The nation states of Africa are arbitrary, decided by primarily white colonizers bored or defeated who claimed African land, restructured governments, and left. The established African connections of tribe, language, and geography were ignored in the process of defining these modern African nations.
The institution of slavery one of Africa’s first means to influence the United States. The slave trade to America brought people from across the continent and particularly from the West Coast.
These two overwhelming interactions between black and white, colonialism and slavery, haunted me in my work as a scholar of American literature and led me to study the presentation of race in the fictional works of white authors, MAJOR white authors. Beginning with study of William Faulkner and the clearly identifiable presence of black, African bodies in his work and life, I moved to the works of an American author historically and inaccurately identified as devoid of racial representation, Ernest Hemingway. Whereas Faulkner is understood as writing about nothing but race, Hemingway is understood as ignoring race completely. I contend no American author can ignore race because American culture and ideology is enmeshed with the defining and redefining of whiteness and its privileges, both through the personal and painful crucible of American slavery and through the aspirational eye held always on England particularly and Europe generally. As writers like Faulkner and Hemingway created a literature district from that in Europe and unique to America, they create a literature always about race, for good writing about the American people is writing about race.
Though clearly produced through the lens of West Africa and its history of slave trade and colonialism, the works of Ivorian author and political leader Bernard Binlin Dadié seem unrelated to the insular and apolitical writings of American icons Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Dadié understood Africa as a whole – a whole culture, a whole people, made up of a diversity more distinct from Western values and sensibilities than from each other. For Dadié, to be African was to value the physical land, to respect history, and to understand spirit unites humankind to beast and earth. The currency of Dadié’s Africanness was the story. Faulkner understood intimately his region as part of a diverse American identity that promulgated ideas of independence, manifest destiny, and capitalism in both economy and religion. Faulkner used the currency of storytelling to redirect American identity from autonomy to community. Hemingway presented the individual as marked by his nation state, restricted by the culture it produced, and never free. He used storytelling to demonstrate the individual’s struggle against social norms that prioritized one life over another, rewarded conformity, and punished fluidity. During the last ten years of his life, Hemingway made two extended visits to East Africa and wrote a novel that challenged the social constructions of gender, sexuality, and race. Thus began my journey exploring the Pan African world view of Bernard Binlin Dadié. Dadié holds in Côte d’Ivoire the place Faulkner and Hemingway hold in the United States – the writer who shaped a tradition. Unearthing deeper influences of West and East Africa on the thinking of the United States will be another means of removing the invisibility and silence from the power and production of whiteness in the United States. America has never had a “white voice” even though that is all we have admitted to having for centuries.
This bibliography is the result of two years chasing down scholarly work on Dadié’s poetry, plays, stories, and memoirs, his historical moment, and his influence in English or French. There is much left to discover. My aim is to host a crowd-sourced bibliography that accepts contributions from scholars and afficiaodos around the world. Currently, a Western-centric bias is very clear because I have accessed almost exclusively American and European databases. I am just beginning to search places like the library at the University of Ghana and databases of Franco-African newspapers. If you know of scholarship, history, images, opinion pieces, government documents, or news articles about Bernard Binlin Dadié’s life or work, please enter its citation here. If you are willing to share a complete document instead of simply its citation, let me know and we will post it.
Akwaba and bien venue. C’est la travaille de ma cœur.