Big Man Aesthetics: Masculinity, Power, and Contemporary African Literature
Deborah Nyangulu successfully defended her PhD thesis at WWU Münster in July 2019 (magna cum laude). Her dissertation examines allegorical significations of the trope of the Big Man and draws on an extensive corpus. She argues that while the notion of the Big Man performs a wide range of textual, literary, social, discursive, idiomatic, and political functions; a tropological analysis shows the Big Man as a referentially indirect mode of revealing truth about the nation in which uncertainties over national identity, manhood, leadership, gendered power relations and class hierarchies become visible. Framing her readings within the context of nascent nationalism in the post-colony and resurgent nationalism in the global north, the study is guided by the premise that Big Men are found everywhere but fragmented by local contingencies. Thus, the study champions a comparative study of Big Men which takes seriously (de-)constructions of manhood and avoids pitfalls of particular ethnographic studies that foreground exoticism and otherness. This transdisciplinary thesis therefore broadens the scope of comparative masculinity studies and situates the trope of the Big Man in its transnational, transcultural, and transcontinental manifestations. Its rich dialogue between popular and academic discourses as well as contemporary African Literature teases out the intersections of constructions of manhood, power relations and cultural representations.