Dr Carol Leff’s The Afropolitan Flâneur in Literature marks the third book by Intersecting Diasporas Group (IDG) members launched this year.
The other IDG members to launch a body of work this year include Andrea Thorpe with South African London: Writing the Metropolis after 1948 and Sean James Bosman with Rejection of Victimhood in Literature by Abdulrazak Gurnah, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Luis Alberto Urrea.
Comprising Honours, Masters, and PhD students, as well as postdoctoral fellows and scholars from across the globe, the IDG was created in 2017 when Professor in Literary Studies in English at Rhodes University, Sam Naidu, received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The research group focuses on transnational subjectivities represented in literature of the African, Latin American, and South Asian diasporas. The project examines literature produced in the African, Latin American, and South Asian diasporic contexts. “Mainly, the project utilises a comparative methodology which explores the respective literatures of these diasporas in relation to each other,” explained Professor Naidu. “The IDG compares and contrasts various transnational texts in order to describe the complex and paradoxical experiences of diasporas in a world of increasing mobility and de-territorialism, which yet, in certain locations, also face increased regulation or prohibition.”
Dr Leff’s book, which is due for release by Cambridge Scholars Publishing on 1 July 2022, is based on her 2019 PhD dissertation. Dr Leff completed her doctorate while working as an Administrator at the Institute for the Study of the Englishes of Africa (ISEA). She is now also a teacher and supervisor in the MA in Creative Writing at the School of Languages and Literatures at Rhodes University.
Her area of interest is contemporary writing in and of Africa and the African diaspora, specifically regarding the transnational subjectivities represented in such literature
Dr Leff’s book engages in the Afropolitan debate via the streets of the literary city. “It first provides a historical and theoretical framework to illustrate how the literary flâneur—an aimless wanderer of the city—migrated from Europe to Africa and the diaspora, and how this figure is to be understood in relation to current considerations of Afropolitanism,” she said.
The literary analysis considers several primary texts by a range of writers: Chris Abani, Biyi Bandele, A. Igoni Barrett, Teju Cole, K. Sello Duiker, Mark Gevisser, Alain Mabanckou, Phaswane Mpe, Yewande Omotoso, Patricia Schonstein-Pinnock and Ivan Vladislavić.
Published between 1999 and 2015 by six African and six non-African publishers, this selection of texts is an archive of both the African and non-African literary city. The geographical focus falls on three cities in Africa (Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Lagos) and three global north cities (New York, Paris, and London). Each of the three novels discussed per chapter features a flâneur figure who reflects the intricacies of human subjectivity in the urban cityscape.
“By problematising the binaries of local/global, national/transnational, black/white, slum/paradise, my book addresses issues of belonging or not belonging and gestures towards new ways of understanding what it means to be an African in the world today,” explained Dr Leff.
Besides this book, Dr Leff has published journal articles and book chapters, both academic and creative, and is the author of flashes, a collection of poetry.
A formal book launch for The Afropolitan Flâneur in Literature is planned for later this year at the Amazwi South African Museum of Literature.