Impact of Social Structures on African Humanism: A Study of Selected Novels of Meja Mwangi (Published)
African humanism is conceptualised in the idea of Ubuntu. This term embodies various values that are uniquely African, culturally and conservatively. They include communalism, sharing, openness, respect for life and the upholding of the dignity of persons, and the devotion to family ties. The research examined the status of African humanism in Kenya as represented in selected popular fiction works of Meja Mwangi, namely Kill Me Quick (1973), Going Down River Road (1976) and The Cockroach Dance (1979). Based on the study, this paper presents and discusses the findings on how social structures affect individuals’ sense of African Humanism in the selected novels. The study was qualitative in approach, employing analytical research design in the collection and analysis of data. Qualitative data was collected using content analysis. The study population comprised African popular fiction, with special focus on popular novels by Kenyan popular writers. The study narrowed down the population to Meja Mwangi’s novels that are forty-four in number. Purposive sampling technique was employed with the inclusion criterion being Meja Mwangi’s novels that address the humanistic issues being investigated. The sample size was Meja Mwangi’s three urban-based novels mentioned above. Data was collected from both primary and secondary sources through close textual reading. Data analysis was conducted by the guidance of Marxist theoretical framework. The collected data was categorised along the study’s units of analysis. It was established that different social structures such as government agencies, including the police and prisons, as well as private entities, such as employers and residential systems, have contributed to the decline in individuals’ commitment to the values of African humanism in the selected novels. The study is significant since it unravels the humane dispositions of individuals as portrayed in popular fiction, a reflection of the humane status of ordinary people in Kenya of today. The study reveals that literary writers, such as popular fiction authors, are increasingly voicing the impact of changing social structures on African humanism in society today. The presence of social classes in the modern Kenyan state is inevitably affecting the utu of individuals. As such, instances of exploitation, poverty, inequality, and dehumanization are rampant.