Suns of the Mbira: A Critical Exploration of the Multiple Figurations of Femininity in Selected Fiction by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Yvonne Vera

Marima, Tendai. 2011. Suns of the Mbira: A Critical Exploration of the Multiple Figurations of Femininity in Selected Fiction by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Yvonne Vera. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My thesis is that multiple figurations of femininity challenging traditional
Zimbabwean values are articulated in the representations of womanhood,
motherhood and sexuality in the writing of Tsitsi Dangarembga (1959-)
and Yvonne Vera (1964-2005). Critically, I draw centrally upon Rosi
Braidotti (1994) and Donna Haraway’s (1992; 2004) work on figurations
as feminist metaphors theorizing how women challenge and transform
socially constructed roles that confine females to subservient social
positions. In addition, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s (1987)
theorization of multiplicity is deployed as a useful conceptualization of
the erasure of the binary separating the collective and individual, asserting
instead, that subjectivities are pluralistic, connected identities in constant

Applying the critics’ ideas with due caution to the African context,
through a method of ‘carnivalizing,’ mixing and negotiating theory, my
thesis also makes use of selected forms of African feminist theory, to give
the necessary cultural context to Zimbabwean femininity. I critically
engage with scholarly work that theorizes African women’s
historiography and negotiations of power and knowledge. Combining
these diverse feminist and post-structuralist voices together with views
expressed in the writing, I aim to produce a nuanced reading of the
plurality of femininity so that a pattern of simultaneously complimentary
and contradictory relations with feminist paradigms of African
womanhood begins to emerge as key to interpreting the selected fiction.

My thesis develops in three chapters, beginning with an examination of
how rebellious women negotiate the domestic, private world culturally
assigned to females. I explore how Vera’s unconventional figurations of
motherhood undo the cultural and political mores placed on women by
essentialist patriarchal and racial ideologies. Further analyzing dissenting
femininities, I investigate subversive textual constructions of same-sex
relationships in Vera and Dangarembga’s fiction. My readings suggest
that some of the ideological contradictions between theory and text
provide fertile conditions in which to rethink radical femininities as
figurations within African feminism. I propose new, progressive strategies
for reading womanhood, and exploring the polyphonic and complex
nature of colonial and post-independence Zimbabwean femininity, as
expressed in the novels.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


feminism, african literature, postcolonialism, zimbabwe, motherhood, sexuality, african feminism, colonialism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


9 February 2011

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Feb 2012 12:13

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:27


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