Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Masculinities and Femininities in Zimbabwean Autobiographies of Political Struggle: The Case of Edgar Tekere and Fay Chung

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Masculinities and Femininities in Zimbabwean Autobiographies of Political Struggle: The Case of Edgar Tekere and Fay Chung

Article excerpt

Summary

Because masculinities and femininities are socially and culturally constructed, they often play significant roles in constructing identities and distinguishing one another. Femininities and masculinities therefore play a key role in nation-building and in the sustenance of national identities. In this article I explore, through the autobiographies of two luminaries of Zimbabwe's liberation war, how individual politicians configure their own gender identities and consequently the masculine and feminine identities of others. I posit that the autobiographical mode allows for intimate gendering of the liberation discourse. I also argue that Tekere celebrates the heroic masculine self, preferring military femininities to domestic ones. He privileges his own masculinity while "feminising" Robert Mugabe. Chung debunks the perceived manliness of political struggle and its representations by hailing the participation of women in the struggle for liberation. Her narration of their femininity is in relation to the nation and is structured around the struggle for national liberation, female emancipation and nation-building. Typical of female life-writing, Chung exhibits a relational sense of identity in which the autonomous self is subordinate to or subsumed in the collective. Hers becomes a projection and celebration of heroic femininities. I conclude this article by asserting that masculine and feminine identities in Zimbabwe's political discourse remain bound up with the historical processes of colonial and nationalist liberation struggles.

Opsomming

Omdat manlikhede en vroulikhede sosiaal en kultureel gekonstrueer word, speel huile dikwels 'n belangrike rol by die konstruksie van identiteite en om mekaar te onderskei. Vroulikhede en manlikhede speel dus 'n sleutelrol in nasiebou en in die behoud van nasionale identiteite. In hierdie artikel verken ek, deur middel van die outobiografiee van intellektuele leiersfigure in die bevrydingstryd in Zimbabwe, hoe individuele politici hul eie gender-identiteite vorm, en gevolglik die manlike en vroulike identiteite van ander. Ek voer aan dat die outobiografiese metode ruimte skep vir die intieme toepassing van gender in die bevrydingsdiskoers. Ek voer verder aan dat Tekere die heroiese manlike self besing en militere vroulikhede bo huislike vroulikhede verkies. Hy bevoordeel sy eie manlikheid terwyl hy Robert Mugabe "vervroulik". Chung ontmasker die waargenome manlikheid van die politieke stryd en die voorstellings daarvan deur vroue se deelname aan die bevrydingstryd te Ioof. Haar beskrywing van hul vroulikheid is met betrekking tot die nasie en word gestruktureer rondom die stryd vir nasionale bevryding, die emansipasie van vroue en nasiebou. Soos tipies is van vroueskrywers se skryfwerk oor die lewe, toon Chung 'n rasionele identiteitsin waardeur die onafhanklike self ondergeskik is aan of ingesluit word in die kollektiewe. Haar werk word 'n projeksie en viering van heroiese vroulikhede. Ek sluit hierdie artikel af deur aan te voer dat manlike en vroulike identiteite in Zimbabwe se politieke diskoers ineengeweef bly met die historiese prosesse van koloniale en nasionalistiese bevrydingstryde.

Introduction

This article discusses masculinities and femininities and the accompanying argumentative discourses used to convey these as presented by Zimbabwean politicians Edgar Tekere and Fay Chung in their self life-narratives, A Lifetime of Struggle (2007) and Reliving the Second Chimurenga (2006) respectively. The article attempts to show how the autobiographical mode as used by the two politicians, maps the evolution of masculine and feminine identities in the context of the history of colonial conquest, the anti-colonial struggle and politics in post-independence Zimbabwe. This discussion explores and analyses Tekere's and Chung's personal narratives from a gender identities point of view. Because the genre of autobiography itself is a fundamental form of evidence of how individuals attempt to define the self by positioning themselves strategically along the historical and cultural continuum, I argue that the repressive political environment obtaining in Rhodesia shaped both autobiographers' self-conceptions. …

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