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Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa

Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa

Author: Dominic Thomas (Professor of French and Francophone Studies, UCLA)

Examines the role of literature in building states and citizens.

What characterizes the relationship between literature and the state? Should literature serve the needs of the state by constructing national consciousness, espousing state propaganda, and molding good citizens? Or should it be dedicated to a different kind of creative social endeavor? In this important book about literature and the politics of nation-building, Dominic Thomas assesses the contributions of Francophone African writers whose works have played a key role in the recent transition to democracy in the Congo. Exploring the works of Sony Labou Tansi, Henri Lopes, and Emmanuel Dongala, among others, Thomas highlights writers intimately involved with government and politics—whether in support of the state’s vision or with the intention of articulating a more open view of citizens and society. Focusing on themes such as collaboration, reconciliation, identity, history, and memory, Nation-Building, Propaganda, and Literature in Francophone Africa elaborates a broader understanding of the circumstances of African colonization, modern African nation-state formation, and the complex cultural dynamics at work in Africa since independence.


"Thomas (Univ. of California, Los Angeles) analyzes the sociopolitical and literary scene in the sub—Saharan regions of the Francophone world during the late 1960s and the nascent 21st century. He chose the Congo to make his point, because it provides a striking model for the exploration of nationalism and postcoloniality. The study delineates a framework that considers the political and ideological consequences of structural literary works that are not in accord with the policies of the local government in power. The author distinguishes between the diverse writers who adhered to the Marxist—Leninist party line and those who adamantly insisted on maintaining an autonomous stance. The latter—among them the prolific playwright Emanuel Dongala and novelist Sony Labou Tansi—were censored, prosecuted, and forced into exile. A concluding chapter delves into the attempt to reconcile the various factions, the trend toward a multiparty system, and constitutional reform associated with postindependence initiatives. Although Thomas's book is bound to open new vistas of inquiry, its complexity limits its accessibility. Summing Up: Recommended. Colleges and universities with strong departments of Francophone studies serving graduate students, researchers, and faculty."—R. Merker, Grambling State University , 2003jun CHOICE.

Indiana University Press

Also available at

African Studies Center