The Political Power Relations in Post-Independent African Society as Portrayed in Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Prisoner

Gladys Nyaiburi Ogaro, Diana Mutono Munyao


This paper analyzes Okot p’Bitek’s presentation of the prisoner as a body of power and powerlessness in his poetry in Song of Prisoner. The aim of the study was to explore the portrait of power discourses in post-colonial writing with specific emphasis on Okot p’Bitek’s. The main focus in this paper is on how politics of power manifests itself in these works. The paper argues that the prisoner is found in a complex trap whereby the physical torture to which he is subjected at one point renders him powerless but later, it ironically empowers him as it evokes inner feelings of a strong will and desire to own power. His works being of post-colonial literature do not fall short of the imposition of power by the imperialists and a rejection of this power by the colonized. As such, this advances the argument that literature does not exist in a vacuum, but rather is given impetus by society itself. The assumption in this paper is that in all circumstances, there exists politics of power, be it political, economical, sexual, cultural, and family among others. Therefore, is this politics of power that the poet seeks to articulate in his poetry so as to enable people come into terms with the social realities. In examining these power discourses, the selected primary texts were read through an integration of theories of feminism and Foucauldian’s genealogical ideas on power. At one level, Foucauldian’s genealogical ideas on power help to understand the play of ways of power over and of bodies. At another level, feminism becomes necessary to the study as Kate Millet argues that ‘sex is political primarily because the male-female relationship is the paradigm for all power relations’. The two perspectives display views and experiences of power relations which are the key search for this study.  Works by other post-colonial writers have been referred to in so far as they help in advancing the arguments in this study. Our conclusion is that there is power everywhere and it is never static but rather dynamic: it shifts from one body to another. Power over bodies provokes power from the other body which is the body’s own power and vice versa. Thus power either provokes resistance or makes one vulnerable to it.

Keywords: Political Power Relations, Post-Independent African Society, Okot p’bitek, Song of Prisoner

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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