Graduate School
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Dr Yunusy Ng’Umbi

Home country:  Tanzania

​Year of enrolment: 2013

​Graduation date: December 2015

Department: English

Supervisor: Prof Shaun Viljoen

Co-Supervisor: Dr Nwabisa Bangeni and Dr Lynda Gichanda Spencer

Dissertation title: Politics of the family in contemporary East and West African women’s writing

This study explores narratives by African women from East and West Africa. It specifically examines how twenty-first century African women writers from the selected regions represent the institution of family in a way that challenges their older generation writer counterparts and Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi’s theory of black womanism. While accentuating the various ways in which the family trope is revisited in contemporary narratives (using African feminism and post-colonial approaches) the study benefits from the argument that the changes in the institution of the family in contemporary women’s writing should be understood in terms of the socio-cultural, political and economic milieu of these regions, Africa and the global context generally. One of the notable forces behind these changes (apart from colonialism) is the change in gender politics: the understanding of gender roles and responsibilities, as well as social, political and economic instabilities, emigration, refugeeism, and the diaspora. Through a comparative approach, this study shows that contemporary women writers do not disavow history; rather they lean on the shoulders of their literary ‘grandmothers’ and ‘mothers’ to vocalise what is expected of the post-colonial nation. Their narratives appear to suggest a shift in approaching a literary text by emphasizing the importance of family in the making of the geo-political nation. In addition, they subvert traditional ways of looking at the gender dichotomy between men and women by embracing what Chielozona Eze calls a third-wave global feminism (a revisited form of black womanism advocated by Ogunyemi) which challenges patriarchal power at home and opens avenues where men and women compete equally and equitably in socio-cultural, economic and political struggles.

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