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Title: Exceptional.Children, Disability and Cultural History in Contemporary Postcolonial Fiction
Author: Barker, Clare Frances
ISNI:       0000 0001 3444 9891
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis explores representations of children with disabilities in recent postcolonial fictions from New Zealand, Africa and South Asia. It contends that while disabled characters appear frequently within postcolonial texts, disability is rarely considered critically within postcolonial literary studies and that this is a significant omission. In turn, humanities-based disabilitY studies has not yet paid adequate attention to conceptions of disability arising from non-Western cultura.1 contexts. In order to begin to address these theoretical elisions, I apply disability theory in my textual analysis, interrogating how disability intervenes. in, and facilitates, critical fictional engagements with postcolonial cultural histories. My research focuses specifically on the figure of the exceptional child who, in postcolonial Iiter?ry criticism, is typically interpreted in metaphorical terms as a symbol of the vulnerable or damaged postcolonial community or nation. While current literary disability theory similarly .' proposes. that disability is most often deployed within fiction as a metaphorical device, and is inevitably depoliticised in the process, I examine the materialist explorations of normalcy, embodiment and health that occur in my selected texts. I identify how disability is mobilised as a material, socially situated presence which enables the writers' cultural critiques. This thesis is divided into six chapters, each examining a novel with a disabled child protagonist. The first two chapters, on Patricia Grace's Potiki (1986) and Ken Hulme's the bone people (1983), consider disability in relation to indigenous cultural politics in New Zealand; Chapters Three and Four engage with the intersections between disability and gender in Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions (1988) and Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India (1991); and the final two chapters, focusing on Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981) and Ben Okri's The Famished Road (1991), explore postmodernist representations of exceptionality. My analysis demonstrates that these texts repres~nt disability in politicised, situated and unsentimental terms, an approach that is necessitated by the complex cultural histories in which the fictions are located. I conclude that further collaborations between postcolonial studies and disability studies are essential in order to advance current thinking on disability in non-Western contexts and to expand postcolonial theory's attention to conditions of difference.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available