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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Stephen Clingman

Second Advisor

Asha Nadkarni

Third Advisor

Britt Rusert

Subject Categories

African Languages and Societies | Other English Language and Literature | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


This dissertation examines the temporalities of waiting in global Anglophone fiction, reinvigorating waiting as a modality that can be at turns debilitating, strategic, calculating, and meditative. By arguing for the centrality of waiting to the experience of postcoloniality, my dissertation challenges the dominant narrative of the twentieth century as a time only of acceleration and movement.
In the introduction, I draw from social scientific studies of waiting, as well as philosophies of time, mobility studies, and history, to create a robust framework of waiting as a cultural practice and privileged analytical concept for scrutinizing colonial and postcolonial regimes of time. In chapter 1, I argue that V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River and Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People literalize the spatiotemporal metaphor “waiting room of history” to achieve very different ends. Maureen’s refusal to wait any longer in July’s People rejects the apartheid temporalities that condition that “waiting room,” whereas Salim’s refusal to wait in A Bend in the River ultimately reproduces the waiting room model of history—to which, in Naipaul’s view, certain occupants of the globalized, postcolonial world will always be relegated. In chapter 2 I read Alejo Carpentier’s Kingdom of This World and J.M. Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K through the lens of marronage; the protagonists’ labor and their “idleness” become newly legible as resistive waiting. I explore the temporal dimensions of waiting and disillusionment following political independence in Anita Desai’s Cry the Peacock and Ayi Kwei Armah’s Fragments in chapter 3. In chapter 4, I link waiting with healing and reconciliation after apartheid and civil war using Ndebele’s Cry of Winnie Mandela and Ishmael Beah’s Radiance of Tomorrow. I conclude my dissertation with a reflection on the significance of waiting in the post-9/11 world, such as in the rhetoric of preemptive military strikes that frame national security in terms of refusing to wait. As my dissertation argues, the temporal dimensions of waiting are not only implied in the discourses of colonial administration and anticolonial nationalisms, but are also deployed in strategic and political expressions of resistance, and remain central to the formation of geopolitical realities.