International Journal of
English and Literature

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. English Lit.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2626
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJEL
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 278

Full Length Research Paper

Deconstructing postcolonial scopic regimes: The subversion of power imaginaries in the novels of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Sony Labou Tansi

Gilbert Ndi Shang
  • Gilbert Ndi Shang
  • Department of Romance Literatures/Comparatives Studies, Faculty of Linguistics and Literature, University of Bayreuth, Germany
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 13 August 2019
  •  Accepted: 12 December 2019
  •  Published: 31 January 2020


This paper examines the relationship between visuality, knowledge and power in the postcolonial African novel. With examples from selected texts of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Sony Labou Tansi, it argues that visual culture, usually employed in the analysis of cultural images and material iconographies in media studies, can aptly be employed in textual analysis given that postcolonial novels are primarily engaged with the undoing of dominant visual regimes. Against the background of hegemonic regimes based on instrumentalist and subjectifying surveillance of the subject, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Labou Tansi build their texts on visual tactics and practices that subvert the capacity of the state apparatus to see, hence to know the subject. Bordering on humour, parody, graffiti, bricolage and surrealist representation, the two authors “play” with the state Panopticon, creating avenues for countervailing meanings that elude the dominant regimes of vision, knowledge and power. The subversive visual practices are inscribed within a conception of literary textualities that is based on plurivocality, heteroglossia, dialogism and the non-transparent text. Through the deconstruction of dominant visual architecture, both authors open up spaces for democratic conception of power that takes account of inter-subjectivity and non-hegemonic participation in the postcolonial public sphere.


Key words: Postcolony, visual culture, visuality, subversion, dictatorship.