Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


In his introduction to Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said notes that to overlook the cultural encounters resulting from imperialism is to "miss what is essential about the world in the past century" (xx). African writers since Chinua Achebe have explored that interplay of cultures on the continent and in the diaspora. African women writers such as Buchi Emecheta of Nigeria and Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana, though only recently gaining comparable critical attention, are no exception. But their works also focus on how such cultural encounters shift gender roles and relations, issues which male writers rarely address. As post-colonial African feminists, Emecheta and Aidoo write in a tradition that Carole Boyce Davies describes in her introduction to Ngambika as "a hybrid of sorts, which seeks to combine African concerns with feminist concerns" (12). In particular, Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood and Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost explore how characters deal with cultural encounters by assuming or denying responsibility for negotiating their identities. When they do negotiate, they examine the conventions of each culture they encounter and select which characteristics to adopt, which to transform, and which to reject. In so doing, they shape hybrid identities and hybrid cultures. These works portray women characters who take such responsibility. Though their actions often are limited by colonial and patriarchal cultures, they gain power in those cultures by shaping hybrid identities for themselves and their children. Indeed, these works demonstrate what feminist Gayatri Spivak notes in her essay "Explanation and Culture," that the personal and the political are of one fabric. In controlling hybridity at the personal and community levels, women shape national identity. Thus, these works also pose important challenges to theorists such as Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X, who advocate decolonization via separatism and violence. The women’s works suggest that shaping hybrid cultures is a more creative, inclusive, and realistic means of decolonization. And, condemning the way motherhood has been used to oppress women, they present it instead as a powerful instrument for shaping culture.


African literature History and criticism, African literature Women authors History and criticism, Women in literature, Women and literature, Feminism and literature

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Copyright © 1994, author