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Literary Cartography: The Mapping of Colonial and Post-Colonial Races in Vassanji’s The Gunny Sack

Edith Weseja Bwana


Colonialism was institutionalised by the demarcation of borders and spaces. Society was divided along racial and economic lines, separating the ruling class of Europeans and Asian middlemen from the majority Africans who were ruled. In the struggle to establish a national identity in the post-colonial era, similar demarcations were created with the purpose of establishing a unified and consolidated nation state, again dividing society along similar racial categories. In this process, minority social groupings were ignored and written out of history in favour of a homogenous national narrative. The novel The Gunny Sack, by M.G Vassanji, attempts to remap the colonial and post-colonial society in a bid to acknowledge its complexity and diversity. By placing characters in unexpected settings, the paper will show how Vassanji challenges stereotypes and unwritten policies that govern such divisions, showing that the social reality was more complex than the presumed recorded divides. Through literary cartography, historical and political happenings are redefined, revising the lens through which these events are viewed.


Keywords: cartography, post-colonialism, Vassanji, The Gunny Sack, race.

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