Imaginary Geographies in Portuguese and Lusophone- African Literature

Author: Madureira, Luis
This study interrogates a series of utopian projections that have informed Portuguese and Luso-African letters and culture since the Renaissance. Concentrating on the three crucial historical moments – Portugal’s tenuous hegemony in the Asian seas in the sixteenth century, the collapse of its colonial empire in the mid-1970s, and the post-independence period of re-evaluating nationalisms in Africa – the study examines the familiar “long narrative” which casts the Portuguese Discoveries as an inaugural and enabling event in Europe’s conquest of the world. In the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century texts, a sense of belatedness and danger in the face of a vast commercial network which preceded by several centuries Portugal’s arrival in Asia undercuts this account. The narratives about Portugal’s colonial wars in Africa negate the Salazarist project to restore the mythologized age of discoveries and seek simultaneously to converge with anti-colonial guerrilla movements. The work of António Lobo Antunes eschews this trend, insisting instead upon the incommensurability between the liberation struggles and Portugal’s April Revolution. Concomitantly, recent Lusophone African literature pictures the struggle of liberation as a cancellation of historicity, and underscores the “differend” between official constructions of nationhood and the future imagined from below.


“It is with great pleasure that I write this preface for Luís Madureira’s book ... The pleasure of the preface, of course, comes from the text itself and, in this case, is augmented by Madureira’s intricate and provocative analysis of the ‘long narrative’ that simultaneously anchors and unmoors Portuguese nation-ness. This is the narrative that inscribes Portugal in the making of the modern world, a narrative that concurrently locates Portugal as both quintessentially European and ultimately other.” – (from the Foreword) Professor Phyllis Peres, University of Maryland

“This boldly designed and splendidly executed inquiry into discourses of colonial and postcolonial experience in the Portuguese-speaking world merits a readership as wide and varied as is the scope of its author’s interests and expertise. Dr. Madureira moves with ease and elegance over the vast territory of Portuguese, Brazilian and Lusophone-African literatures, historiography and criticism from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first ... This is comparative literature at its best – and one can only hope that readers from outside the usual-suspects circle of academics specializing in Luso-Afro-Brazilian studies will recognize it as well.” – Professor Anna Klobucka, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

“Madureira’s Imaginary Geographies manages, in all its referential complexity, and against all odds, to interweave a series of diverse theoretical perspectives from a number of cultural traditions to make a critical rethinking of an interconnected world in continual, ongoing semantic transition possible—especially given that this world, whether in Portuguese or any number of other languages, continues both “narratives of discovery and empire” and, just as importantly, narratives of resistance and alternative cultural agency.” – Prof. Christopher Larkosh, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for Ellipsis: Journal of the American Portuguese Studies Association

Table of Contents

Foreword by Phyllis Peres
1. The Accident of America: Marginal Notes on Portugal’s Asian Empire
2. A Supplement to the White Man’s Burden: History, The April Revolution and the Struggle for Decolonization in Contemporary Portuguese Fiction
3. The Persistent Flight of Strayed and Weary Birds: The Demand and the Predicament of Mia Couto’s ‘White Writing’