Cosmopolitan Christians: Religious Subjectivity and Political Agency in Equiano's Interesting Narrative and Achebe's African Trilogy
Date of Award
Master of Arts
Katy Chiles, Urmila Seshagiri
The primary texts featured in this study—the Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano and two novels of Chinua Achebe’s so-called African Trilogy—each constitute responses to a sly and exploitive Christian modernity, responses which, borrowing from theories of intersubjectivity articulated by Kwame Anthony Appiah and others, might be called two cosmopolitanisms: for Equiano, a Christian cosmopolitanism, which works within available theological structures to revise Enlightenment-era notions of shared humanity; and for Achebe, a contaminated cosmopolitanism, which ironically celebrates the modern inevitability of cultural admixture. Despite their separation by time, space, and even genre, and even more than their common Igbo heritage, the two authors share a common set of discursive strategies by which they portray a resilient agency among African “converts,” whose cosmopolitan Christianities allow for and even invigorate political and cultural resistance. For the enslaved and colonized Africans who come to profess the religion of their oppressors, the final result is not utter subjection but the genesis of new, even powerfully radical subjectivities; that is, it is no longer a religion of oppression, but a new faith entirely. Ultimately, the discursive traps laid by colonial Christianity cannot restrain the new Christian cosmopolitans who emerge from these texts to meet the harrowing rhetorical demands of two pivotal, and in many ways quite similar, moments in modern history.
Cox, Joel David, "Cosmopolitan Christians: Religious Subjectivity and Political Agency in Equiano's Interesting Narrative and Achebe's African Trilogy. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2013.
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