Graduate School
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Dr John Wakota

Home country: Tanzania

PANGeA partner: University of Dar es Salaam

Year of enrolment: 2011

Graduation date: April 2014

Department:  English

Supervisor: Prof Grace Musila

Co-Supervisor: Prof Shaun Viljoen

Dissertation title: The making and remaking of gender relations in Tanzanian fiction

Abstract: This study examines the fictional representation of gender relations in novels set during five historical periods in Tanzania – the pre-colonial, colonial, nationalism, Ujamaa, and the current neoliberalism period – each of which is marked by important shifts in the nation's economic contours. Analysing novels written in both Swahili and English, it tracks the shifts in fictionalized household and extra-household gender relations; analyses how the community and the state (colonial and post-colonial) variously map and remap the way male and female characters relate; and interrogates how male and female characters variously accommodate, appropriate, bargain with and/or resist the shifts. The study employs the concepts of power and intersectionality to analyse how selected authors depict gender relations as a product of intersecting identity categories, complex socio-economic shifts and historical processes. Defining labour as productive work done for wage and fulfilment of gender roles, the study argues that labour is one of the major aspects shaping power relations between men and women. It reveals that labour is the major aspect in which the economic shifts have had great impact on gender relations as represented in Tanzanian fiction. As an aspect of power, labour is also the area within which gender relations have continuously been negotiated and contested throughout the fictionalized history. In negotiating or resisting given economic shifts, both male and female characters variously deconstruct and or endorse existing notions of power, labour, and gender relations. The study shows that the cross-fertilization among the periods, the interaction between gender and other identity categories (such as race, religion, class, and age), the synergy between indigenous patriarchy and other patriarchies (such as colonial and capitalist), and, the interactions between global and local dynamics account for the complex and contradictory nature of the shifts in gender relations throughout the nation's history. Consequently, the study's major observation is that across the fictionalized history, characters variously seek to maintain and or transform existing gender relations and or discard or restore past gender relations.

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