Precarity and Affiliative Relationships in Elieshi Lema’s In the Belly of Dar es Salaam1
AbstractThis paper examines the representation of dynamics in a family that result in the separation of family members and their subsequent failure to reunite as a family. It specifically explores how Elieshi Lema’s In the Belly of Dar es Salaam represents characters who are victims of economic and political pressures that force them not only to be migrants but also to negotiate alternative affiliative relationships in order to survive. I explore the narrative in relation to the socio-cultural, economic and political instabilities that disrupt the lives of postcolonial subjects in Africa, producing migrants detached from their biological families. Since characters in this novel move from rural areas to urban spaces, this narrative offers an opportunity to read the city of Dar es Salaam as an agential space in the production of meanings and identities. These characters are forced by circumstances to forge new identities to meet certain needs at a particular time. I thus suggest that the novel portrays the precarity of existence in the city of Dar es Salaam as experienced by marginalised groups and how these groups negotiate affiliative relationships amongst themselves. This paper is interested in answering the following questions: how do characters move from rural to urban contexts? How do these marginalised characters negotiate their survival in the city of Dar es Salaam? How does the narrative conflate Sara and the city of Dar es Salaam as mothers to street children?
Keywords: neoliberal migrants, Ujamaa, family, city space, Machinga, self-reliance