Semiotic Warfare: the geo-politics of African writing

Almost 50 years Heinemann’s African Writer’s Series introduced some of Africa’s most important writers to the continent, and to the world, African publishing experienced a second boom.

In 2005 Granta published The View from Africa and Bard College created the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists. The Orange Prize for Fiction was awarded in London 2007 to Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie‘s Half of a Yellow Sun, and the Caine Prize for African Writing has introduced new writers to agents and publishers. Writers like Chimamanda Adichie, Alain Mabanckou, Chris Abani, Petina Gapah, Marie Ndiaye and Seffi Ata are known and read in many African countries, in the African diaspora, and in Europe and America.

We examine the industry, focusing on the state of publishing on the continent in relation to the publishing of African writing in the West – honing in on the dilemmas faced by the African writer and the challenges the African publisher encounter, to expose the semiotic warfare that underscores the geography of African writing across its various sites of production, as small scale publishers on the continent strive to redefine African letters against the full force of corporate conglomerates from outside, and the African writers own tacit and unworked complicity with that force.

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