The politics of narrating the performance of power in selected Zimbabwean autobiographical writings
Barure, Walter Kudzai
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Over the past six decades, Zimbabwean politics and its trajectories have evolved as a result of nationalism, ethnocentrism, decolonisation, neo-colonialism, neoliberalism, nativism, Afro- radicalism and globalisation. These discourses have made Zimbabwean political actors and their supporters pit against each other on grounds of patriotism, race, gender, political affiliation, ethnicity and hegemonic struggles. Furthermore, this study analyses how these varying positions spurred the (dis)continuities between patriotic and ‘oppositional’ narratives in postcolonial Zimbabwe (specifically post-2000). It is important to explore how the schema of inclusion and exclusion manifest themselves in competing autobiographical narratives within the nation’s complex and contested political space. This dissertation analyses the politics of narrating the self, performativity and power in the autobiographical works of Tsvangirai, Msipa and Coltart. The primary concern of this study is to juxtapose these narratives and highlight salient connections between self and nation, past and the present and, autobiography and postcolonial theory. Reading these political autobiographies side by side locates the self in historical and aesthetic contexts that illustrate the faultlines of representation and identity. The study mainly refers to postcolonial theories by Bhabha (hybridity, liminality and mimicry) and Mbembe’s (African modes of writing the self) which interrogate the designation and discrimination of identities and the innovative sites of collaboration and contestation. The study also invokes Smith and Watson’s (2001) delineation of autobiographical modes of narration and McAdams’ (2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2018) psycho-literary approaches to personal narratives to critically interrogate narrative identity, life-transitions and imaginative acts of writing the self. Such an eclectic approach dispels illusions, self-justifications, myths and subjective generalisations of historical events and performances. A key finding of this study is that postcolonial politics in Zimbabwe is circumscribed and constituted by metaphors of hybridity, mimicry, liminality and new modes of writing. This dissertation concludes that ‘oppositional’ narratives appropriate and emulate the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s (ZANU-PF) performance of power to the extent of being travesty of democracy. I also suggest that a revisionist and inclusive writing of the nation goes against the grain of discriminatory and demonisation discourses that foreclose the imagination of having a future President from a minority tribe, race, younger generation, feminine gender and opposition party.