Imagining the European Periphery: Post-War Croatia in Aminatta Forna's The Hired Man

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Black British literature’s infrequent engagement with European peripheries has largely involved writing back to Europe as imperial centre. Aminatta Forna’s The Hired Man (2013) pushes beyond this postcolonial “burden of representation” by focusing on the religious and ethnic conflicts that have plagued one of the most traditionally peripheralized parts of the European continent, South-Eastern Europe or the generic “Balkans”. Forna depicts post-war non-urban Croatia as a place of entanglement, haunted by its past. Backwardness, decay, and political instability characterize this quasi-rural periphery. The novel juxtaposes the fluid border location of a fictitious small town with allegedly more stable national spaces in the west, and also reveals how Balkanist discourses are instrumental in creating neocolonial spaces in a post-socialist context. Moreover, in soliciting reader complicity it invites an understanding of peripheries as “traumascapes” whose complex relation to a troubled past can be mobilized to offer hope and healing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2021


  • Aminatta Forna
  • traumascape
  • Balkans discourse
  • Europe
  • periphery
  • Black British literature


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