Stories of women and mothers: gender and nationalism in the early fiction of Flora Nwapa

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:
Stories of women and mothers: gender and nationalism in the early fiction of Flora Nwapa

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Mother figures bulk large in nationalist imaginings. Although they perhaps hold different sentiments and ideals in this regard, the figure of the common national mother is, significantly, one to which post-independence women writing from Africa and India have also paid their respects. Women encounter the strong need to resist the compounded oppressions of colonialism, gender, race, class, sexuality, etc., and find at the same time that tactics of self-representation are often usefully adopted from the more established and yet compromising nationalist politics of their male counterparts. In theory, and rhetorically, anti-colonial, nationalist movements made provision for the self-representation of women. Nationalism, whether as ideology or as political movement, configures and consolidates itself through a variety of deeply embedded gender-specific structures. This chapter explores how an investment in a typically masculine nationalist imaginary impacts on women's politics of self-realisation and on their involvement in the modern nation-state. In a reading of Flora Nwapa's early fiction, it makes suggestions as to what an alternative symbolisation of women's identity and language might entail.

Keywords: mother figures; women; gender; nationalism; colonialism; self-representation; fiction; Flora Nwapa; politics; nation-state

Chapter.  8856 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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