Recalling trauma: the legacy of slavery and colonialism in contemporary black women’s fiction
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AbstractThis thesis examines key literary representations of black women’s historical trauma linked to colonialism and slavery. Through comparative readings of contemporary fiction by black women writers from two continents, I explore the intimate links between the historical traumas of colonialism and slavery and the identity of black women in novels by Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Edwidge Danticat, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Scholastique Mukasonga published between 2004 and 2014. The authors I consider represent literary historians engaging with traumatic pasts in order to rewrite and (re)present black women in a global present. From a postcolonial feminist and cultural trauma viewpoint, I reflect on the manifestations of slavery and colonial trauma on black women characters and explore the ways in which they navigate the historical limitations of collective trauma in their respective locales. My readings interrogate and demonstrate the possibility of a postcolonial feminist and decolonised trauma model that is specific to black women’s writing through a global, transcultural, and transnational outlook. This is a model which centres the experiences of black women from around the world as it is depicted in literature by black women. In addition to this, I examine the solidarities envisioned by the authors under investigation in this thesis in terms of a progressive decolonised trauma studies which encourages healing beyond borders for female descendants of former slaves and formerly colonised peoples. By uncovering the links between the remembering of traumatic events and the processes of healing as groups –– as opposed to the individualised Euro-American models articulated by pioneer theorists ––I situate my interrogation of a specific postcolonial feminist trauma theory as being crucial to my reading of my primary texts and argue that through this, we can uncover ways in which the fiction discussed here articulates and offers routes to communal healing from (initially through voicing) the previously unsaid traumas that are specific to the experience of black women in postcolonial settings. As its contribution to knowledge, this thesis introduces and utilises a decolonised trauma model which situates the black female historical perspective into specific focus and includes as well as studies postcolonial women’s fiction as part of a historical corpus. The thesis also demonstrates a closure of the gap between cultural texts written by American black women and other black women from around the world. Through a comparative analytical methodology and a theoretical framework which combines theories of cultural trauma, black and postcolonial feminisms, it locates black women’s trauma as a significant specific area in the fields of feminism, postcolonial trauma studies, comparative literature, world literatures in English, women’s studies, and studies in fiction.
CitationOtuegbe, N.B. (2023) Recalling trauma: the legacy of slavery and colonialism in contemporary black women’s fiction. University of Wolverhampton. http://hdl.handle.net/2436/625362
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
SponsorsNiger Delta Development Commission.
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