Feminist Imaginings of African Futures: Counterfactual Mythmaking in Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix and Who Fears Death

Joseph Michael Kwanya


This paper discusses how the African speculative fiction genre makes a strong claim for orality as a counterfactual space, with writers like Okorafor invoking traditional African storytelling techniques in their narratives. I consider speculative fiction a form of myth(making) and argue that Okorafor creates alternate worlds that offer a richness of possibilities for interrogating the shortcomings of dominant histories and narratives sanctioned by patriarchy. I use the notion of counterfactuality to argue that the possible worlds that Okorafor creates in her novels Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix allow her to disrupt archetypes and find new ways of understanding the subjectivity of Africans in general and black women in particular. She reimagines the subjectivity of African women by making elaborate feminist proclamations through strong female characters who take on powerful patriarchal forces. In doing so, these characters are able to envision alternate worlds where dominant histories, gender relations, and other oppressive structures are contested and radically dismantled.


Counterfactuals; Afro-futurism; African Speculative Fiction; Africanfuturism; Nnedi Okorafor; Mythopoesis

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