The Child-Soldier Deject: Abjection, Subjectivity, and Systemic Marginalization in Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation and Ahmadou Kourouma’s Allah Is Not Obliged
Kelly, Meaghan A.
University of Kansas
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International Human Rights is a multi-layered ideological system at the intersection of law, cultural narrative, social norms, collective ethics, and personal morality. Its lofty ideals are in direct challenge to the everyday forces of destruction and chaos that threaten order, which Julia Kristeva, in The Powers of Horror, claims is the substance of the abject. People’s fascination and perturbation with the abject are embodied in our cultural obsessions: one being the popularity of literatures depicting violent atrocities happening in faraway places—specifically, child-soldier narratives. The argument presented in this thesis is premised by the observation that global literatures tend to pander to the comforts of a Western readership, keeping abject content bracketed out of the narrative with only suggestions of the real violence taking place in conflict-ridden states. The thesis argues that two texts, Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation and Kourouma’s Allah is Not Obliged, have challenged such trends by presenting the abject to readers through their narrators. In so doing, they begin to close the comfortable gap between reader and subject, as the reader’s only point of access to the literature is filtered through a narrator who embodies abjection himself. The introduction provides a framework for understanding human rights literatures through the lens of Kristeva’s theory of abjection, and the chapters that follow are in-depth character studies of the two texts’ narrators and their linguistic habits. The chapters illustrate how and to what ends the authors deviate from convention in order to foster productive identification between reader and subject.
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