Negotiating (trans)national identities in Ugandan literature

Kahyana , Danson Sylvester (2014-04)

Thesis (PhD)-- Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines how selected Ugandan literary texts portray constructions and negotiations of national identities as they intersect with overlapping and cross-cutting identities like race, ethnicity, gender, religious denomination, and political affiliation. The word “negotiations” is central to the close reading of selected focal texts I offer in this thesis for it implies that there are times when a tension may arise between national identity and one or more of these other identities (for instance when races or ethnic groups are imagined outside the nation as foreigners) or between one national identity (say Ugandan) and other national identities (say British) for those characters who occupy more than one national space and whose understanding of home therefore includes a here (say Britain) and a there (say Uganda). The study therefore examines the portrayal of how various borders (internal and external, sociocultural and geopolitical) are navigated in particular literary texts in order to construct, reconstruct, and perform (trans)national identity. The concept of the border is crucial to this study because any imagining of community is done against a backdrop of similarities (what the “us” share in common) and differences (what makes the “them” distinct from “us”). Drawing from various theorists of nationalism, postcolonialism, transnationalism and gender, I explore the representation of key events in Uganda’s history (for instance colonialism, decolonization, expulsion, and civil war) and investigate how selected writers narrate/sing these events in their constructions of Ugandan (trans)national identities. My analysis is guided by insights drawn from the work of the Russian literary theorist, Mikhail Bakhtin, particularly his concepts of dialogism and heteroglossia. His proposition that the novel is a site for the dialogic interaction of multiple languages (say of authorities, generations and social groups) and of speeches (say of narrators, characters and authors) each espousing a particular worldview or ideology enables me to create a correlation between literary texts and the nation (which contains a multiplicity of identities like races, ethnic groups, genders, religious denominations and political affiliations with each having its own interests and ‘language’), and to argue that Ugandan national identity is constituted by the existence of these very identities that overlap with it. By paying attention to the way selected literary texts portray how these disparate identities dialogue with the larger national community in different situations and how the national community in turn dialogues with other nations through cultural exchanges, migration, exile and diaspora, this study aims at unravelling the dynamics involved in the negotiation of (trans)national identities both within the nation and outside it.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek hoe geselekteerde Ugandese literêre tekste vorms, hervormings en onderhandelings van nasionale identiteite – na mate hulle deurvleg word deur oorvleuelende en dwarssnydende identitite soos díe van ras, etnisiteit, gender, godsdienstige denominasies en politieke affiliasies – uitbeeld. Die term “onderhandelings” staan sentraal in die diepte-lesing van geselekteerde fokus-tekste wat ek in hierdie tesis aanbied, want dit impliseer dat daar tye is wanneer ‘n spanning mag onstaan tussen nasionale identiteit en een of meer van hierdie ander identiteite (byvoorbeeld wanneer rasse of etniese groepe gekarakteriseer word as buite die nasie, m.a.w. as vreemdelinge), of tussen een nasionale identiteit (bv. Ugandees) en ander nasionale identiteite (bv. Brits) vir daardie karakters wat meer as een nasionale ruimte beset of wie se begrip van hul tuiste dus inbegrepe is van ‘n hier (bv. Brittanje) sowel as ‘n daar (soos bv.Uganda). Om hierdie rede ondersoek die studie die uitbeelding van maniere waarop verskeie soorte (interne en eksterne, sosio-kulturele en geo-politiese) grense gehanteer word in partikulêre literêre tekste ten einde (trans)nasionale identiteite te konstrueer, omvorm, of uit te beeld. Die konsep van ‘n grens is die belangrikste idee in hierdie studie, want enige konseptualisering van ‘n gemeenskap gebeur teen die agtergrond van gemeenhede (wat die “ons” in gemeen het) en verskille (wat “hulle” onderskei van “ons”). Met behulp van verskeie teoretici van nasionalisme, post-kolonialisme, trans-nasionalismes en gender, ondersoek ek die uitbeeldings van kern-gebeurtenisse in die geskiedenis van Uganda (byvoobeeld kolonialisme, dekolonialisering, verbanning van sekere mense en groepe en die burgeroorlog) en analiseer ek hoe sekere skrywers hierdie gebeurtenisse uitbeeld of verhaal in hulle konstruksies van Ugandese (trans)nasionalisme/s. My analises word gelei deur insigte verleen aan die oeuvre van die Russiese literêre teoretikus Mikhael Bakhtin, veral sy konsepte van dialogisme en heteroglossia. Sy voorstel dat die roman die ruimte is vir die interaksie van verskeie ‘tale’ (byvoorbeeld díe van outoriteite, ouderdoms- en sosiale groepe) en van diskoerse (bv. díe van vertellers, karakters en skrywers) wat elkeen ‘n partikulêre wêreldbeeld of ideologie aanbied of aanhang, stel my in die posisie om ‘n korrelasie te skep tussen die literêre tekste en die nasie (wat self ‘n oorvloed van identiteite soos díe van rasse, etniese groepe, genders, godsdienstige denominasies of politieke affiliasies bevat) en om te kan argumenteer dat die Ugandese nasionale identiteit konstitueer word deur die bestaan van presies hierdie (ander) identiteite wat daarmee saamval of oorvleuel. Deur aandag te gee aan die manier waarop geselekteerde literêre tekste die dialoë tussen hierdie onderskeie identiteite uitbeeld, elk waarvan hul eie belange en ‘tale’ behels, en hoe die nasionale identiteit op sy/haar beurt in gesprek is met ander nasies deur middel van kulturele uitruiling, migrasies, eksiel of diaspora, mik hierdie studie daarna om die dinamika van onderhandelings van (trans)nasionale identiteite beide binne asook buite die nasionale raamwerk uit te lig.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86498
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