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Breidlid, Anders (2001) Resistance and consciousness in Kenya and South Africa : A comparative study with particular reference to the novels of Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Alex La Guma. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This study undertakes an analysis of the models of response (resistance/(non-agency) to colonial, apartheid and post-colonial imposition which are posited in the novels of the Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o and the South African writer Alex La Guma. Such a focus involves related issues such as the relationship between the consciousness level of the subaltern and his/her capacity for resistance and how oppression affects self-construction and consciousness. Since the thesis deals with resistance and consciousness within the textual space of the novels, the central issue raised in the thesis is explored around questions of representations. In defining the nature of resistance literature, the introductory chapter characterises levels of resistance and distinguishes between "counter-hegemonic" and "combat" literature. Whereas "combat" literature tends to invert the colonial version of Manichean binarism and is placed squarely within the liberation struggle, "counter-hegemonic" fiction is defined as constituting the fragmented colonial subject and subverting the colonial representation of the subaltern without necessarily insisting on the implacable enmity of Manicheism and its location within the liberation struggle. Part 1 identifies Ngugi's A. Grain of Wheat and La Guma's A Walk in the Night and And A Threefold Cord as counter-hegemonic fiction. The texts may be viewed from two interconnected levels: the ambivalence and subversion of colonial discourse and the reconstruction of self in resistance to the colonial/apartheid/post-colonial domination. The texts fill the vacuum created by colonial discourse by defying the non-representation of the Other/the subaltern by writing about the world, culture and values absent in colonial representations, but the textual analyses reveal at the same time representations of the subaltern which resist essentialist representation of subaltern consciousness and reject an essentialist view of resistance as an obvious, non-contradictory act. In a brief chapter at the end of Part 1, the revised version of A Grain of Wheat is analysed, signalling Ngugi's transition from his counter-hegemonic to his combat phase. In Part 2 Ngugi's Devil on the Cross and Matigari and La Guma's In the Fog of the Seasons' End and Time of the Butcherbird are defined as "combat" fiction. In contrast to the novels discussed in Part 1, the texts under scrutiny in Part 2 expose essentialist assumptions about the colonial/apartheid/post-colonial situation. Ngugi and La Guma's literary projects focus on the urgency of the political situation in Kenya and South Africa, thereby underlining the ideological message in the texts and the importance of conscientising the subaltern. In the combat fiction of the two authors the emphasis is on a more direct, uncompromising and often one-dimensional reaction and struggle against the oppressor. While the thesis critiques certain aspects of this fairly fixed, one-dimensional representation of the African situation in these fictional texts, the thesis underlines the need for counter-narratives of freedom and liberation on the troubled African continent.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:02

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