The Global Turn
: Representations of the Self in South Asian and African Anglophone Literatures in the Colonial and Postcolonial Eras

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Building on interdisciplinary exchanges between postcolonial cultural theory and literary criticism, this thesis examines the idea of self in context of intercultural encounter, literary hybridity and globalization. The project locates and analyzes self in Anglophone literatures emerging from British colonies in Africa and the subcontinent through the critical lens of dialogical self theory, borrowed from the social sciences, and textual analysis of writers’ creative narrative strategies.

The project examines and interrogates four pairs of texts over the colonial, postwar and post-9/11 eras in order to delineate different strategies of selfhood across four diverse fields of literature: autobiographical life writing, folk anthology, metaphysical fabulism, and contemporary realism. The eight texts under consideration, Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1794) alongside Sake Dean Mahomet’s The Travels of Dean Mahomet (1794), Henry Callaway’s Nursery Tales, Traditions and Histories of the Zulus (1868) and R.C. Temple’s The Legends of the Punjab (1884-1900), Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952) and G.V. Desani’s All About H. Hatterr (1972), Tsitsi Dangarembga’s The Book of Not (2011) and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008), are organized under these generic headings and have been arranged chronologically.

Foremost a literary undertaking, the project engages the critical perspectives outlined in Jane Hiddlestone’s introduction to Postcolonial Poetics: Genre and Form and seeks to ‘bring littérarité [literariness] to the fore’ with a focus on ‘the specific mechanics of particular texts and genres, and on the ways in which the experience of colonialism has triggered a range of innovative forms of literary creation in response.’

The central purpose of this study responds to this renewed emphasis on the narrative strategies and creative choices involved in a literary construction of self. Threaded through this investigation is the idea of globalization, or the intensification of intercultural and dialogic complexity over time. The thesis couches its literary analysis within the framework of dialogical self theory, the imagining, expression and representation of selfhood through dialogic processes and interactions within a text.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRuvani Ranasinha (Supervisor) & Javed Majeed (Supervisor)

Cite this