The Final Phase (HUM303)

As we enter the final phase of the semester (6 meetings left, including the final exam!) you might begin preliminary work on your paper. The prompt is on the Final Papers page above. We can discuss it in class on Monday should anyone require clarification. We’ll also close out our discussion of Fatale and, perhaps, screen some clips from a Congolese crime drama called Viva Riva! (ignore the trailer’s ridiculous voice over) in preparation for the last novel of the course, Nairobi Heat. Remember to look over the Deleuze reading.

Increasingly, crime fiction has become a global cultural form. If conventional histories of the genre generally locate its inceptions (wrongly, it seems, given the heritage of gong-an) in the Anglophone world– particularly with the work of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle– in recent years the crime novel has gained a wider readership often focused on local authors. Scandinavian and Mediterranean noir are obvious instances of this phenomenon, though we can find any number of examples in east Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa as well.

The first two of these literary traditions (especially in Sweden and Italy) tend to be self-consciously oriented toward social issues, and often assume a ideological stance on the left of the political spectrum. One of the things that I like about Nairobi Heat is its political commitments which– as you’d expect from the son of Kenya’s most famous and most frequently jailed writer– don’t simply gesture at the dark and violent history of European colonialism in order to ignore or minimize postcolonial social dysfunctions.

As former colonized nations go, Kenya has had a relatively smooth ride, though it was until recently a one-party state. The so-called Mau-Mau Uprising forced the UK’s hand on internal policies and ultimately led to decolonization in 1963. Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of a free Kenya, was succeeded by Daniel arap Moi in 1978, who ruled until 2002. More recently, there have been rising tensions between the current government, which is conducting an “anti-terrorism” campaign in the aftermath of the Westgate Mall attack, and Kenya’s Somali community.

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