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Remebering the Nation, Dismembering women? Stories of the South African transition

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dc.contributor.advisor Cooper BL, Prof en
dc.contributor.author Samuelson MA en
dc.date.accessioned 2016-09-22T09:11:08Z
dc.date.available 2016-09-22T09:11:08Z
dc.date.created 2000 en
dc.date.submitted 2005 en
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11892/45741
dc.description.abstract The thesis explores the making of nationhood, and its contestation, in narrative representations of women during the South African transition. This temporal span extends across the first decade of democracy and the first two terms of governance following the historic 1994 elections. The transition is a fertile temporal zone in which new myths and symbols are generated. My interest lies in the new national symbols and myths that emerge from this historical moment and the ways in which they have been figured through images and appropriations of women and their bodies. Women's bodies, I argue, are the contested sites upon which nationalism erects its ideological edifices. I engage with the mutually informing productions and performances of gender and nation, and the re-membering of a previously divided and divisive South Africa as a unified 'rainbow' nation. I proceed by tracing narrative acts of memory and repression, with a specific focus on the re-memberings and dismemberings of women's bodies as they are reconstituted as ideal vessels for a national allegory. The study is roughly divided into two halves. In the first part, I analyse current representations of women who have attained mythic status during the transition, and devote a chapter to each: Krotoa-Eva, Nongqawuse and Sarah Bartmann. The contradictory and contested legacies of these women, I argue, have been flattened out as they have been produced as domestic - usually maternal - figures. 1 grapple with the symbolic work they have been called on to perform during the nation-building transition, and focus on literary texts that exemplify and complicate such nationalist appropriations. A particular focus of this section is the use of these women's stories to express narratives of national belonging, and a dominant national narrative of sacrificial redemption. The second half of the thesis is more loosely configured. Across three chapters, 1 analyse female characters and autobiographical selves that inhabit the transitional present. The chapter organisation follows three stereotypical roles -victim, mother and wife - in which women have been cast, and the particular inflections lent to these roles by the historical moment of national transition. The emphasis is on literary re-enactments of these roles, and the unstable yet productive space between subjecthood and subjection, subversion and co-option, voice and silence. The fourth chapter engages with representations of sexual violence and traces a path between speech and silence as it explores what is presented as unspeakable. The manifestations of violence presented in the two novels considered here are closely related to the shifting politics of race and gender peculiar to the transition era. In Chapter Five, I return to the subjection of women as domestic subjects and mothers in order to trace the subversions and disruptions that their re-enactments of maternity introduce into the national narrative spun around them. The final chapter focuses on representations of 'political widows,' which provide the lens through which I review ideologies of home and their repercussions in the construction of both nation and gender. These chapters revisit, also, central themes of the first three chapters: sacrificial redemptive narratives and their production through gendered figures, domesticity and the public / private divide and the production of women as speaking subjects. Throughout the thesis, I take issue with sentimental myths of unity: a unified `rainbow' nation, on the one hand, and a unified cross-racial sisterhood, on the other. At the same time, I remain keenly aware of the necessity of national reconstruction, and of transnational feminist networks. I conclude the final chapter by considering uncanny productions of home as I search for ways of imagining the rebuilding of a post-traumatic society that do not entail the domestication of women, that remain cognisant of continuities between past and present, and that present a model for transnational feminist practices, which are attentive to location. The organising principle of the thesis is thematic. Novels and autobiographies were selected on the basis of their provocative and / or contradictory representations of women and engagements with nationalist rhetoric. Alongside my close analyses of these texts, I draw on a broader range of sources. These include the testimonial practices of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, historiography, government rhetoric as presented in speeches and the media, and national spectacles, such as the burial of Bartmann. My theoretical framework places emphasis on the use of postmodernist literary devices, as I seek to open up the closed discursive field of gender and nationalism. Resisting single reductive meanings, I attempt to restore to the historical and fictional women analysed here a contradictory multivocality often ironed out in nationalist representations of women. Thus, the postmodernist approach developed here is not a weightless one; instead, I have applied it to arrive at profoundly political and historical conclusions. The cloth I weave across the following pages threads located and historicised understandings of gender, race and nation through a loom constructed out of post-structuralist, postmodernist and psychoanalytic understandings of textuality, subjectivity and historicity in order to arrive at new interpretations of women in and of a nation-under-construction. en
dc.language English en
dc.subject Linguistics en
dc.subject Sociolinguistics en
dc.subject English literature en
dc.subject Literary theory and philosophy en
dc.title Remebering the Nation, Dismembering women? Stories of the South African transition en
dc.type Doctoral degree en
dc.description.degree PhD en


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