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Volumen 3, Número 4, Edición Enero-junio de 2023
Cómo citar:
N’Guessan, K.L. (2023). Transculturalism, diaspora and otherness: the quest for a home in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s americana.
Multiverso Journal, 3(4), 93-108.
Transculturalism, diaspora and otherness: the quest for a
home in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s americana
Transculturalismo, diáspora y alteridad: la búsqueda de un hogar en Chimamanda
Kouadio Lambert N’Guessan
Recibido el 02/12/2022 - Aceptado el 17/01/2023
This paper aims to re-evaluate the role of otherness, the true keystone of Americanah which
invites to wonder if it might not be at the origin of certain limits that appear in transculturalism.
The places most likely to welcome transculturalism in Western societies come across as culture
places, where dominant norms are challenged to include otherness. This study reveals that
transculturality facilitates African Diasporas circulation and delineates a field of identifications with
hybrid status. Therefore, hybridity can generate discomfort and a loss of the feeling of being at
home. Suffocation, confinement, the disturbingly familiar strangers are all reasons that tarnish
transculturalism representations by underlining its limits, which seep into homes that lose ability
to offer shelter. The function of home to provide protection is then deterritorialised in relationships
or in professional spaces. The analysis suggests that transculturalism stumbling block is not so
much otherness than othering, that is to say the imposition of another identity on someone based
on appearance, ethnic, cultural background, or sex identity dimensions. Thus, from otherness to
othering, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as a transcultural Nigerian female writer, reveals that
alienation corrodes transcultural characters and generates positive opening discussions and
meetings around new postcolonial relations.
Keywords: otherness, alienation, African diásporas, home and identity, postcolonial and
Este artículo pretende reevaluar el papel de la alteridad como piedra angular del americanismo,
lo que invita a preguntarse si no estará en la raíz de algunas de las limitaciones que aparecen en
Maître Assistant Department of English Université Alassane Ouattara. ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2433-3523.
Email: lamkwadio78@gmail.com
N’Guessan, K.L. / Vol. 2 Núm. 3 (2022) Páginas. 93-108
Multiverso Journal publica bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
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el transculturalismo. Este estudio revela que el transculturalismo facilita el movimiento de las
diásporas africanas y delimita un campo de identificaciones con estatus híbrido. En consecuencia,
la hibridez puede generar incomodidad y pérdida del sentido del hogar. La asfixia, el
confinamiento, los extraños molestos pero familiares son motivos que empañan las
representaciones del transculturalismo al subrayar sus limitaciones, que se filtran en los hogares
que pierden su capacidad de acogida. La función protectora del hogar se desterritorializa entonces
en espacios relacionales o profesionales. El análisis sugiere que el escollo del transculturalismo
no es tanto la alteridad como la otredad, es decir, la imposición de otra identidad a alguien en
función de su apariencia, origen étnico o cultural o género. Así se concluye que, de la alteridad a
la otredad, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, como escritora nigeriana transcultural, revela la alienación
que corroe a los personajes transculturales y genera al mismo tiempo debates positivos y
encuentros de apertura en torno a las nuevas relaciones poscoloniales.
Palabras clave: alteridad, alienación, diásporas africanas, hogar e identidad, poscolonial y
(2013) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie questions a homogeneous conception of
society. Adichie takes a different look at the racial question because being black made no political
sense to her before she emigrated to the United States to continue her studies. She has authored her
first novel,
Purple Hibiscus
(2013) which had a great commercial success. With
Half of a Yellow Sun
(2006) she won the Orange Prize for Fiction [now Women’s Prize] and was adapted for the cinema.
The Thing Around Your Neck
(2009) is a collection of short stories which gave million-view TED
conferences, LLC
A year before
We Should All Be Feminists
(2014), Adichie authored
which recounts
the journey of a young Nigerian woman who emigrates to the United States. It alludes to a country,
though indirectly, through the suffix
which highlights the influence of America on the main
character from Nigeria. Her most recent books are
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen
is Adichie’s most transcultural novel due to crossovers
and comparisons between Nigeria, the United States and Great Britain, as well as in-depth reflections
on racial issues.
Transculturalism and the understanding of relationships as spaces of refuge make possible
reterritorialisation in relationships, but these cannot always offer a reliable sanctuary. How does
unfold transcultural otherness forms in the Western space? How does Adichie use her
transcultural fiction to locate diasporans within
? To what extent transculturality can be
part of a decolonial praxis and generate a loss of the feeling of being at home? The analysis of
transcultural characters’ relation to space underlines little opportunities available to them: they are
indeed either forced to resign themselves to a positioning at the margin, or pushed to the claim which
sometimes degenerates into a hardening of identity conceptions, either forced to accept in-between
discomfort and otherness constantly projected onto them, even in professional context.
Technology, Entertainment, and Design, an American-Canadian media organisation, conceived and co-founded by
Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks in February 1984, in 1984 in California.
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For sake of clarity to explore Adichie’s transcultural narrative, this study firstly examines
transculturalism manifestations within African Diasporas. Encounter between political debates and
transcultural writing, while like
in this paper, seeks to enhance transculturality of spaces
and quest for a home. To resonate in the world multiple and diverse politics of language, the reflection
proposes to open up to new postcolonial relations through a new transcultural voice including Adichie’s
normalised change perceptions.
Transculturalism Manifestations within African Diasporas
From the very first pages of
, the narrative voice comments on the tension between
Ifemelu and Nigerian taxi drivers:
She hoped her driver would not be a Nigerian, because he, once he heard her accent, would
either be aggressively eager to tell her that he had a master’s degree, the taxi was a second job […],
or he would drive in sullen silence, giving her change and ignoring her “thank you”, all the time nursing
humiliation, that this fellow Nigerian, a small girl at that […], was looking down on him. Nigerian taxi
drivers in America were all convinced that they really were not taxi drivers (Adichie, 2013, p. 8).
It is significant that the narrative voice, through internal focus, reports this dissent so early in
the story. On the one hand, taxi drivers are placed at the threshold of the story and not at the core
of the novel: their presence is recognised although they are not part of the main narrative.
On the other hand, in addition to the social tension that opposes drivers to the privileged
young woman, a sexist dimension is added.
But above all, Ifemelu freezes these characters in their role and in their identity as taxi drivers.
They are refused any social mobility and even any identification relating to their common origins.
These few lines thus illustrate the power of the forces which confine certain immigrant men to
marginality positions and reproduce the colonial distribution of space between centre and margin.
Othering that pushes black women, in
, to come together in hair salons is more
subtle, but no less direct. In fact, most of Western hairstyle salons do not welcome black women
because hairdressers do not know how to take care of their hair, which requires different care than
white women. Ifemelu is denied access to a spa to have his eyebrows waxed because “they don’t do
curly” (Adichie, 2013: 292), and her furious white boyfriend [Curt] intervenes to take care of her.
African women are therefore obliged to open their own salons, a specific step to reterritorialisation
In Western countries, African hair salons affect the environment by making visible the presence
of transcultural populations and creating a territory for women from African Diasporas. Ifemelu enjoys
having peaceful conversations, without being projected stereotypes onto her: “Ifemelu fanned herself
with a magazine. “It’s so hot,” she said. At least, these women would not say to her “You’re hot? But
you're from Africa!” / “This heat wave is very bad. Sorry the air conditioner broke yesterday,” Mariama
said (Adichie, 2013, p. 11). The simplicity of the exchange and the natural response of Mariama
contrast with the contrived comments Ifemelu is used to receiving, which suggests that in these
, communication is easy with spontaneous understanding.
N’Guessan, K.L. / Vol. 2 Núm. 3 (2022) Páginas. 93-108
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Results of colonial dichotomy, diasporic places allow their members to occupy part of Western
space, that is to say, to reterritorialise
. In an attempt to imagine a more inclusive
cosmopolitanism, one that operates ‘from below’, a number of approaches have been formulated to
place minorities and marginalised identities at the centre rather than at the borders of a cosmopolitan
society. In these ways, cosmopolitanism is liable to offer a mode of managing cultural and political
In this analysis, I refer to community sites in order to investigate the usefulness of
cosmopolitanism as a critical apparatus for understanding the complexities of transcultural interaction.
As appropriate to my focus on cultural praxis, I deploy as a working definition Stuart Hall’s “Political
Belonging in a World of Multiple Identities”. Hall suggests that people are no longer inspired by a
single culture that is coherent, integrated and organic. Instead, the arrival of transnational migrants
has enriched and altered cultural repertoires of many people. As he explains:
It is not that we are without culture but we are drawing on the traces and residues of many
cultural systems, of many ethical systems and that is precisely what cosmopolitanism means. It
means the ability to stand outside of having one’s life written and scripted by any one community,
whether that is a faith or tradition or religion or culture whatever it might be and to draw selectively
on a variety of discursive meanings (Hall, 2002, p. 26).
This widening of consciousness and confrontation with alterity can be found not only on the
streets of cosmopolitan cities, but in the living rooms of more prosaic spaces. Cosmopolitanism
suggests something that simultaneously: (a) transcends the seemingly exhausted nation-state model;
(b) is able to mediate actions and ideals oriented both to the universal and the particular, the global
and the local; (c) is culturally anti essentialist; and (d) is capable of representing variously complex
repertoires of allegiance, identity and interest (Hall, 2002, p. 26).
(2009), Steven Vertovec notes that research on transnationalism emerged
as a reaction to the dominant concept of assimilationist model, suggesting that integration of foreign
origin populations could take other forms than their own culture erasure. These words go in the
direction of the transcultural project, which invites to a crossing and a mixture of cultures with each
other, as the diasporic places highlight in
Brought together by the multiple expressions of rejection sent back to them by society in
which they live, they put into action another form of transculturalism which materialises first within
African Diasporas and in these diasporic places. Hairdresser in
is representative of this
type of phenomenon. From the first pages of the novel, Adichie depicts the familiar and warm lively
atmosphere that reigns:
They displayed bright signboards with names like Aisha and Fatima African Hair Braiding […].
Often, there was a baby tied to someones back with a piece of cloth. Or a toddler asleep on a wrapper
spread over a battered sofa. Sometimes, older children stopped by. Tea conversations were loud and
swift, in French or Wolof or Malinke, and when they spoke English to customers, it was broken, curious,
as though they had not quite eased into the language itself before taking on a slangy Americanism
(Adichie, 2013, p. 9).
The presence of babies and children, the faded furniture and the multiplicity of spoken
languages create a feeling of intimacy and familiarity even more so for American clients are excluded
if they do not understand Wolof or French. While the lack of English language proficiency often