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Redefining the African diaspora: Migration, identity, and gender narratives in diasporic West African women's fiction

Mevi Hova, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation examines the ways in which selected contemporary works by diasporic West African women writers use the mutating position and identity of the diasporic African woman to explore gender dynamics in both Western and African spaces. The novels considered are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013), Sefi Atta’s A Bit of Difference (2013), and Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (2013). Also studied are selected stories from Adichie’s short story collection, The Thing Around your Neck (2009). This dissertation argues that in these works we see an expansion of the dismantling of patriarchal dominance in traditional African societies through the empowerment these women experience as a result of their migration. The novels’ protagonists must learn to navigate both Western and African gender norms through their relationships with men and within their families. While they do not choose to stay in the West, their ability to question the patriarchal dictates implicit in the cultures of both the West and their homelands, and their (subsequent) rejection of these dictates, position them as a new kind of global figure who is willing to exploit the resources of the West to strengthen their own nationalistic agenda, their national pride, and their personal identity. I first examine Adichie’s novel Americanah, along with two short stories from The Thing Around your Neck, “The Thing Around Your Neck”, and “The Arrangers of Marriages”, to consider how class and economic wealth dictate diasporic African women’s choices and capacity to negotiate the challenges of migration as well as their return to their homelands. Chapter two focuses on Sefi Atta’s A Bit of Difference and considers how the global and nationalistic demands of migration affect the diasporic African woman in her quest to achieve self-affirmation and the ways in which she explores new avenues for herself through gender identity. Finally, chapter three examines the African immigrant experience in the U.S. from first and second generational perspectives through the parent-child dynamic in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go. I also use Selasi’s work to discuss the phenomenon of return migration, and how this possibility of return complicates gender dynamics within the African context.

Subject Area

African literature|Literature|American literature

Recommended Citation

Hova, Mevi, "Redefining the African diaspora: Migration, identity, and gender narratives in diasporic West African women's fiction" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3739560.