History, Nation, Ghetto: Kenyan Women's Literature and the Ethics of Responsibility

Marie Kruger


As they contemplate the fate of those displaced by anti-Semitic persecution and genocidal violence, the award-winning narratives of Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor ("Weight of Whispers") and Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye (A Farm Called Kishinev) examine the exclusionary rhetoric of race and nation. In an attempt to find alternatives to the epistemic and physical violence directed against unwelcome strangers, Owuor's short story and Macgoye's novel reflect on the extent to which modern institutions are only able to produce moral apathy towards those marked as different in terms of race and ethnicity, religion and class, and therefore excluded from the protection of the nation-state. As "difference" mutates into a source of conflict and even genocide, leaving women and children especially vulnerable to organized hostility, these fictional works demonstrate the dark sides of modernity that betray the etiological myths equating the modern with civilizational progress and the social production of moral responsibility.


Kenyan women's literature; ethnicity and race; genocide

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