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Title: Suns of the Mbira : a critical exploration of the multiple figurations of femininity in selected fiction by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Yvonne Vera
Author: Marima, Tendai
ISNI:       0000 0004 2714 5074
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2011
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My thesis is that multiple figurations of femininity challenging traditional Zimbabwean values are articulated in the representations of womanhood, motherhood and sexuality in the writing of Tsitsi Dangarembga (1959-) and Yvonne Vera (1964-2005). Critically, I draw centrally upon Rosi Braidotti (1994) and Donna Haraway’s (1992; 2004) work on figurations as feminist metaphors theorizing how women challenge and transform socially constructed roles that confine females to subservient social positions. In addition, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s (1987) theorization of multiplicity is deployed as a useful conceptualization of the erasure of the binary separating the collective and individual, asserting instead, that subjectivities are pluralistic, connected identities in constant creation. Applying the critics’ ideas with due caution to the African context, through a method of ‘carnivalizing,’ mixing and negotiating theory, my thesis also makes use of selected forms of African feminist theory, to give the necessary cultural context to Zimbabwean femininity. I critically engage with scholarly work that theorizes African women’s historiography and negotiations of power and knowledge. Combining these diverse feminist and post-structuralist voices together with views expressed in the writing, I aim to produce a nuanced reading of the plurality of femininity so that a pattern of simultaneously complimentary and contradictory relations with feminist paradigms of African womanhood begins to emerge as key to interpreting the selected fiction. My thesis develops in three chapters, beginning with an examination of how rebellious women negotiate the domestic, private world culturally assigned to females. I explore how Vera’s unconventional figurations of motherhood undo the cultural and political mores placed on women by essentialist patriarchal and racial ideologies. Further analyzing dissenting femininities, I investigate subversive textual constructions of same-sex relationships in Vera and Dangarembga’s fiction. My readings suggest that some of the ideological contradictions between theory and text provide fertile conditions in which to rethink radical femininities as figurations within African feminism. I propose new, progressive strategies for reading womanhood, and exploring the polyphonic and complex nature of colonial and post-independence Zimbabwean femininity, as expressed in the novels.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available