The Intersection of Race, Beauty and Identity: The Migrant Experience in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah

Eleanor Anneh Dasi


Negotiating identity and the determining conditions of these identities are inextricable linked to the history of colonialism and its related practices of slavery, displacement and racial and cultural discrimination. Added to these are the recent waves of migration which have led to transnational experiences of misrepresentations that formerly colonised people are faced with, and which they have to deal with in order to assert or form new identities. The domain of beauty and its complex discourses involving its relationship to identity are intricately linked to ideology and power relations. The destabilisation of the African identity, especially in diaspora contexts, has been a direct consequence of the supremacist ideologies of the colonising powers. One of the fundamental questions raised by the cultural issues surrounding beauty is: how can the African overcome social expectations of beauty based on western standards that play negatively on their sense of identity? The answer to this question lies in the diverse definitions of beauty from different cultural perspectives. When awareness is raised on issues of racial stereotypes and cultural prejudices, the process of demystification of the myth of racial superiority begins, signalling also the start of the African’s journey towards a new conceptualisation of self.

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