Trapped in the Airport: Borders, Blackness and the Myth of the Global Citizen in Abdulrazak Gurnah’s By the Sea

Delali Kumavie


Abdulrazak Gurnah’s novel, By the Sea, reveals the airport as the border of the modern nation-state where the colonial metropole re-encounters the postcolonial traveler. Through a reading of Gurnah’s novel, that tells the story of Saleh Omar, a Zanzibari man seeking asylum at Gatwick airport in the United Kingdom, this article interrogates the anxieties of the nation, it’s past, and present aspirations that find renewed expression at the site of the African traveler in the space of the airport. Drawing upon Ayo Coly’s conception of “postcolonial hauntologies,” as well as Simone Browne’s understanding of race in airport surveillance, I show how Saleh’s particular ontological positioning (African, old, and poor) becomes the impetus for the violence inflicted upon him and other African travelers within the uneven and unequal structures of global air travel.


airport, global, travel, postcolonial

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