Motherlands, mothers and nationalist sons: theorising the en-gendered nation

Elleke Boehmer

in Stories of Women

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780719068782
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701898 | DOI:
Motherlands, mothers and nationalist sons: theorising the en-gendered nation

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Nationalism, which has been so fundamental to the decolonisation process around the world, bears a clear mark for gender. This chapter examines why and how, overdetermined by colonial history, national structures in post-independent nations have conventionally been organised according to masculine patterns of authority, in particular the family drama, embodied in such images as ‘father of the nation’, ‘son of the soil’. Women, by contrast, are cast into the more passive roles/metaphors of motherland, Mother Africa, Bharat Mata. The chapter first looks at two novels, Peter Abrahams' A Wreath for Udomo (1956) and Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981), which have in common several paradigms of new nationality and the post-colonial nation founded on the imagery of national sons. To open the discussion with these two novels is in itself an anticipatory and symbolic gesture, in that Africa and India will comprise the two postcolonial ‘constituencies’ predominantly represented by this book.

Keywords: nationalism; gender; post-independent nations; authority; women; motherland; Wreath for Udomo; Midnight's Children; Africa; India

Chapter.  9437 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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