I am/am I an African? A relational reading of Diaspora and Identity in South African Fiction by J.U. Jacobs
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The publication of Diaspora and Identity in South African Fiction (2016) by J.U. Jacobs is a timely intervention, in that it is the first comprehensive study of South African fiction to sustain the argument that South African writing is always already diasporic. Although Jacobs’ diasporic framework undoubtedly serves as an important addition to the recent trends identified by literary scholars, his focus on 12 well-established writers (including Coetzee, Wicomb, Mda, Gordimer and Ndebele), highlights some of the gaps that need to be filled in a study of this kind. For instance, what about the younger generation of writers, including those from elsewhere in Africa who are writing about living in South Africa? How do they deal with what has been termed the new diaspora, with debates around Afropolitanism and the experiences of internal, inter-continental and trans-continental migrancy in an increasingly globalising world? Despite these shortcomings, Jacobs’ premise about the inevitably diasporic identifications that are narrativised in the 20 novels analysed here can provide a useful foundation for further scholarship on how the diasporic condition informs and is mediated in other texts. These, as I will show, range from works by a new generation of emerging writers on the one hand to the performing arts on the other hand.