Out of crisis: discourses of enabling and disabling spaces in post-2000 Zimbabwean literary texts in english
This research centralises the underutilised ‘tragic edge’ and dialectics of exile’ perspectives in the analysis of black- and white-authored narratives that came out of post-2000 Zimbabwe. These narratives are Harare North (Brian Chikwava, 2009); An Elegy for Easterly (Petina Gappah, 2009); Writing Free (Irene Staunton [Ed.], 2011);We Need New Names (NoViolet Bulawayo, 2013); The Magistrate, the Maestro & the Mathematician (Tendai Huchu, 2014); African Tears: The Zimbabwe Land Invasions (Catherine Buckle, 2001); The Last Resort (Douglas Rogers, 2009); This September Sun (Bryony Rheam, 2009); and Lettah’s Gift (Graham Lang, 2011). The texts depict a post-2000 Zimbabwean period that is characterised by various forms of turmoil which give rise to exilic sensibilities in terms of the narratives’ thematic concerns and in terms of the aesthetic choices of writers. Dialectically speaking, moving out of, and into, crisis are discrepant movements happening simultaneously on the same space and in one text so that those who move, and those who do not move, are afflicted by the turmoil of existing out of place. This makes problematic the notion of globalisation and the freedoms of nomadic experiences that it has ostensibly ushered. The study critically analyses how these texts depict crisis-induced exile (both physical and symbolic), the [ambiguous] transgression of physical and symbolic borders in the search for enabling spaces and the consequent struggle with issues of space and belonging in a globalising world (which is epitomic of the postcolonial condition) but in which, paradoxically, issues of race, nation and identity remain at the fore in determining who “we” are. I deploy McClennen’s ‘dialectics of exile’ theory in the reading of the texts because of its recognition of the dialectics and tragic edge of exile. Also central to this research is the use of Lefebvre’s concept of space and Geschiere’s notion of belonging. Since space, as Lefebvre has theorised, is in a continuous state of flux due to human action of producing and reproducing, constructing and deconstructing, inventing and re-inventing it, the argument that is foregrounded in this thesis is that the non-fixity of space spells an endless search for it by the characters in the selected narratives which complicates their sense of belonging. This also makes moving out of crisis a paradox since it spells moving into crisis. Also important is the centrality of representation as a symbolic exemplification of globalisation or its nemeses – race, nation and other like shibboleths that are usually associated with pre-modern sensibilities. While the inclusion of black and white writers in the same canon is done as an expression of a post-racial spirit, this study also centralises the politico-aesthetics of representation. Thus, how white writers represent black people, or how black writers represent white people, is critical in understanding the nature of the globe and the everyday spaces on which people circulate. The whole idea behind the dialectic is the simultaneity of the existence of contradictory phenomena. The deployment of the dialectics of exile theory therefore facilitates the conclusion that the globe should be understood dialectically in terms of contradictory phenomena like the pre-modern, modern and postmodern existing on the same space and influencing the politico-aesthetic regimes that the writers of selected narratives deploy and the ambiguities of the movements that the characters undertake. As a consequence of reading the texts from this perspective, and especially by closely deploying the methodological tools I have chosen, I suggest that any reading of exile narratives and theorisations of the postcolonial should be done with an awareness of the importance of space and belonging and the dialectical nature of the globe.