Trains, Stone, and Energetics: African Resource Culture and the Neoliberal World-Ecology
This chapter explores the symbolic magnetism of motifs of trains and stone in African resource fiction, and examines varieties of “locomotive culture” bound up with resistance to the infrastructure underlying neoliberal extractivism. I compare a series of cultural artefacts from different sites and periods of resource extraction in Africa: Senegalese novelist Ousmane Sembène’s God’s Bits of Wood (1962), South African jazz-funk trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s song “Stimela (Coal-Train)” (1974), South African artist Dillon Marsh’s photograph, “Rhodium – 13 million troy ounces,” (2014), DRC novelist Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83 (2015), and Afro-diasporic writer Nisi Shawl’s s/f novel Everfair (2016). Through the differing politics and aesthetics of these depictions of resource extractivism, which chart the gamut from the revolutionary “striking energies” and collectivities imagined in Sembène’s socialist-realist “strike epic” and the anti-colonial force of Masekela’s “Stimela” in the age of decolonization, to the neoliberal political paralysis and “resource conflict dystopia” of Mujila’s Tram 83 and the utopian horizons re-summoned by Shawl’s turn to speculative fiction in Everfair, I trace the bloody history of mining and resource imperialism on the continent, both as violence and exploitation, and as resourceful contestation and insurgency, while exploring the changing political horizons and capacities of form to imagine resistance.
- Alspach, Ardi. 2016. We Need Diverse SFF: Nisi Shawl Discusses Everfair, Diversity in Publishing, and Giving a Voice to Those Silenced by History. B & N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, September 9. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/nisi-shawl-discusses-everfair-diversity-publishing-giving-voice-silenced-history/. Accessed 14 Mar 2018.
- Bould, Mark. 2013. African SF: An Introduction. Paradoxa 25. http://paradoxa.com/volumes/25/introduction. Accessed 14 Mar 2018.
- Brouillette, Sarah. 2017. On the African Literary Hustle. Blind Field: A Journal of Cultural Inquiry, August 14. https://blindfieldjournal.com/2017/08/14/on-the-african-literary-hustle/. Accessed 13 Mar 2018.
- Caminero-Santangelo, Byron. 2014. Different Shades of Green: African Literature, Environmental Justice, and Political Ecology. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
- Carmody, Pádraig. 2011. The New Scramble for Africa. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Dawson, Ashley. 2017. The Global Calculus of Climate Disaster. Boston Review: A Political and Literary Forum, September 6. https://bostonreview.net/science-nature/ashley-dawson-global-calculus-climate-disaster. Accessed 7 Mar 2018.
- Denning, Michael. 2015. Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution. London: Verso. Kindle.Google Scholar
- Fraser, Alistair. 2018. Land Grab/Data Grab: Precision Agriculture and the New Horizons. The Journal of Peasant Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2017.1415887. Accessed 18 July 2018.
- Holloway, John. 2010. Crack Capitalism. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
- Klare, Michael. 2012. The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources. New York: Metropolitan.Google Scholar
- Marsh, Dillon. 2014. Rhodium – 13 Million Troy Ounces. For What It’s Worth. http://dillonmarsh.com/pgm06.html. Accessed 14 Mar 2018.
- Masekela, Hugh. 1974. Stimela [Coal-Train]. In I Am Not Afraid. Los Angeles: Blue Thumb.Google Scholar
- Mitchell, Timothy. 2011. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Moore, Jason W. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Mujila, Fiston Mwanza. 2015. Tram 83 [First edition 2014]. Trans. Roland Glasser. London: Jacaranda.Google Scholar
- Patel, Raj, and Jason W. Moore. 2017. A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things. Oakland: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Petrocultures Research Group. 2016. After Oil. Edmonton: Petrocultures.Google Scholar
- Samatar, Sofia. 2015. Fiston Mwanza Mujila & Roland Glasser. Bomb Magazine, September 16. https://bombmagazine.org/articles/fiston-mwanza-mujila-roland-glasser/. Accessed 14 Mar 2018.
- Sembène, Ousmane. 1962. God’s Bits of Wood [First edition Les bouts de bois de Dieu 1960]. Trans. Francis Price. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
- Shawl, Nisi. 2016. Everfair. New York: Tor. Kindle.Google Scholar
- Solnit, Rebecca. 2014. Call Climate Change What It Is: Violence. The Guardian, April 7. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/climate-change-violence-occupy-earth. Accessed 12 Mar 2018.
- ———, ed. 2017. Introduction. In Fueling Culture: 101 Words of Energy and the Environment. New York: Fordham University Press.Google Scholar