Melville J. Herskovits Professor of African Studies; Professor of English; Director of Graduate Studies, Department of English
Evan Maina Mwangi teaches 20th Century Anglophone African Literature. He studied at the University of Nairobi, from where he graduated with a First Class Honours degree and a PhD in literature. He researches the intersection of nationalism, gender, and sexuality in canonical and popular artistic expressions, relating local texts to global theories.
Mwangi has published on Nazizi Hirji, Chinua Achebe, K. Sello Duiker, Amandina Lihamba, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, David Maillu, Henry ole Kulet, Margaret Ogola, and Francis Imbuga, among other postcolonial artists and intellectuals. His articles and poems have appeared in Mwangaza, TDR: The Drama Review, Research in African Literatures, African Studies Review, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, English Studies in Africa, The Nairobi Journal of Literature, PMLA, and Africa Today.
The co-author of The Columbia Guide to East African Literature in English Since 1945 (Columbia University Press, 2007), Mwangi's other works include Africa Writes Back to Self: Metafiction, Gender, Sexuality (State University of New York Press, 2009), which studies the way African writers use experimental forms to express submerged identities. His most recent work, Translation in African Contexts (2017) considers gender and sexuality in translations of texts between African languages. Using and critiquing theories of translation proposed by Lawrence Venuti, Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Derrida, Domenico Jervolino, and Gayatri Spivak, the book analyzes works by such writers as Amandina Lihamba, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Gakaara wa Wanjau, and Julius Nyerere in terms of the gendered ways they localize foreign texts.
Mwangi's most recent monograph, The Postcolonial Animal: African Literature and Posthuman Ethics (Michigan, 2019), examines the interface of critical animal studies and postcolonial literature to bring to the fore the vegan impulses in African writing. He demonstrates that these vegan motivations and affects that are not a copy of western practices but draw from indigenous sources. His primary texts in this book include African folktales, religious texts, philosophical materials, and work by anti-colonial movements, as well as postcolonial and other literary sources, which the authors have repurposed to call for ethical treatment of non-human others and sexual minorities. By includi ng work by East African writers such as Rebecca Nandwa, Nuruddin Farah, Henry ole Kulet, and Yuda Komora in its study of the figure of the animal in African literature, the book seeks to debunk the implied belief in critical animal studies that only white African writers (exemplified by J.M. Coetzee) have been attentive to the animal question.
Mwangi is currently at work on two new book projects: one exploring the global re-writings of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the other on Indian Ocean literatures and philosophies.
Gender Studies, Language Technologies, Critical Race & Ethnicity Studies, Diaspora Studies, Modern, Literary Theory, Postcolonial