Abstract

Comparative literature has long defined itself as interdisciplinary, intercultural, and interlingual. These traits have led some to criticize the discipline as lacking discipline. Yet indiscipline—not to mention the intercultural, interlingual, and interdisciplinary—is a matter of perspective; in many ways, comparative literature is highly disciplined. So how then to break discipline more thoroughly? This article engages in one approach—incorporating literature into a wider range of global history and other scholarly discussions of transregional/global processes. The focus is Africa–China relationships. Integral to China's rapid rise as a world power have been its global initiatives and investments. These are most pronounced in Africa, where in many nations the financial, military, and political connections with China now run exceptionally deep. The human dimensions of Africa–China contact are just as complex, but unlike other types of contact they remain woefully understudied. African artistic engagement with China and Chinese artistic engagement with Africa enhance our understandings of these interconnections. But rather than simply exposing and then either affirming or dismantling stereotypes, many Chinese and African creative works across the centuries are more nuanced. This literary engagement provides valuable perspectives on some of today's most controversial and anxiety producing transregional dynamics.

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