Transfiguring: colonial body into postcolonial narrative

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:
Transfiguring: colonial body into postcolonial narrative

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The silenced and wounded body of the colonised is a pervasive figure in colonial and post-colonial discourses, although its valencies obviously shift with the transition from colonial into post-colonial history. In the post-colonial process of rewriting, certainly, the trope of the dumb, oppressed body undergoes significant translations or transfigurations. In Maru (1971), a novelistic indictment of intra-black racism, the South African writer Bessie Head stakes out a number of epigraphic moments with which to begin the discussion. This chapter explores post-colonial retrieval of the figure of the native body in colonial discourse and unpicks the complex interconnections between colonialism, nationalism, hysteria, gender and sexuality. It concentrates in particular on post-colonial attempts – by Nuruddin Farah, Bessie Head and Michelle Cliff, among others – to recuperate or transfigure the native/colonised body by way of the ‘talking cure’ of narrative.

Keywords: transfigurations; Nuruddin Farah; Bessie Head; Michelle Cliff; native body; colonialism; nationalism; hysteria; gender; sexuality

Chapter.  6380 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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