Necropolitics in Sozaboy

In Mbembe’s Necropolitics he discusses sovereignty within the context of the post-colonial state. In doing so he goes further than past constructions focusing on a government’s ability to manipulate and physically control the bodies and/or actions of its subjects (Foucault’s biopower). According to Mbembe, newfound nation sates “[deploy weapons] in the interest of maximum destruction of persons and the creation of death-worlds… conferring upon [certain groups] the status of living dead” (40). This shows that a modern definition of state machinations that grant life and death can no longer be thought of solely in a literal, judicial or extrajudicial fashion. Instead, one must understand living as occupying a space within the established narrative of the nation, while dying entails the sovereign’s marginalization of or apathy towards certain minority, and micro-minority populations. As a result, these persons undergo a zombification and find themselves unable to fully participate in national institutions.

This concept applies to Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy as the protagonist, Mene, comes from a peripheral region, Dukana, caught between both sides of the Biafran War. Their so-called Enemy remains ambiguous, and even their supposedly allied sozas routinely menace and humiliate those living in its villages. When Mene joins the war effort, he quickly finds out how muddled the situation is, undergoing a metaphorical death, fleeing through the wilderness, being forced to fight for the opposing army, and finally deserting his unit to return to and, tragically, bear witness to the destruction of his homeland. Unfortunately, as the war sweeps through, most of his family and friends have been relegated refugee camps — totally forgotten in the ensuing chaos by the Nigerian military junta and the Biafran Republic. Thus, Mene’s imposed ghostliness (stemming from his loss of his native country, and rejection of both armies) forces him to wander through his childhood home as a sort of living-dead. For this reason, Dukana seems to fit Mbembe’s definition of a death-world wrought by violence and neglect, which cannot not hold any meaningful position of power within any construction of the Nigerian nation.

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