The Problematics of Naming in Kenyan Creative Narratives


There is a tendency in Kenyan literature, which can be defined as ahistorical ethnopolitanism. In this approach the writer chooses to use names of characters and places that indicate an attempt to see the Kenyan community from a distance. The result is that, in the push for inclusivity in works of literature, the very idea an authentic record of history and self-knowledge is lost: Real actors are alienated from the story of the history of the country; the background loses its referential significance; fantasy contexts are created to overlay and erase the real; and an atmosphere of namelessness is prioritised. This paper is a preliminary critique of these traits in contemporary Kenyan creative narrative. It seeks to highlight how such an approach – whose aim is to create a text that sidesteps ethnic politics – paradoxically undermines the writers’ efforts.

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