Halfway Things: Gothicism and the African Diaspora in The Icarus Girl and Sozaboy
This conference paper aims to bond the Abiku, Yoruba ghost children, to the modern African diasporic experience by positioning said figure as a metaphorical expression of postcolonial cultural hybridity. Ultimately, the argument seeks to locate the Gothic within diaspora, connecting the two in an exercise to approach the condition(s) of identity during and after the migration process. To that end, it relies on the Gothic tradition’s thematic focus on the internal. Here, the diasporic state is argued to be one characterized by multiple, sometimes conflicting identities and a struggle towards subjectivity. Individuals are situated between cultures—languages, traditions, norms, and ways of understanding—and, rather than reading such duality as harmoniously blended identity, this essay adheres to the notion that the position is plagued by issues like isolation and social, communal, and national identity insecurity. The Abiku, associated with two opposing worlds, illustrates this condition of homelessness. By locating instances of cultural alienation within scenes of monstrousness and doubling in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl and, to a lesser extent, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy, transformation anxiety and abjection are presented as chronic ailments regarding identity in a diasporic state. This essay designates cases of monstrousness and doubling as sites of the Abiku, viewing the mythical being as a figurative representation of the ghostliness, isolation, mirroring, and abjection haunting Oyeyemi and Saro-Wiwa’s characters. The Icarus Girl’s treatment of culture and split identity, alongside that of language in Sozaboy, evinces the anxiety that accompanies hybridity in the texts. Both novels largely avoid reconciling this anxiety, instead opting to provide final images of identities fractured under the pressure. These transitions, underscored by tragedy, further the bond between Abiku lore and the novels’ diasporic experiences. Presenting readers with a collection of uncanny mirror images, Oyeyemi and Saro-Wiwa’s novels stand as examples of diaspora that find their double in the Abiku.