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Autobiography and Decolonization
Modernity, Masculinity, and the Nation-State
Philip Holden


Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography

“Complex and nuanced in its treatment of colonialism, modernity, and the ways in which the leaders of emerging nations have identified themselves and their nation in one story.”—Susanna Egan, University of British Columbia

Philip Holden reveals deeply gendered connections between the writing of individual lives and of the narratives of nations emerging from colonialism. Autobiography and Decolonization is the first book to give serious academic attention to autobiographies of nationalist leaders in the process of decolonization, attending to them not simply as partial historical documents, but as texts involved in remaking the world views of their readers.

Holden examines Mohandas K. Gandhi’s An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Marcus Garvey’s fragmentary Autobiography, Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford’s Ethiopia Unbound, Lee Kuan Yew’s The Singapore Story, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Jawaharlal Nehru’s An Autobiography, and Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah.

Holden argues that these examples of life writing have had significant influence on the formation of new, and often profoundly gendered, national identities. These narratives constitute the nation less as an imagined community than as an imagined individual. Moving from the past to the promise of the future, they mediate relationships between public and private, and between individual and collective stories. Ultimately, they show how the construction of modern selfhood is inextricably linked to the construction of a postcolonial polity.

“This fluent, readable study rests on careful and copious research and combines the gravitas of an authoritative, established study with fresh postcolonial and postmillennial insights.”—Elleke Boehmer, University of Oxford


Philip Holden is associate professor of English at the National University of Singapore. His books include Modern Subjects/Colonial Texts; Orienting Masculinity, Orienting Nation; and (with Richard Ruppel) Imperial Desire: Dissident Sexualities and Colonial Literature.

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor


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Of Related Interest
Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association
E. David Cronon

the cover of the Holden book is a grey blue and white, with a closeup of some handwritten pages.

June 2008
LC: 2007040019 CT
288 pp.  6 x 9

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Cloth $55.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22610-7
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