Volume 7, Issue 1, 2010
Segun Afolabi, Transnational Identity, and the Politics of Belonging
This paper explores the implications of mass migration and the conditions of hybridization for early 21st century Western societies in texts dealing with migrant
experiences. The novel Goodbye Lucille (2007) by the Afro-cosmopolitan writer Segun Afolabi will be explored with respect to the crucial problem of an ethics and politics of belonging, related to the recent controversies surrounding multiculturalism and issues of migration. This text deals with the “in-between world” of migrants and negotiates questions of identity, alienation and belonging in a so-called transcultural/transnational context. The issues raised in Segun Afolabi's fiction are addressed by employing the ways of thinking developed in political philosophy, including recent phenomenological attempts to theorize the notion of “home” and “belonging” (e.g., by Karen Joisten, but also Martin Heidegger) in order to deal with the complexities of the issue. The question, “What constitutes the good life for the individual and the political community?”, needs to be considered by taking into account the current plurality of approaches to forging identities
in the political sphere as well. The subtlety of literary accounts of this phenomenon – literature may indeed be one of the best diagnostic instrument for studying a society – sheds light, I suggest, on the conditions of politically relevant identity formations. A close reading of literary texts such as those by Afolabi offers an important contribution to a realistic, and therefore complex and complicating, account of our overall situation in the Western world with respect to the politics of belonging.