Postcolonial Hauntologies


Postcolonial Hauntologies

African Women's Discourses of the Female Body

Ayo A. Coly

Expanding Frontiers: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Series

262 pages
16 photographs, index


June 2024


$30.00 Add to Cart

June 2019


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2019


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About the Book

Postcolonial Hauntologies is an interdisciplinary and comparative analysis of critical, literary, visual, and performance texts by women from different parts of Africa. While contemporary critical thought and feminist theory have largely integrated the sexual female body into their disciplines, colonial representations of African women’s sexuality “haunt” contemporary postcolonial African scholarship, which—by maintaining a culture of avoidance about women’s sexuality—generates a discursive conscription that ultimately holds the female body hostage. Ayo A. Coly employs the concepts of “hauntology” and “ghostly matters” to formulate an explicative framework in which to examine postcolonial silences surrounding the African female body as well as a theoretical framework for discerning the elusive and cautious presences of female sexuality in the texts of African women.

In illuminating the pervasive silence about the sexual female body in postcolonial African scholarship, Postcolonial Hauntologies challenges hostile responses to critical and artistic voices that suggest the African female body represents sacred ideological-discursive ground on which one treads carefully, if at all. Coly demonstrates how “ghosts” from the colonial past are countered by discursive engagements with explicit representations of women’s sexuality and bodies that emphasize African women’s power and autonomy.

Author Bio

Ayo A. Coly is an associate professor of comparative literature and African studies at Dartmouth College. She is the author of The Pull of Postcolonial Nationhood: Gender and Migration in Francophone African Literatures.


“Coly makes her points with minimal jargon, using numerous beautifully illustrated and carefully explained examples from literature, dress code debates, photography, videography, and performance art from all over sub-Saharan Africa. . . . Coly’s analyses of individual pieces are nuanced and sensitive to varied (and contentious) interpretive possibilities. The book will be of interest to scholars and students in African, African diaspora, postcolonial, performance, gender, queer, and sexuality studies.”—A. H. Koblitz, Choice
“These wide-ranging examples from African women’s literature and visual and performance arts, and Ayo Coly’s extended analyses of them, copiously support her arguments concerning colonial images of African women’s bodies and sexuality, the concept of hauntology, and efforts to counter such postcolonial ‘ghosts’ from the past. Postcolonial Hauntologies is a thought-provoking and extremely well-researched work.”—Elisha Renne, author of Cloth That Does Not Die: The Meaning of Cloth in Bunu Social Life

“This essential analysis of literature and art in a single African woman–centered study fills an urgent void. This is a book that breaks ‘the silences of African feminist criticism on the sexual female body.’ I don’t think there has been such important scholarship in African feminism since the works of Oyèwùmí and Amadiume were written ten and twenty years ago, respectively. This rare and much-needed crossover study answers an important call by going beyond literature to incorporate comparative studies of the arts at the same time.”—Cheryl Toman, author of Women Writers of Gabon: Literature and Herstory

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. The African Female Body: From Colonial Inscription to Postcolonial Conscription
2. Haunted Silences: African Feminist Criticism and the Specter of Sarah Baartman
3. Spectral Female Sexualities: The Politics of Sexual Pleasure in Women’s Literatures
4. Subversive and Pedagogical Hauntologies: The Unclothed Female Body in Visual and Performance Arts
5. Laying Specters to Rest? On Bringing Sarah Baartman Home    

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