Women who Give Birth to New Worlds: Three Feminine Perspectives on Lusophone Postcolonial Africa

  • Maria Tavares

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis aims at analysing comparatively the literary production of three African female authors - the Cape Verdean Dina Salústio (1941), the Mozambican Paulina Chiziane (1955) and the Angolan Rosária da Silva (1959) - so as to observe the authors' cultural construction of their complex postcolonial nations from a female-focalized point of view and their representation of the women of these nations interacting with the transcultural contexts of each analysed country. Their works demonstrate the importance of thinking nationalism and national identity through gender, simultaneously highlighting the potential of situated gender analysis for the understanding and contestation of the power networks that consolidate the supremacy of hegemonic discourses. Hence, the main argument that this thesis develops in three distinct chapters (each one devoted to the literary production of each author) and in the light of a particular theoretical framework is that the building of the post-independence nations under analysis is structured through gender differentiation. The point of departure for this project is the work developed by specific postcolonial theorists who analyse and deconstruct hegemonic discourses of identity. Hence, Benedict Anderson's understanding of the nation as an "imagined political community" (1991) is explored and widened by Homi Bhabha's theorization of the dynamics of national discourse (1990), whose instability comes from the friction between its pedagogical and performative dimensions. This emphasis on empowering marginality takes us to Edward Said's reflections on exile (2001). For Said, the condition of exile represents an irrecoverable displacement of the human being as regards her/his own homeland, a state which she/he will permanently try to revoke. Andrea O'Reilly Herrera (2001) uses the term insílio to emphasise the psychological and emotional dimensions of this state, which precedes the actual physical exile. Reflections on the active involvement of the displaced in the renegotiation of the nation are also at the core of Mary Louise Pratt's theorization of contact zones, autoethnography and transculturation (1991). The emphasis on the disruptive potential of autoethnography is recaptured in Graham Huggan's study of the Post-Colonial Exotic (2001), focusing specifically on the potential of what he called "celebratory autoethnography". Nonetheless, considering that these approaches are largely gender blind, the study questions their premises further by incorporating postcolonial feminist theories and feminist theories from sociology. Anne McClintock (1995) and Nira Yuval-Davis's (1997) important proposal of the analysis of nationalism through the lens of a theory of gender power gave access to multiple experiences of the nation. Amina Mama's (2001) proposal of the analysis of individual and national identity through gender with a view to understanding and dismantling the power structures in operation adds to these strong theorizations. Considering that the three examined countries had one-party socialist regimes immediately after independence, Catherine Scott's study on gender and development theories (1995) facilitates a situated analysis of gender as well. Through this outlook, the study assesses the feasibility and limitation of the application of such theories to the gender-related issues in the specific context of postcolonial lusophone Africa. Furthermore, it explores the possible existence of common "lusophone postcolonial" spaces that link these women's experiences of Portuguese colonialism and the socialist experiment.Women who Give Birth to New Worlds: Three Feminine Perspectives on Lusophone Postcolonial Africa, submitted by Maria Tavares to the University of Manchester for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2010.
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHilary Owen (Supervisor) & Joao De Castro Rocha (Supervisor)


  • Nationalism
  • Gender
  • Lusophone
  • Postcolonial
  • Africa

Cite this