A comparative reading of Elleke Boehmer’s Nile Baby and Richard Hoskins’ The Boy in the River: different attitudes towards the possibility of cultural ‘mixedness’
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This article examines two contemporary texts that present different attitudes towards cultural diversity in Britain: Elleke Boehmer’s novel Nile Baby and Richard Hoskins’ memoir The Boy in the River. Boehmer, who is an internationally recognised theorist in colonial and postcolonial writing, applies her concept of ‘mixedness’ to characterisation and incident, using the metaphorical and narrative devices available to the writer of fiction, to achieve in her novel a more promising approach to cultural hybridity than does Hoskins. Writing as an ‘expert’ on ‘African’ religions, Hoskins must, in a fact-based genre, establish himself as a reliable informant for his implied British audience. Confronting the ambiguities of ethically and judicially complex situations relating to belief in sorcery and witchcraft, he consigns them to the nonrational, alien, and predominantly dangerous. Hoskins therefore, despite his commitment to notions of shared humanity, reinscribes oppositional boundaries between the belief systems of ‘the West’ and ‘Africa’.