World Literature and the Postcolonial:
Ngugi’s Globalectics and Glissant’s Poetics
Duncan McEachern Yoon
One of the metaphors both Glissant and Ngugi cite in their respective projects is the rhizome. While an obvious reference to Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (1980), both Gissant and Ngugi postcolonialize the concept through an emphasis on racial, geographic, and linguistic differences. Ngugi writes: “I have argued […] to view the relationship between languages, cultures, and literatures in terms of a network, akin but not identical to Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘rhizome.’ In a network there is no one center, all are points balanced and related to one another by the principle of giving and receiving” (Ngugi 61). Ngugi’s rhizomatic network works to dismantle the hierarchy of center and periphery through a relational give and receive. The tangled network of a rhizome allows for entities to make connections with the effect of an overall mutual benefit, which lies outside of an enforced dynamic of power. As a root moves vertically into the ground, a rhizome will move perpendicular to gravity, that is, horizontally. Ngugi’s balanced network of giving and receiving resonates with Glissant’s notion of a donner-avec, that is, to understand the “world of Relation,” through, “translating, contesting, then reconstituting its elements in a new order” (Wing xiv). The process of disaggregating the colonial world, including the West itself, and reformulating it along postcolonial lines provides the flexibility of alternative identity formations through cultural exchange. For both Ngugi and Glissant, language is the primary locus for such an exchange.
Orature and Opacity
Of paramount importance to Ngugi’s globalectic, and by extension, his understanding of dialectics, resides in the importance of dialogue and communication—of language itself. This “multi-logue” lends a vocality to globalectics, which finds its primary outlet in the cultural realm. Literature, and as Ngugi defines its oral partner, orature, occupies the space of mediation, and relation. The importance of allowing for such an expressive polyvocality means that the cultural logics of a particular time and space find room for their articulation: “the major generic elements of classical orature—riddle, proverb, story, song, poetry, drama, dance, and myth—like the other aesthetic products of the imagination, […] have also simultaneously nourished the imagination and explained the universe, helping humans to come to terms with it” (Ngugi 78). The colonial system denied orature its status as an indicator of culture and civilization. The exportation of the written colonial language and culture served as the standard through which all other languages and cultures were understood. This process produced a marginalization, and in many cases, an eradication of the texture or sediment of a colonized culture, what Glissant calls its opacity.
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 Literally translated as, “to give-with.”
 “Rhizomatic thought is the principle behind what I call the Poetics of Relation, in which each and every identity is extended through a relationship with the Other” (Glissant 11).
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Essays in this Forum
Break out of the Prison House of Hierarchy!
by Mukoma Wa Ngugi
A Globalectical Imagination
by Ngugi wa Thiong'o
World Literature and the Postcolonial: Ngugi's Globalectics and Glissant's Poetics
by Duncan McEachern Yoon
“You Are the Prisoner, the Discoverer, the Founder, the Liberator”: Contextualizing Decolonial Paths of Afro-Hispanic Literature in Latin America, Equatorial Guinea and Spain
by Elisa Rizo
Globalectics Beyond Postcoloniality
by Carole Boyce Davies