Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature

ISBN: 0852555016
ISBN 13: 9780852555019
By: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

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African Literature Favorites Language Linguistics Nonfiction Politics Postcolonial Postcolonialism Theory To Read

About this book

Ngugi describes this book as 'a summary of some of the issues in which I have been passionately involved for the last twenty years of my practice in fiction, theatre, criticism and in teaching of literature.' East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda): EAEP

Reader's Thoughts

Gopala Krishna Koduri

Excellent read! Highly recommend it to anyone interested in the cultural and political situation of Africa at large, and other colonized (and eventually freed) nations to a certain extent.

Ananda Esteva

Everyone should read this!

Brotha Nameless

I love this book! The brotha breaks it down on the importance for Afrikans to write & publish in their own languages. A very important piece in edutainment as resistance as well.

Darshan Elena

this book changed my outlook on life and its possibilities. without a doubt, this is one of the most transformative books ever written. i wish it were standard reading for students, alongside of or instead of shakespeare.

Jessica Jang Jang

I just love Ngugi, period.


God bless this man. Wow. Real review to come.


An amazing book by a Kenyan author on understanding the psychology of exploitation and oppression by colonialism and imperialism. Its focus is on the exploitation of Africans by Europeans through the domination of culture, but its lessons are applicable to the struggles of all people.It's a must read. I learned about it from a Palestinian activist visiting the United States.


so much. write in the language of we.

K. Euler

Thiong'o begins this book with a statement: "This book, Decolonising the Mind, is my farewell to English as a vehicle for any of my writings. From now on it is Gikuyu and Kiswahili all the way" (xiv). This book forces its readers to become aware--or even simply to be reminded--of the politics of language. Even the simple act of writing within the context of a neocolonial world carries political significance. His examples are many and varied but tend to hone in on the issue of language in educational systems. It advocates a return to pre-colonial languages as using colonial languages implies an implicit acceptance of the colonial culture. However, he is not against the act of translation into English or other European tongues, just opposed to the idea that African writers must be forced to write in those tongues to be published or read. He simply exults a return to the pre-colonial languages. After all, "Values are the basis of a people's identity, their sense of particularity as members of the human race. All this is carried by language" (15).




Decolonizing the Mind is integral, I think, to understanding anti-colonialist struggles. The western world understands colonialism in terms of the most visible aspects of a nation, namely its leadership. People fail to recognize the long-term effects of colonialism such as widespread poverty. Decolonizing the Mind reminds us of another of these aftereffects, specifically, the domination of language by the Western World. In a sense, the language barrier has enabled social apartheid where legal separation was considered anachronistic. By dominating African languages, and asserting the superiority of European ones over them, Western nations did (and African administrations still do) perpetuate a system where educated whites rise to the highest social strata while native Africans are resigned to the working classes and peasantry. This domination of language has effectively prevented any native African from rising into intellectual ranks, because, as Ngũgĩ puts it, the use European languages splits African soul in two, forcing him to relinquish his roots if he wishes to climb the social ladder.

Steven Salaita

I'm not as high on this volume as many of my colleagues. Ngugi is a fantastic writer and thinker, no doubt, but I just can't get over his continued writing in English after he swore it off so famously here.


Wa Thiong'o explores the issues of speaking your native tongue versus the language brought by the colonizers and gives life to an aspect of living colonial - and post-colonial - life that most people wouldn't even think twice about.


I took a class with this author. He's extremely intelligent and presents an interesting argument about the politics of language. In this critical theory text, he addresses the way the colonial process works on the cultural level (as opposed to the material, political, or even physical level). He encourages the use of African languages (rather than the language of former colonizers) in African literature. He also explains how his personal experiences informed his opinions on the politics of language, which I found interesting and rather persuasive.


great ideas. amazing insights. a few poignant autobiographical moments. a little polemical. simply written. easy to read.

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