Place and Scale in Ngũgĩ’s “Universal Garden”
In his latest novel Wizard of the Crow, NgũgĩwaThiong’o engages the murky battle lines of neoliberal globalization and the equally murky questions it raises regarding relations between the local and the global. Yet as the epigraph suggests, these lines for Ngũgĩ have not changed. The local/global dynamic has always been implied by Ngũgĩ’s anti-imperialist themes, existing alongside and within other tensions that have long occupied critics of his work, including the relationship of the individual hero to the community, of ethnicity or culture to the nation, and of Western education to Gĩkũyũ nationalism and Kenyan independence. At their heart, these tensions might all be seen to grapple with the difficulty of negotiating the particular and the universal, difference and unity. This difficulty is articulated in Ngũgĩ’s twin efforts to revitalize specific cultures while simultaneously appealing to broad-based class solidarities and shared resistance among the peoples of Kenya, Africa, and the whole Global South. The geographic tensions implied by these efforts parallel recent work in geography and debates about the nature of place, especially in the wake of post-structuralist challenges to notions of authenticity that had previously underpinned most discussions of place. Many geographers have wrestled with how to ground a sense of the particularities of a place without acceding to an essentialized or exclusionary sense of that place as closed, static, self-defining, and homogeneous. At thesame time, they grapple with questions about how to understand the relations between specific places at national, regional, and global scales in ways that do not abstract or elide local difference.
KeywordsEurope Resis Smoke Lution Trench
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