The Outsider Within: An Analysis of the Representation of Power and Language in Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North

DOI: 10.1080/23277408.2016.1183299
Author(s): Mohammad ShabanguDepartment of English, Germany


Using Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, this article argues that Salih employs the precariousness of language as a key organizing principle for his novel about cultural deracination. In doing so, he calls into question the very sense in which language as that which is independent of its speakers creates the conditions for binary theories of black and white, civilization and traditionalism, home and abroad, belonging and unbelonging, cultural purity and cultural contamination and so forth. I suggest that the structure of the novel carries with it the implicit invocation of semiology. The article further argues that language is itself the bearer of discourse, and thereby examines the discursive limits of the naturalizing approach to African literary criticism and interpretive frameworks that do not historicize the ontological currency of language. Ultimately, the article argues that in its treatment of language, the novel lays bare the violent force of coloniality, and the central place of language within it.

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