The Heinemann African Writers Series (AWS) has undoubtedly performed a valuable service, both in fostering the reputations of many gifted African writers and in bringing an increasing number of African literary works – the Series now runs into the hundreds – to the public eye. The emergence of English-language African writing in the 1950s and 1960s, and the wide respect in which it is held today, would be unthinkable without the momentum provided by Heinemann’s promotional enterprise, worldwide distributional networks and financial support. But how, exactly, has Heinemann chosen to promote African literature? A cursory history of the Series suggests that Heinemann, for all its well-intentioned activities, may have contributed to the continuing exoticisation of Africa through misdirected anthropological images; and that the Africa it has promoted by way of its talented literary protégés has been subjected to a self-empowering, implicitly neocolonialist ‘anthropological gaze’ (Lizarríbar 1998: chap. 4).
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