Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Brenna Munro

Second Committee Member

Tim Watson

Third Committee Member

John Funchion

Fourth Committee Member

Jennifer Wenzel


This dissertation claims that narratives of return to Africa act as powerful tools for rethinking the contemporary neoliberal moment and the terms upon which African-based affiliations are formed. “The African diaspora” has been a powerful governing principle for explaining the cultural connections among people of African descent around the globe. But the narratives of return in this dissertation speak to the limits of a diaspora concept, which often frames the African continent as a place of cultural origins and templates that exists firmly in the past. I read fiction and life writing from Africa, North America, and Great Britain alongside one another, showing how these contemporary writers use “return” to narrate distinct temporalities of belonging and affiliation with Africa. I argue that these works disorganize the accepted flows of culture and exchange of the African diaspora and treat Africa as a modern world space in itself. Furthermore, each author uses the journey to and from the continent to rethink his or her chosen national and global affiliations. Thus, by generating new narrative terms for seeing the continent, these returns engender new expressions of the self that detach from the pervasive logic that Africa—as a cultural and narrative signifier—remains a powerful yet obscure cultural origin forever in the past.


African Literature; Transnational; Return; African-American Literature; Modernity; Belonging