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That 'African Prince' who keeps sending you e-mails: e-fraud economy in postcolonial Nigerian literary and cultural texts
This thesis examines the intersection between literature and economics, specifically postcolonial African literature and neoliberal capitalism. Focusing on the emerging sub-genre of e-fraud fiction within the corpus of hustler narratives, it explores how economic realities and the vicissitudes of neoliberal exclusion that emerge from the spread of global capitalism shape literary representation, production, and scholarship. The study of finance and economics remains a marginal subfield in African literary studies. When the subject is broached, it is often in the interest of understanding the literary work as a material object—or in terms of the circulation of postcolonial texts—in the literary marketplace. This thesis approaches the question of economics differently, foregrounding the depictions of e-fraud in African texts as an entry point into an original analysis of neoliberal dynamics, capitalist angst, and their diasporic resonances.
It argues that the e-fraud motif makes legible the paradoxical expression of an individual’s struggle for economic liberation both from and through their world. The form and content, production, and criticism of e-fraud literature demonstrate the extent to which postcolonial subjects resist the structures of exclusion by replicating same structures. A close and comparative reading of the work of Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Teju Cole, Chuma Nwokolo, Sefi Atta, as well as e-fraud films by Faraday Okoro and Andy Amenechi, and a film song performed by Nkem Owoh reveals the ambivalence embedded in the postcolonial subject’s resistance to economic inequality and exclusion—engendered by neoliberal policies—through engagements in pro-capitalist practices and behaviours that accentuate the enforced continuity of imperial hegemony.
My approach to the texts takes a combination of postcolonial analysis and economic criticism, which I call Postcolonial Economic Criticism (PEC), as a mode of reading for investigating the economic frameworks that underpin postcolonial literary and cultural studies. Using this approach, in Chapter One, I establish that such strategies of postcolonial resistance as mimicry, hybridity, assimilation, and active participation facilitate the commodification of the discourses of gender, spatiality, migration, and subjectivity, as well as the capitalisation of literary and knowledge production in the domain of postcolonial African literature. I position the e-fraudster as simultaneously a victim and a villain, and show that, as a victim, his economic status is troubled by the condition of aborted modernity manifesting in various degrees, including the lack of personal-development opportunities as a boy-child (Chapter Two), the inability to meet the traditional expectations of masculinity (Chapter Three), spatial discontent (Chapter Four), and limited mobility (Chapter Five). As a villain, he grows into a hustler adopting the neoliberal logic of capitalist ruthlessness to rationalise his engagement in e-fraud economy (Chapter Six).
In Chapter Seven, I position the e-fraudster as the writer’s doppelganger: just as e-fraudsters aim to achieve neoliberal objectives through writing scam letters with exotic contents that fascinate prospective Western recipients enough to make them part with their money, African writers have been charged with tailoring their writings to outrageous contents aimed at intriguing and stirring the interest of prominent Western publishers and a reading public that imagines Africa in exotic terms. As e-fraudsters become complicit with neoliberal capitalist economics to achieve neoliberal flight—the desire to participate gainfully in neoliberal economy through the freedom of global mobility and transnationality—so too do writers and critics. Accordingly, the disenfranchising economic condition experienced by literary characters in the e-fraud text intersects with the experience of postcolonial literary artists and critics who also have been respectively excluded from participating meaningfully in the capitalist globalisation of the creative market and knowledge capital.
The study thus contributes to research into how neocolonial processes, particularly when tied up with neoliberal economics, derail decolonisation efforts. It expands the bourgeoning theoretical field of postcolonial economic humanities, thus participating in contemporary efforts to foster transdisciplinary links between the humanities and the social sciences.