lake Turkana), Kampala, and Kitgum in Northern Uganda. Moreover, each section contributes to a deeper understanding of the aesthetic choices that authors make when deploying tropes revolving around land, landscape, and the environment. Mũchiri disentangles the numerous connections between geography and geopolitical space on the one hand, and ideology and cultural analysis on the other. This book embodies a multi-layered argument in the sphere of African critical scholarship, while adding to the growing field of African land rights scholarship—an approach that foregrounds the close reading of Africa’s literary canon.

Ng’ang’a Wahu-Mũchiri is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“This important, timely book offers a fresh perspective on African literature’s relationship to space, land ethics, and ecology. It brings an innovative approach to questions of land in African literature and will be read for its critical subtlety as well as for its experimental criticism and political commitment.”
—Evan Mwangi, Northwestern University

- Evan Mwangi