Date of Award

5-2017

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Greg Forter

Abstract

This thesis argues that Chris Abani’s 2004 novel Graceland presents the austerity programs imposed on Nigeria in the 1980s as a form of financialized necropolitics. Through its representation of the entanglement between transnational capital interests and repressive state security forces, Graceland offers new ways of theorizing neoliberal governance and its relationship to the construction of what Achille Mbembe calls “death worlds.” In the novel, the state’s instrumentation and destruction of human bodies (for the accumulation of wealth) becomes an apt metaphor for structural adjustment. But the novel goes further by demonstrating how this logic of accumulation utilizes biopolitical and even aesthetic arguments to justify its destruction. What results is a city in which those deemed outside of the biopolitical protections of the state (the poor, unlaboring population) are made increasingly invisible. This necropolitics is registered in the novel by a pervasive madness which Elvis must come to recognize not as personal or national defect but rather as symptomatic of the madness of the necropolitical state. Finally, this thesis looks to performance as a means of resistance to this necropolitical state through an assertion of visibility and self-formation.

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