Infrastructural Crisis and Apocalypse in Serpell’s The Old Drift

Mwaka Siluonde

Abstract


Infrastructure continues to be one of the templates on which history and world politics are inscribed. This is clear in how contemporary modernisation theories (Donby 2009) divide countries into developed and less developed, with infrastructure as a measure of how developed a country is. As a result, less developed countries are scripted as being in a state of permanent infrastructural crisis (Goldstone and Obarrio 2016) where they get caught up in a race towards that future moment called ‘development’. Serpell’s (2019) treatment of infrastructure (the hydroelectric dam) in her novel The Old Drift opens up dialogue and raises questions regarding the permanence of infrastructural crisis in developing countries by envisioning what would happen if the metaphorical and literal power of infrastructure over society was destroyed. Three youths in The Old Drift attempt to stir revolution by subotaging the hydroelectric dam that powers the national communication system using drones they have created. The plan goes wrong when the dam is blown up, resulting in an apocalyptic flood. My aim in this paper is to determine whether preoccupation with infrastructual development exposes gaps in the cultural analysis of society when everyday issues of society are relegated to the shadows in the name of development. This is with specific focusI focus specifically on what happens when infrastructure is illuminated and becomes the slate on which power is inscribed.  Furthermore, I explore the idea of ‘crisis’ and examine how Serpell’s apocalyptic flood reimagines it as a conjucture that opens up society to the fluid, dynamic and unpredictable African futures.


Keywords


African futures; infrastructural crisis; apocalypse; The Old Drift

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References


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