Othertongues: Multilingualism, Natality and Empowerment in Sharon Dodua Otoo’s Adas Raum (2021)

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Abstract

Written in German by the Black British author and activist Sharon Dodua Otoo, the novel Adas Raum (2021) intervenes in contemporary debates on colonial legacies to forge ‘a critical multilingualism’ (Yildiz 2012) that challenges master-narratives and tropes of founding fathers which privilege linear constructions of time and bounded concepts of nation and peoples. This article will examine how Otoo foregrounds diasporic female figures as material agents through a focus on ambivalent experiences of childbearing to argue that the multilingual feminist text rejects dualistic heteropatriarchal models to reconceive community in terms of intersubjective encounters and shared spaces. To illuminate the politics of Otoo’s structural concern with rebirth, I take up the concept of ‘natality’ developed in the writings of Hannah Arendt and Adriana Cavarero, which offers a model for imagining possibilities of political action that defy forms of domination. Black feminist thought further informs the ambivalent figuration of motherhood in Otoo’s narrative and its central preoccupation with intertwined issues of gender, racial and class discrimination. Challenging the ethnocentricity that has been identified throughout Arendt’s oeuvre, Otoo reveals instead how fifteenth-century West African concepts of space and time can be understood as in dialogue with the post-war philosopher’s understanding of natality as the central category of political thought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102
Number of pages124
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume77
Issue number1
Early online date18 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Sharon Dodua Otoo
  • multilingualism
  • natality
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Adriana Cavarero
  • Hortense J. Spillers
  • anti-racist literature
  • Adas Raum

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