Narrative enablement : constructions of disability in contemporary African imaginaries

Lipenga, Ken Junior (2014-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines depictions of disability in selected African films, novels and memoirs. Central to the thesis is the concept of narrative enablement, which is discussed as a property that texts have for enabling the recognition of disability by the reader or viewer. In the thesis, I investigate the ways in which narrative enablement manifests in the texts. The motivation for the study comes from the recognition of several trends in current literary disability studies. Firstly, the study attempts to expand the theoretical base of current literary disability studies, which consists of ideas formed from a narrow epistemic archive. Similarly, the study also recognises that scholarship in the field mostly relies on a limited canon of texts, almost wholly drawn from the Western world. This study therefore allows a glimpse at an under-acknowledged archive of disability representation, which is then used to suggest the possibility of alternative ways of understanding disablement on the African continent and globally. The first chapter is meant as an entry point into some of the complex lives depicted in the thesis. In this chapter, I explore the intersection that the texts draw between disability and masculinity, illustrating the way this intersection evokes questions about how we understand the relationship between the two concepts. In the second chapter, I examine the way socio-political violence on the continent is represented as a cause of both disablement and disenablement. This chapter is an exploration of how disability is enmeshed with other social realities in people’s lives. The term disenablement is employed in order to capture the presentation of disablement amidst various forms of violent oppression. As it is portrayed in the majority of the texts studied in the thesis, disablement is a factor of social attitudes. My third chapter examines how these texts create dis/ability zones, areas where the reader/viewer witnesses the fluidity of socially constructed disablement in particular societies. As it is portrayed in the texts, and discussed in the thesis, this zone is a space where disabled characters encounter the ableist world. It is a space that allows the destabilization of entrenched notions about disability, and consequent recognition of disabled characters. The most explicit manifestation of narrative enablement occurs through creative intervention, which is the focus in the fourth chapter. In this chapter, I examine the role of various forms of creativity as they are enacted by the characters, arguing that they are manifestations of the characters making use of narrative enablement. In the texts, the disabled characters use unique modes of storytelling – not exclusively verbal – to narrate their story, but also to assert their belonging to particular familial, cultural, as well as national worlds.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek uitbeeldings van gestremdheid in geselekteerde films, romans en memoirs uit Afrika. Die konsep van narratiewe bemagtiging – ‘n konsep wat ondersoek word as ‘n kapasiteit van tekste wat die erkenning van gestremdheid bemoontlik vir die leser of kyker – staan sentraal in hierdie studie. In my tesis ondersoek ek die maniere waarop narratiewe bemagtiging in die tekste manifesteer. Die beweegrede vir hierdie studie kom uit die realisering van verskeie strominge in kontemporêre letterkundige gestremdheidstudies. In die eerste plek onderneem hierdie studie die taak om die teoretiese basis van huidige literêre gestremdheidstudies, wat bestaan uit idees wat op hul beurt uit ‘n enge epistemiese argief gevorm is, uit te brei. Op soortgelyke wyse erken die studie dat akademiese navorsing binne hierdie studieveld meestal berus op ‘n relatief klein kanon van tekste, feitlik geheel-en-al uit die Westerse wêreld. Hierdie studie bied dus ‘n kyk op ‘n onder-erkende argief van gestremdheidsvoorstellings, wat op sy beurt gebruik word om die moontlikheid van alternatiewe maniere waarop gestremdheid binne Afrika asook wêreldwyd begryp kan word, aan te toon. Die doel van die eerste hoofstuk is om ‘n intreepunt te skep waardeur sommige van die komplekse ervaringswêrelde wat in die tesis ondersoek word, betree kan word. In hierdie hoofstuk ondersoek ek die oorvleuelings tussen gestremdheid en manlikheid wat deur die tekste uitgebeeld word, om sodoende aan te toon dat hierdie oorvleueling vrae oproep in verband met hoe ons die verhouding tussen hierdie twee konsepte kan verstaan. In my tweede hoofstuk ondersoek ek die manier waarop sosio-politieke geweld op die kontinent uitgebeeld word as ‘n oorsaak van gestremdheid sowel as van ontmagtiging. Hierdie hoofstuk ondersoek die wyses waarop gestremdheid verwikkeld is met ander sosiale werklikhede in mense se lewens. Die term disenablement [hier: ‘ontmagtiging’] word gebruik om die uitbeelding van gestremdheid midde-in verskillende vorme van gewelddadige onderdrukking vas te vang. Soos uitgebeeld in die meeste van die tekste wat in die studie ondersoek word, is gestremdheid ‘n aspek van sosiale houdinge. My derde hoofstuk ondersoek hoe die gekose tekste areas van be/ontmagtiging skep; gebiede waar die leser/kyker die vloeibaarheid van sosiaal-gekonstrueerde ontmagtiging in spesifieke gemeenskappe waarneem. Soos uitgebeeld in die tekste en soos wat die studie die saak bespreek, is hierdie zone ‘n gebied waarbinne gestremde persone die bemagtigde wêreld ervaar. Dit is ‘n area waarbinne die versteuring van vasgelegde konsepte van gestremdheid, en gevolglike erkenning van gestremde persone, kan plaasvind. Die mees eksplisiete ontplooiïng van narratiewe bemagtiging gebeur deur middel van skeppende intervensies, wat die fokus vorm van my vierde hoofstuk. In hierdie hoostuk ondersoek ek die rol wat gespeel word deur verskillende vorme van kreatiwiteit soos beoefen deur die karakters, in die loop van my argument dat hiedie skeppingsvorme voorbeeelde is van hoe narratiewe bemagtiging plaasvind. In die tekste gebruik die gestremde karakters unieke metodes van vertelling – nie uitsluitlik verbaal nie – om hulle verhale te vertel, maar ook om aan te toon dat en hoe hulle aan partikuliere familiale, kulturele en nasionale wêrelde behoort.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86304
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