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Sex, Power, and Community in Ousmane Sembène's Véhi-Ciosane

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Published in 1966, Véhi-Ciosane is arguably one of the key texts that powerfully participates in Ousmane Sembène's mission of critiquing his society in his writing. Despite its centrality to the writer's counter-discourse for change, the short novel has been almost wholly neglected by critics, probably owing to the extremely sensitive and shameful nature of its central theme. This article is an examination of Sembène's deployment of the incest taboo to x-ray his society. I read the novel as a narrative of transgression in which he uses the private story of a chief's impregnation of his daughter as a pretext to make a pointed critique of the self-destructive anthropophagic behavior of Senegal's ruling elite. I argue that, through this story of male libidinal desire gone awry, Sembène depicts a dysfunctional family and a disrupted village community whose experience could plausibly be read as a microcosm of the reality of the Senegalese national community at large.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2011


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