Polarising cultures, politics and communities and fracturing economies in Zimbabwean literature
Traditional postcolonial approaches have tended to read, imagine and construct Africa through an essentialising Manichaeism. Critical of what he describes as 'nativism' and 'Afro-radicalism' and the dangers they pose to a reinvention of Africa, Achille Mbembe (2002) suggests new ways of seeing the continent. Drawing on the search for this new grammar of reimagining the continent and the nations that constitute it, this article, with reference to selected texts in the Zimbabwean literary canon, historicises literatures changing relationship with a traditional postcolonial imagining of the nation that produces discourses of autochthony, otherness and violence. Referencing texts by authors including Chikwava, Chinodya, Gappah, Hove, Lessing, Mungoshi, Mutswairo, Saidi, Tagwira and Vera, the article charts the connection between literature and the cultural aspect of nationalism; literatures complicity in the production of polarising discourses through an early but unproblematised embrace of the Chimurenga discourse conceptualised as the 'narrative of ordeal' (Primorac 2007); the moment of celebration and recovery followed by moments of division, death and mourning and erasure and reinscription. It is the last moment that points to literatures capacity to free itself of the stranglehold of Manichaeism in a search of reimagining the nation, especially in the context of Zimbabwes ever-expanding contemporary diaspora shaped by forces of polarisation. © 2011 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.