Translocation and female subjectivities in four contemporary narratives : Kingston’s The woman warrior, Magona’s To my children’s children and Forced to grow and Hoffman’s Lost in translation

Joss, Elizabeth (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2009-12)

Thesis (MA (English Studies))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Drawing on theories of gender and subjectivity, this thesis explores the way in which constructions of modernity as well as tradition are mapped onto geographical localities and thus expressed through gender acts. The female protagonists in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Sindiwe Magona’s To My Children’s Children and Forced to Grow, as well as Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation undergo either transnational translocation or imagined translocation where they straddle multiple cultural contexts concurrently. The role of globalism and modernity amplifies the female’s ambiguous position and therefore challenges her gender identity as she takes on additional gender characteristics. This challenge, a result of translocation, causes both the individual and collective nature of the subject to be emphasised and placed in multiple cultures concurrently. The female’s subjectivity is under much tension as the cultures she immerses herself in interlace but also clash. As a result of this, her sense of self is constantly in flux as she attempts to achieve stability and coherence. This sense of a gendered, stable and located self will, I argue, both dissipate and transmutate upon undergoing physical or imagined translocation. In addition, this thesis examines the manner in which globalism allows for the dissolving of boundaries and explores the extent to which the ambiguous position these female protagonists occupy enables them to reformulate and refashion their gender identity as well as write themselves away from the marginalised positions they inhabit. I will further explore how female subjects are compelled to take on additional feminine or masculine attributes upon translocation, seeming to become androgynous in the reformulation of their gender identity for a certain period of time. I will argue that protagonists supplement their gender in order to obtain a sense of belonging in a specific cultural context which requires this alteration of gender, and argue that this is also a means by which they liberate themselves from the marginal positions they occupy in their ethnic culture where sexism and prejudice are prevalent. However, I will demonstrate that modernity does not only provide them with liberation and autonomy, but that simultaneously it is also restrictive on the subject’s gender identity. Finally, this thesis explores whether the female protagonists are able to use their ambiguous positioning strategically in order to generate coherence of the self yet, concurrently, maintain fluidity between multiple cultural boundaries of the self.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie verhandeling gebruik geslags- en subjektiwiteitsteorieë om ondersoek in te stel na die maniere waarop konstruksies van moderniteit en tradisie uiting vind in geslagshandeling. Dieselfde teorieë word gebruik om ondersoek in te stel na die invloed van geografiese plasing op geslagshandeling. Die vroulike protagoniste in Maxine Hong Kingston se The Woman Warrior, Sindiwe Magona se To My Children’s Children en Forced to Grow, sowel as Eva Hoffman se Lost in Translation, ervaar elkeen óf transnasionale translokasie, óf verbeelde translokasie, waardeur hulle vele kulturele kontekste tegelykertyd in die dwarste beset. Die rol van globalisering en moderniteit versterk sonder twyfel die vroulike protagonis se dubbelsinnige posisie, en haar geslagsidentiteit word in twyfel getrek soos sy addisionele geslagseienskappe aanneem. Hierdie vertwyfeling – die gevolg van translokasie – veroorsaak dat beide die kollektiewe sowel as die individuele aard van die subjek benadruk word, en gelyktydig in meervoudige kulture geplaas word. Die protagonis se subjektiwiteit verkeer onder baie spanning omdat die kulture waarin sy haarself verdiep onderling vervleg is, maar tog ook bots. Derhalwe is haar beskouing van haarself voortdurend vloeibaar en veranderend terwyl sy probeer om samehorigheid en stabiliteit te bewerkstellig. Ek is van mening dat hierdie sin van 'n “geslaghebbende”, stabiele, gelokaliseerde self verdwyn en/of transmuteer wanneer dit fisiese of verbeelde translokasie ondergaan. Gevolglik ondersoek hierdie verhandeling dus ook die manier waarop globalisme die ontbinding van grense tot gevolg het, sowel as die mate waartoe die dubbelsinnigheid van die vroulike protagoniste se posisie hulle toelaat om hul geslagsidentiteit te herformuleer en te herontwerp, en hulself weg, of uit, die gemarginaliseerde posisies wat hulle beset te skryf. Ek wil ook kyk na die maniere waarop die vroulike subjek genoop is om, as gevolg van translokasie, addisionele vroulike of manlike karaktertrekke aan te neem, met dié dat dit blyk dat die protagoniste vir 'n ruk lank androgene eienskappe in hul geslagsidentiteit toon. Ek argumenteer dat die protagoniste hul geslag aanvul, nie net sodat hul aanklank binne 'n spesifieke kulturele konteks kan vind nie, maar ook as 'n manier waarop hul hulself kan bevry van die marginale posisies waarin hulle hul in 'n etniese kultuur, waar seksisme en vooroordeel gedy, bevind. Nietemin wil ek ook aantoon dat moderniteit nie bloot net bevryding en selfstandigheid aan die vroulike protagoniste bied nie, maar dat dit ook tegelykertyd beperkings op die subjek se geslagsidentiteit plaas. Die uitkoms van hierdie tesis is om te bepaal of die vroulike protagoniste in staat is tot die strategiese gebruik van hul dubbelsinnige posisionering, wat koherensie van die self sal meebring, en tog terselfdertyd vloeibaarheid tussen verskillende kulture sal behou.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/2253
This item appears in the following collections: