A Postcolonial Reading of Amiri Baraka’s 21st Century Political Poem on America

Ahad Mehrvand


In the fifteen years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America, countless literary and artistic works have responded to the incident. This paper examines Amiri Baraka’s literary response to this violent event through his most famous poem entitled “Somebody blew up America,” which defies American orthodox responses to the attacks. The mainstream reading of the poem swings toward its poetical and political qualities; however, nobody has engaged in a postcolonial reading of the poem so far. Hence, this paper intends to highlight its postcolonial and decolonizing characteristics. Baraka’s political poem is significant in terms of its educational role because, as a discovery poem, it attempts to foster private, domestic, and international awareness of both oppressors/ colonizers and the oppressed/ colonized to help them bring about a social change and become new humans carrying ideas of equality, justice, and respect for humanity. The question this paper raises is as follows: What colonial characteristics could be found in Baraka’s poem? Drawing upon Césaire, Memmi, and Fanon, it applies postcolonial and decolonization concepts such as dehumanization, “thing-ification,” Manichaeism, and reverse Manichaeism to the poem. The paper concludes that both international and domestic terrorism are rooted in America’s and Europe’s racist, colonial, capitalist, and imperialist involvements.

Keywords: African-American Literature, Amiri Baraka, “Somebody blew up America”, Colonial Stance,  Fanon, Manichaeism

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