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Gender and narrative in the postcolonial nation

Why is the nation in a post-colonial world so often seen as a motherland? This study explores the relationship between gender icons and foundational fictions of the nation in different post-colonial spaces. The author's work on the intersections between independence, nationalism and gender has already proved canonical in the field. This book combines her keynote essays on the mother figure and the post-colonial nation with new work on male autobiography, ‘daughter’ writers, the colonial body, the trauma of the post-colony and the nation in a transnational context. Focusing on Africa as well as South Asia, and sexuality as well as gender, the author offers close readings of writers ranging from Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri and Nelson Mandela to Arundhati Roy and Yvonne Vera, shaping these into a critical engagement with theorists of the nation such as Fredric Jameson and Partha Chatterjee. Moving beyond cynical deconstructions of the post-colony, the book mounts a reassessment of the post-colonial nation as a site of potential empowerment, as a ‘paradoxical refuge’ in a globalised world. It acts on its own impassioned argument that post-colonial and nation-state studies address substantively issues hitherto raised chiefly within international feminism.

Open Access (free)

This book argues that literary texts – here especially novels and autobiographies – are central vehicles in the imaginative construction of new nations, and that gender plays a central, formative role in that construction. Post-colonial nationalist identities, iconographies and traditions are refracted through gender-tagged concepts of power, leadership, lineage and filiation, including, for instance, maternal images of nurturing and service. Developing these ideas, the book considers how national father/son and mother figures were used in the independence era to imagine the nation into being. It also shows that gendered, predominantly familial (patriarchal), forms have been invoked, paradoxically, to imagine post-colonial nations into being, and that, reciprocally, constructions of the nation in fiction and other discourses are differentially marked by masculine and feminine systems of value. Finally, the book explores community, nationality, subjectivity, sexuality or the native body.

in Stories of women
Theorising the en-gendered nation

Nationalism, which has been so fundamental to the decolonisation process around the world, bears a clear mark for gender. This chapter examines why and how, overdetermined by colonial history, national structures in post-independent nations have conventionally been organised according to masculine patterns of authority, in particular the family drama, embodied in such images as ‘father of the nation’, ‘son of the soil’. Women, by contrast, are cast into the more passive roles/metaphors of motherland, Mother Africa, Bharat Mata. The chapter first looks at two novels, Peter Abrahams' A Wreath for Udomo (1956) and Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981), which have in common several paradigms of new nationality and the post-colonial nation founded on the imagery of national sons. To open the discussion with these two novels is in itself an anticipatory and symbolic gesture, in that Africa and India will comprise the two postcolonial ‘constituencies’ predominantly represented by this book.

in Stories of women
Open Access (free)
Defining the nation differently

In some notable instances, women writers work to transform the male lineaments of the post-colonial nation. In others, they attempt merely to decipher and to modify its structures of privilege. Although the topics and texts discussed in this book have varied widely, the foregoing chapters have been linked by their shared concern with the strategies used by novel writers, women but also men, to recast the colonial and patriarchal symbolic legacies embedded in many versions of post-independence nationalism. A reading of the Indian writer Manju Kapur's first two novels focusing on Partition and the Ayodhya crisis, decisive moments in India's national story, closes this study, developing further the idea of the redemptive nation as a countervailing space for women as against the threats posed by communalism. The novels are Difficult Daughters (1998) and A Married Woman (2003).

in Stories of women
Open Access (free)
The male leader’s autobiography and the syntax of postcolonial nationalism

Narratives give form to and legitimate the process of post-colonial and national coming-into-being. In nationalist movements in India and Africa, leaders' tales operate as inaugural symbolic texts shaping and justifying configurations of status and power in the post-colonial nation(-to-be), including the interconnection of nationalist ideology and gender politics. Looked at more closely, the leader's autobiography effectively sets in motion a process of reciprocal, even circular, legitimation. This chapter looks at the independence autobiographies by national leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta. Where the story of the growth to self-consciousness of the independence leader presents as a synonym for the rise of the nation, and where that leader has historically been male, it follows that national-son figures become the inheritors of the nation's future. Throughout his autobiography, Nehru is strongly aware of the symbol-making power of nationalism; of that way in which national movements are constituted out of compelling images. The chapter also mentions the self-representation of Sarojini Naidu as a political leader.

in Stories of women
De-scribing Imperial identity from alien to migrant

3 ‘Where do you belong?’: De-scribing Imperial identity from alien to migrant PETER CHILDS Introduction: writing the post-colonial nation ‘England,’ said Christophine who was watching me, ‘you think there is such a place?’ … ‘You do not believe there is a country called England?’ She blinked and answered quickly, ‘I don’t know, I know what I see with my eyes and I never see it.’ (Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, 1996, 92) Understanding the novel as a formative influence on the imagining of national collectivity, Timothy Brennan argues that ‘it is especially in

in Across the margins
Open Access (free)
Culture, criticism, theory since 1990

that sought to look beyond notions of ‘origin, identity and affiliation’ offered by the ‘nation-narrative’.68 Graham and Richard Kirkland emphasise that the diasporic nature of Irish historical experience, and its relationship with Britain, have ‘enabled the study of Ireland to be opened out to alignment with most definitions of globalization’, and the suspicion that Irish postcolonial criticism ‘underwrites the triumph of the independent post-colonial nation’ is misplaced.69 Thus, while the ‘external’ has 9780719075636_4_002.qxd 32 16/2/09 9:23 AM Page 32

in Irish literature since 1990