Tosin Gbogi is an assistant professor of English at Marquette University, specializing in popular cultures, Africana literatures, and critical race and ethnic studies. Before joining Marquette, he taught in the Department of English Studies at Adekunle Ajasin University, Nigeria, and in the Africana Studies Program and the School of Professional Advancement, both at Tulane University. He has also worked in the past as an arts editor with Nigeria’s foremost publisher, Kraft Books, Ibadan, and was the judge of the 2012 PEN-Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize. Gbogi is the author of two collections of poetry, the tongues of a shattered s-k-y (2012) and locomotifs and other songs (2018), and the co-editor of One Poem, Fifty Seasons (2013), the poetry anthology of the Association of Nigerian Authors (Ondo state chapter). His academic papers have appeared in Matatu: Journal for African Culture and Society, Pragmatics, and Neohelicon.


Race and Migrant Bodies in Contemporary African Poetry

This paper argues that the predominant conceptions of the African/Black body that shaped the racist and sexual economies of slavery and colonialism are not only still being reproduced in a wide array of ways—ranging from popular culture to the micro-interactions of everyday life—but in fact constitute some of the most fundamental lenses through which we can comprehend the political dimensions and ramifications of globalization. Abjected as sites of sexual deviance and disproportion, olfactory grime and offensiveness, overweight and indiscipline, aggression and irrationality, as well as disposability, African migrant bodies in today’s world continually confront what Awad Ibrahim (1999) calls a Black “social imaginary—a discursive space in which they are already imagined, constructed, and thus treated as Blacks by hegemonic discourses and group” (p. 349). This paper considers the literary reimagining of these bodies in contemporary African poetry. Drawing on selected poems from Niyi Osundare’s City Without People: Katrina Poems, Amatoritsero Ede’s Globetrotters and Hitler’s Children, Gbenga Adeoba’s Exodus, Salfi Elhillo’s The January Children, and Tsitsi Jaji’s “On the Isle of Lesbos,” it considers the racialized contours of African migrants’ experiences in the West and how those experiences are overdetermined by essentialist conceptions of the African/Black body.

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