“The Manner of My Going”: Death and Life beyond the Anthropocene in Michael Yobu Swai’s Poetry

Amy Stambach


Today’s post-Enlightenment ecological project might better be understood not in terms of modernity and apocalypse but of decolonization. Taking the work of Tanzanian poet Michael Y. Swai as an entry point, this article argues that ecology has long operated as western modernity's ever-immanent new horizon. Nineteenth-century evolutionary ecology made Africa into Europe's naturalized past, while twentieth century "modernist" literature racialized Africa according to an ideology of white supremacy. Detailing the layers of time and temporality Swai weaves into his poetry, this article shows that the poet neither idealizes the past nor dooms the present. "The Loyal Guardian," the first of two poems explicated, is a massive enactment of resistance to environmental and social degradation and an affirmation of earth’s triumph over humans’ narrow notions of dispensational and epochal time. “The Manner of My Going,” the second poem, acknowledges the realities of colonization without reproducing the world through Enlightenment terms.


decolonization; anthropocene; environment; africa; poetry

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