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Dr Oliver Nyambi

Home country: Zimbabwe

Year of enrolment: 2011

Graduation date: December 2013

Department:  English

Supervisor: Prof Annie Gagiano

Dissertation title: Nation in crisis: Alternative literary representations of Zimbabwe Post-2000

Abstract: The last decade in Zimbabwe was characterised by an unprecedented economic and political crisis. As the crisis threatened to destabilise the political status quo, it prompted in governmental circles the perceived 'need' for political containment. The ensuing attempts to regulate the expressive sphere, censor alternative historiographies of the crisis and promote monolithic and self-serving perceptions of the crisis presented a real danger of the distortion of information about the situation. Representing the crisis therefore occupies a contested and discursive space in debates about the Zimbabwean crisis. It is important to explore the nature of cultural interventions in the urgent process of re-inscribing the crisis and extending what is known about Zimbabwe's so-called 'lost decade'. The study analyses literary responses to state-imposed restrictions on information about the state of Zimbabwean society during the post-2000 economic and political crisis which reached the public sphere, with particular reference to creative literature by Zimbabwean authors published during the period 2000 to 2010. The primary concern of this thesis is to examine the efficacy of post-2000 Zimbabwean literature as constituting a significant archive of the present and also as sites for the articulation of dissenting views – alternative perspectives assessing, questioning and challenging the state's grand narrative of the crisis. Like most African literatures, Zimbabwean literature relates (directly and indirectly) to definite historical forces and processes underpinning the social, cultural and political production of space. The study mainly invokes Maria Pia Lara's theory about the ―moral texture‖ and disclosive nature of narratives by marginalised groups in order to explore the various ways through which such narratives revise hegemonically distorted representations of themselves and construct more inclusive discourses about the crisis. A key finding in this study is that through particular modes of representation, most of the literary works put a spotlight on some of the major talking points in the political and socio-economic debate about the post-2000 Zimbabwean crisis, while at the same time extending the contours of the debate beyond what is agreeable to the powerful. This potential in literary works to deconstruct and transform dominant elitist narratives of the crisis and offering instead, alternative and more representative narratives of the excluded groups' experiences, is made possible by their affective appeal. This affective dimension stems from the intimate and experiential nature of the narratives of these affected groups. However, another important finding in this study has been the advent of a distinct canon of hegemonic texts which covertly (and sometimes overtly) legitimate the state narrative of the crisis. The thesis ends with a suggestion that future scholarly enquiries look set to focus more closely on the contribution of creative literature to discourses on democratisation in contemporary Zimbabwe.

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