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Kubin, Katarzyna (2023) Affects of Shame and the Postcolonial: Identity, Recognition and Belonging. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Inspired by the South African novelist and theorist, Zoë Wicomb, this doctoral thesis is based in the nexus of affect theory and post/de-colonial theory. My research was prompted by Wicomb’s observation in her seminal essay, “Shame and Identity,” that “shame, cross-eyed and shy, stalks the postcolonial world broken mirror in hand reproducing itself in puzzling distortions” (1998: 92). In that essay, Wicomb pushes back against postmodernist approaches to theorizing subject identity by confronting them with local histories (Mignolo 2012) of c/Coloured identity formation in South Africa. Beyond that essay, Wicomb’s sustained reflections on identity, race, shame, and the postcolonial rely on concepts such as proprioceptivity, affect and embodiment in a way that resonates with recent epistemic shifts associated with “the new materialism” (Coole and Frost 2010) and “the turn to affect” (Clough and Halley 2007; Cvetkovich et al. 2010; Gregg and Seigworth 2010; Hemmings 2005, 2012, 2015). Following Wicomb’s approach, I consider how shame “stalks” other areas of the postcolonial world. I read an eclectic selection of contemporary literary and filmic texts for how they portray the embodiment of identity and race through the lens of shame. I focus on three contexts: South Africa, the United States and Poland. The works under study include: Wicomb’s third novel Playing in the Light (2006), Saidiya Hartman’s, Lose Your Mother (2007), a hybrid text that is simultaneously a study of cultural history and a personal memoir, the documentary film, Traces of the Trade (2008), a novel by Ify Nwamana, a Nigerian author whose debut work, The Stadium: the Devil’s Playground (2009), was first published in Polish translation, as well as a music video (2012) by a collective of African and Afro-descendant artists based in Poland. The psychologist, Silvan Tomkins’ theory of the affects (Tomkins 2008; Sedgwick 2003) informs my engagement with shame. This research contributes to a growing body of scholarship that attends to the affects, and to shame in particular, in the context of the postcolonial (Ahmed 2000, 2004; Probyn 2005; Bewes 2010; Barnard 2012; Lowe 2015; Attwell et al. 2019; Scott 2019).

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Marle Hammond
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2023 10:16

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