The Immobilised Family: Home, Homeland and Domopolitics in Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen


  • Sarah Heinz English Department University of Vienna, Austria


home and homeland, domopolitics, family, nationalism, Nigerian literature, Chigozie Obioma


This article draws on Walters’ concept of ‘domopolitics’ (2014) to discuss how the home is used as a means to create and maintain borders and manage mobility in the nation-state. The aspiration of ruling a state like a home is tied to patriarchal structures of control and the implicit gendering of home. In my literary analysis, I apply these ideas to Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel The Fishermen, published in 2015 and a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in the same year. The novel deals with the historical burden of colonial borders and postcolonial conflicts in contemporary Nigeria by presenting a problematic father figure and the norms and relations that he establishes within the household. The patriarch attempts to preserve the space of the home by immobilising his family through normative values and constraints on personal freedom. In its critique of such static and constricting family structures, the novel points towards the weaknesses of paternalistic ideas of the nation-state and a controlling domopolitics. The novel ultimately de-naturalises easy mappings of home and homeland, disrupting the home as a synecdoche of the nation as well as political ideals of strong male leadership. Instead of propagating homeland as genetic belonging, the novel stages belonging as multiple and therefore mobile acts of narration through its extensive use of parables.

Author Biography

Sarah Heinz, English Department University of Vienna, Austria

Full Professor for English and Anglophone LiteraturesEnglish Department


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