postcolonial African country

postcolonial African country

As we turn our attention to a different postcolonial African country in week three, we will also take on a very different point of view in our weekly

As we turn our attention to a different postcolonial African country in week three, we will also take on a very different point of view in our weekly reading. Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions (1988) follows the life of Tambu, a young girl who grows up in Rhodesia (which would become known as Zimbabwe from 1980 forward). This semi-autobiographical novel chronicles what the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre called–in his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth–the “nervous condition” of being native. In stark contrast to Marlow’s account of the Congo, then, Tambu’s first-person narrative recounts the struggles of being native, poor, and female in the country’s fledgling stages of independence. Our discussions will cultivate an intersectional analytic that can account for patriarchal structures of power, class inequality, and Eurocentrism. Rather than read these oppressive conditions as unrelated and unique, we will interpret them as mutually constitutive components in European empire. Throughout the novel, Tambu desires the potential opportunities afforded by her Western education, and yet she ultimately wants to resist the assimilation that makes this education possible. Torn between Western and native cultures, she emerges with a narrative that indexes the complicated and deeply troubling legacy of empire and colonization in Zimbabwe.

Our secondary sources for this week will provide essential historical and political context. In 1961, Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth quickly became a foundational work for anti-colonial struggle and a harbinger for the postcolonial framework that would gain traction in the ensuing decades. Dangarembga takes both the title of her novel and the epigraph from the introduction to Fanon’s treatise, suggesting that his theoretical concerns about revolution and native resistance are central to her narrative about postcolonial Rhodesia. For this reason, we will read an excerpt from this seminal work, exploring Fanon’s interests in psychology, existentialism, and class revolution before bringing his critical analysis to bear on the novel. Similarly, the podcast episode “The British Empire’s Legacy” takes up postcolonial debates about British Empire today. These debates ask some essential questions that will help guide our course over the next five weeks: How do we remember empire and its deleterious effects on colonized countries? How do we hold ourselves accountable for the past? And how do we rethink and/or dismantle an empire that denies its own existence?

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