"Where the mask ends and the face begins is not certain": Mediating ethnicity and cheating geography in Jonny Steinberg's Little Liberia

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 10
  • Abstract:

    Mixing historical commentary, reportage, biography and personal stories, South African writer Jonny Steinberg takes up the tale of a fractured African nation and its diaspora in Little Liberia: An African Odyssey in New York City (2011). The "little Liberia" founded in New York's urban jungle may have represented, for many of its inhabitants, a way to "cheat geography" by recreating a home away from home, but Little Liberia shows the reader it has not allowed them to cheat history. The book deals with the lives of two inhabitants of Park Hill Avenue on Staten Island, where nearly everyone is Liberian. Their conflict threatens to implode the community, igniting suspicions and accusations that had been bottled up since their exile. The article focuses on the interface of mediated ethnicity and citizenship related to the struggle for power in the diasporic Liberian community on Staten Island. Attention is also paid to feelings of identity of Little Liberia's author.