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Using Literature as a Strategy for Nation Building: A Case Study from Nigeria

Author(s): Csilla Czimbalmos

Journal: Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies
ISSN 1583-0039

Issue: 9;
Start page: 78;
Date: 2004;
Original page

Keywords: nation | national identity | Nigeria | literature | nation building | Chinua Achebe

What my article attempts to articulate is the role of literature in constructing, “inventing” national identities that are the base for the claims of a nation's existence. To achieve this, I first provide a short definition of the concepts of nation-building and national identity. I argue that literature is an important tool in the process of building a nation and creating a national identity. I further focus on the writings of Chinua Achebe, a 20th Century Nigerian author, in an attempt to exemplify the theory of literature as tool in nation building. I argue that, through the use of legends, mythic histories, and folklore, literature succeeds in creating patterns of meaning and in contextualizing the issues of national identity. These patterns and contexts enable and undergird the cultural values that enable the reconstruction of national identity. Achebe's writings are part of a large sphere of practices meant to recover and reconstruct a Nigerian national identity and through this, build a nation.
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