The Politics of Space: Representation of the Postcolonial Space in Ngugi wa Thiong’O’s Petals of Blood


  • Greena Joseph Assistant Professor, Postgraduate Department of English, NIMIT, Thrissur, University of Calicut


Spatial practices, Representation of space, Neo-colonialism, Corporatism, The Postcolonial City


The spatial turn in the field of literary studies in the contemporary period has given rise
to a new perspective to the notion of space. Traditionally, space was considered as a
homogenous, static entity, confined to its geometrical aspect. It is after the spatial turn that space came to be recognized as being discursive, being socially produced and productive. The new spatial concept brings to light the power relations implicated in the production and operation of space. The process of urbanization creates peripheries and centres and is also responsible for destroying villages and countryside. Urbanism is an ideological, hegemonic space that operates under the myth of modernity. It is a social centrality where many elements and aspects of capitalism intersect in space. The production of urban space operates through the practices of representation of space as well as the appropriation of spaces of representation. Alongside urbanization, ruralisation also takes place. The rural spaces often lose their independence, as centrality accumulates wealth, knowledge and information. They wield power and the periphery becomes insignificant, powerless and dependent. Population and wealth generated by the urba trade gives advantage to the city based governments over the rural areas. From the cities, ideological and governmental control spread out to the rural village space. The relationship between the centre and the periphery is similar to that of the colonizer and the colonised. The city spaces in former colonies reincarnate as spaces of neo-liberalism and capitalism, which in turn exert its agency over the rural space. In this context, Ngugi wa Thiongo’s novel Petals of Blood becomes very significant as it represents how the village spaces in Kenya are appropriated by these hegemonic forces which result in the transformation of the lives of the native folk. They are forced to adapt to the new ways of life or end up losing their lives trying to hold on to their traditional ways. Represented through the lives of four main characters in the backdrop of the Mau Mau rebellion, the novel shows how the rapid westernization and urbanisation shake the whole village of llmorg. The paper therefore is an attempt to understand how the neoliberal construction of spaces in the wake of globalisation in Kenya (in the third world) produces discursive spaces, which are neo-colonial, hegemonic and exploitative. It postulates that space is a dynamic, discursive domain, that can be used to conquer and manipulate the Other.