SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

Sana Goyal


Goyal Sana - AFR PHD IMG 240 186 56
Sana Goyal
Email address:
Thesis title:
“Awarding Africa” from the Caine to the Commonwealth: First Books, First Prizes, & Women Writers
Internal Supervisors


After almost a year of writing and copy editing at the Vogue India office in my home city of Mumbai, I realised that what I was truly homesick for was my academic life in England. (I had spent my undergraduate years at the University of York.) I soon returned to pursue an MA in Postcolonial Studies at SOAS, and stayed on to push my intellectual interests—specifically in Anglophone African literatures and literary cultures. When I am not thesis writing, I take up freelance features pieces for Vogue India, Mint Lounge, and more recently, Africa in Words—focusing on books, and other book-ish behaviour.

PhD Research

My research focuses on select 21st century women writers of the ‘African’ diaspora, specifically those awarded with large-scale literary prizes that celebrate emerging authors and literatures from the African continent, or from postcolonial countries more generally, including—the Caine Prize for African Writing and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. It examines how they battle with Brennan’s “banners” of geographical affiliation and aesthetic, banners that accompany the tendency to manipulate and market postcolonial authors and their works as “being from ‘there’”—and reduce them to representations of regions and carriers of cultures. Situated as these authors are in the system of Sarah Brouillette’s “global literary marketplace,” pushed to the peripheries of power and publishing politics in the post-colony, I argue that they seek to resist the continental reading impulse by simultaneously straddling between writing and un-writing ‘where they come from’.

My focus texts include Leila Aboulela’s The Translator; Aminatta Forna’s The Devil That Danced on the Water; Doreen Baingana’s Tropical Fish; NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names; and Ywonne Owuor’s Dust. The project places these authors and books on the existing literary landscape and asks why certain aesthetic forms are endorsed as more valuable, and how literatures from certain countries come to be more marketable than others. It also questions the implications of literary prizes—as perpetuators, indeed authenticators, of stereotypical stories—and their importance in the current global literary sphere. And finally, it calls for a reconsideration of how much ‘Africa’ contains them all as much as how much of ‘Africa’ they themselves carry.

I suggest an alternative reading perspective: one of connections beyond continental cartographies; one of metamorphosing maps in migrant minds; one of liminal spaces between latitudes and longitudes; one of travels, trajectories and transits; and one of places lost and found.


‘Africa, not a single story’ Mint Lounge 2017

‘Lady Skollie’s “Lust Politics”’ Africa in Words 2017


Sana Goyal: “Imperial Tactics and Imaginary Tourism: (Belgian) Congo and the Case of the Travelling Colony.” Travelling Africa & the Archives, 2016: A Postgraduate Conference, SOAS

Panel Chair: Alumni Presentations, Travelling Africa & the Archives, 2016: A Postgraduate Conference, SOAS

Sana Goyal: “Towards a Xhosa national literature—by way of Frantz Fanon’s three Phases.” Asixoxe: Let’s Talk! Conference on African Philosophy 2016, SOAS

Panel Chair: ‘Philosophy and Literature I’, Asixoxe: Let’s Talk! Conference on African Philosophy 2016, SOAS