Nadine Ellinger M.A.

Project Overview: Complicating Motherly Figures in African(a) Fiction and Film

In much recent fiction by African(a) women, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013), Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom (2020) or Doreen Baingana’s short story collection Tropical Fish (2005) which capture the journey of young women from the continent into the African diaspora (and back), the figure of the mother is cast as ambivalent.[1] She represents both a sense of home and belonging for the daughter yet is often complicit in upholding oppressive patriarchal structures by pressuring her to settle down, get married and start a family of her own—disregarding the daughter’s will. This project explores the many facets of the motherly figure as represented in contemporary works by African(a) women, its ambivalences and contradictions, in the context of the mother-daughter and other relationship, beyond the trope of the ‘African mother’. The motherly figure, in this context, is understood in a broader sense, including women in maternal roles—female (read) caregivers who take on the role and function traditionally assigned to the mother. Specifically, the project aims to foreground the voices of African(a) mothers, including those on the verge of becoming, struggling or refusing to become mothers, who are often excluded or marginalized in Eurocentric discourses on motherhood. The trope of motherhood serves as productive lens to read the ambivalences of transnational journeys, migration and mobility in the context of the African diaspora and its consequences on processes of identity formation. This reading lens brings to the fore the gendered, raced, and cultural expectations confronting Black women who find themselves in the spaces in-between as well as bridging continents, generations, and worldviews.


[1] Following Cheryl Sterling (2022), I use the term ‘Africana’ to bring together both African and African diasporic works and highlight their “critical relationality” (Sterling 4), foregrounding their “complex political positioning” (Sterling 4) that goes beyond national contexts or the confines of race, gender, or class. See Cheryl Sterling. “Introduction: Transnational F(r)ictions: The Word, the Gaze, and the Narrative.” Transnational Africana Women’s Fictions, edited by Cheryl Sterling, Routledge, 2022, pp. 1-18.


  • WiSe 2022/23:Narrative Analysis (Übung)



Raum 4502 (Gebäude D)