Writing women in Uganda and South Africa : emerging writers from post-repressive regimes

Spencer, Lynda Gichanda (2014-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The thesis examines how women writers from Uganda and South Africa simultaneously offer a critique of nationalist narratives and articulate a gendered nationalism. My focus will be on the new imaginings of women in and of the nation that are being produced through the narratives of emerging women writers in post-repressive nation-states. I explore the linkages in post-conflict writing by focusing on the literary representations of women and womanhood, while taking into account some of the differences in how these writers write women in these two post-repressive regimes. I read the narratives from these two countries together because, in the last fifty years, both Uganda and South Africa have been through prolonged periods of political repression and instability followed by negotiated transitions to new political dispensations. I use the phrase post-repressive to refer to the post-civil war era after 1986 in Uganda and the post-apartheid period subsequent to the 1994 first democratic elections in South Africa. From the late 1990s, there has been a steady increase in fiction written by emerging women writers in Uganda and South Africa. The term emerging women writers in the Ugandan literary context refers to the writers who have benefitted from the emergence of FEMRITE Publications, the publishing house of the Ugandan Women Writers’ Association; in the South African setting, I use the term to define black women writers publishing for the first time in a liberated state. The current political climate in both countries has inaugurated a new era for women writers; cracks are widening for these new voices, creating more spaces that allow them to foreground, interrogate, engage and address wide-ranging topics which lacked more forms of expression in the past. This study explores how women writers from Uganda and South Africa attempt to capture women’s experiences in literary texts and seeks to find ways of interpreting how such constructs of female identity in the aftermath of different forms of oppression articulate various signs of rupture and continuation with earlier representations of female experience in these two nation states. There are three core chapters in this thesis. I approach the gendered experience as represented in the fictional narratives of emerging women writers through three different perspectives; namely, war and the aftermath, popular literary genres, and identity markers. In the process, I try to think through the following questions: How are writers reclaiming and re-evaluating women’s participation during the oppressive regimes of civil war in Uganda and apartheid in South Africa? How are women writers rethinking and repositioning the roles of women as they continue to live in patriarchal societies that marginalize and oppress them? To what extent have things changed for women in the aftermath of these oppressive regimes as represented in the texts? What new representations of women are emerging? For whom, and from what positions, are these women writing? Is literary representation a reiteration of political representation that ends up not being effective? What is the relation between literary and political representation? Do these narratives open up alternative avenues for writers to represent women’s interests? How do new female literary representations emerge in different novels such as chick lit and crime fiction?

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif ondersoek die wyses waarop vroueskrywers uit Uganda en Suid-Afrika krities kyk na nasionalisitiese narratiewe en tegelyk ook na ‘n gendered nasionalisme. Daar word gefokus op die nuwe uitbeeldinge van vroue in en van die nasies wat spruit uit die narratiewe van opkomende vroueskrywers in nasiestate in die post-onderdrukking-tydperk. Deur te fokus op die uitbeeldinge van vroue en vroulikheid word die verbande tussen post-konflik-skryfwerk ondersoek, en word ook rekening gehou met etlike verskille in die wyses waarop vroue deur sodanige skrywers in spesifieke post-onderdrukking-regimes uitgebeeld word. Die narratiewe uit die twee lande word saam gelees, want in die loop van die afgelope vyftig jaar ondervind sowel Uganda as Suid-Afrika langdurige politieke onderdrukking en onbestendigheid, gevolg deur onderhandelde oorgange na nuwe politieke bedelings. Die term post-onderdrukking verwys na die tydperk na 1986 na die burgeroorlog in Uganda en na die post-apartheid-era na afloop van die eerste demokratiese verkiesing in Suid-Afrika in 1994. Sedert die laat-1990’s was daar ‘n geleidelike toename in fiksie deur opkomende vroueskrywers in Uganda en Suid-Afrika. In die Ugandese letterkundige konteks verwys die term opkomende vroueskrywers na skrywers wat gebaat het by die totstandkoming van FEMRITE Publications, die uitgewery van die Ugandese vroueskrywersvereniging; in die Suid-Afrikaanse opset word die term gebruik om swart vroueskrywers te beskryf wat vir die eerste keer in ‘n bevryde land kon publiseer. Die huidige politieke klimaat in albei lande het vir vroueskrywers ‘n nuwe era ingelei; vir sulke vars stemme gaan daar breër barste oop wat hulle toelaat om al hoe meer ruimte te skep waarin wyduiteenlopende onderwerpe, wat in die verlede minder uitdrukkingsgeleenthede geniet het, vooropgestel, ondersoek, betrek en aangespreek kan word. Die proefskrif ondersoek die maniere waarop vroueskrywers uit Uganda en Suid-Afrika die vroulike ervaring in letterkundige geskrifte uitbeeld. Daar word gepoog om te vertolk hoe sodanige konstrukte vroulike identiteit verwoord in die nadraai van verskeie soorte onderdrukking en uiting gee aan verskillende tekens van beide die onderbreking in en die voortsetting van vroeëre uitbeeldinge van die vroulike ervaring in die twee nasiestate. Die proefskrif bevat drie kernhoofstukke. Die gendered ervaring word uit drie afsonderlike hoeke benader soos dit in die narratiewe verteenwoordig word, naamlik: oorlog en die nadraai daarvan; populêre letterkundige genres; en identiteitskenmerke. In die loop daarvan word getrag om die volgende vrae te deurdink: Hoe word vroue se deelname tydens die onderdrukkende regimes van die burgeroorlog in Uganda en apartheid in Suid-Afrika hereien en herwaardeer? Hoe herdink en herposisioneer vroueskrywers tans die rolle van vroue soos hulle steeds in patriargale samelewings voortleef waar hulle opsygeskuif en onderdruk word? In hoe ‘n mate het sake vir vroue verander in die nadraai van die onderdrukking, soos dit in die tekste uitgebeeld word? Watter vars representasies van vroue kom onder die nuwe bedeling tot stand? Vir wie, en uit watter posisies, skryf hierdie vroue tans? Is die letterkundige representasie bloot ‘n herhaling van die politieke representasie, wat dan op niks doeltreffends uitloop nie? Wat is die verhouding tussen politieke en letterkundige representasie? Baan hierdie narratiewe alternatiewe weë oop waar skrywers die belange van vroue kan verteenwoordig? Hoe kom nuwe vroulike letterkundige representasies in verskillende narratiewe vorms soos chick lit en misdaadfiksie voor?

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86251
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