Negotiating public and private identities: A study of the autobiographies of african women politicians

Were, Marciana Nafula (2017-03)

Thesis (D.Phil)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: This thesis examines autobiographies and memoirs of fifteen African women politicians and former politicians. These autobiographies are considered as part of a distinct sub-genre: African political autobiographies by women. Specifically, it interrogates how the African woman’s political autobiography represents the public and private subjective identities of African political womanhood. My argument is that the African woman’s political autobiography is a site where public and private conceptions of African political womanhood are (de)constructed. In reading these texts, I focus on how a merger between (Western) modes of narration prevalent in traditional (and masculine) autobiography and African narrative techniques drawn from women’s narrative practices in oral, visual, and written traditions (re)conceptualise the writers’ identities. The women writers’ discourses challenge the construction of womanhood in dominant ideological discourses like slavery, colonialism, apartheid, patriarchy, and religion, among others. These writings and my reading of them enter into conversation with African womanist (autobiographical) identity politics. In other words, I place African womanist perspectives of writers like Mary Modupe Kolawole and Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi in conversation with the women-defined practices voiced in these autobiographies in order to suggest ways of reading and writing the African woman’s political autobiography. These debates allow us to consider how discursive practices as sites of knowledge production generate conceptions of African political womanhood that either silence or make visible African women’s political agency. The study finds that hybridity of the African woman’s political autobiography, its subject, and its discourse are in-between spaces from where the writers contest Western and patriarchal notions of womanhood that silence women’s agency.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die outobiografieë en memoires van vyftien huidige en vroeëre Afrika-vrouepolitici. Die outobiografieë word as ’n duidelik definieerbare genre gesien, naamlik outobiogafiese skrywe deur Afrika-vroue in Afrika – dit verken spesifiek die mate waarin vroue in Afrika se politieke lewensweergawes hul publieke en private subjektiewe identiteite weerspieël. Ek voer aan dat hierdie werke ’n terrein bied waar publieke en private begrippe van Afrikavroue ge(de)konstrueer word. In my leeswerk het ek veral aandag gegee aan die samesmelting van (Westerse) tradisionele (en manlike) outobiografiese vertellings en hoe Afrikavertellingstegnieke eie aan vroue se verhaaltegnieke in orale, visuele en geskrewe tradisies die skrywers se identititeite (her)konseptualiseer. Die vroueskrywers bevraagteken die konstruksie van vrouwees in die dominante diskoerse van byvoorbeeld slawerny, kolonialisme, apartheid, patriargie en godsdiens. Hierdie geskrifte en my benadering tot hulle betree gesprekke met die (outobiografiese) identiteitspolitiek van vrouemeagtigingskrywers. Met ander woorde, ek plaas die vrouebemagtigings-aspekte van Afrika-skrywers soos Mary Modupe Kolawole en Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi in gesprek met die praktyke soos deur vroue in hierdie outobiografieë gedefinieer om die interpretering en die skrywe van Afrikavroue se politieke outobiografieë moontlik te maak. So ’n debat skep ruimte vir die oorweging van diskoerspraktyke, terwyl kennisgebiede wat begrip sal bevorder geskep word, veral dié wat Afrika-vroue se politieke stem òf verhul òf verhelder. Die studie bevind dat die hibridiese karakter van vroue se politieke outobiografiese werke, hul onderwerpe, en hul diskoers ’n tussengebied vorm waar skrywers Westerse en patriargale idees wat vroue se bemagtiging bedreig, kan aanspreek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100802
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