The Birth of ‘New’ Materialism? Abortion and Southern African Women’s Writing

UntitledThe next seminar in our African Feminisms series will be a paper by Caitlin Stobie entitled “The Birth of ‘New’ Materialism? Abortion and Southern African Women’s Writing”. The seminar will take place on 27 February 2017 in the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (LHRI)  seminar room 1 at 5pm. Entrance is free and all are welcome.

Abstract

In her preface to Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing (1999), Zimbabwean author Yvonne Vera recalls a scene from Haile Gerima’s Sankofa wherein a pregnant woman’s corpse mysteriously gives birth after she is whipped to death (1). At the conclusion of her commentary, she returns to the theme of fertility by proclaiming that the authors of the collected stories are “witnesses, in that seemingly impossible birth” of African feminist fiction (5). Yet throughout Opening Spaces, it is the fear of maternity which recurs for those living in rural and urban environments previously colonised by the British ‘motherland’. Tracing tropes of abortion through selected stories written during the ‘birth’ of postcolonial southern African nations in the late twentieth century, this paper considers feminist responses to the shifting relationship between corporeal embodiment and political agency. The writers in this study focus on environments not as essentialised settings, but rather as interconnected and organic systems; creative forms which manifest in these stories include human, animal, vegetal, elemental or textual participants in ecosystems. In this respect, the writers appear to anticipate new materialist theories – particularly the concept of trans-corporeality, which states that human and more-than-human bodies are all enmeshed actors that constitute the environment (Alaimo 2010: 2). Paradoxically, however, they also trouble such purportedly ‘new’ theories by complicating the long history of environmental health and reproductive rights in post/colonial contexts. Illustrating how natural symbolism interacts with the artifice of narrative form, such fictions create spaces for complex, ambivalent perspectives on women’s agency to emerge.

About Caitlin Stobie

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Caitlin Stobie is a PhD candidate at the University of Leeds, where she is co-director of the Leeds Animal Studies Network. Her research interests include postcolonial ecocriticism, posthumanism and critical animal studies. She has been published, or has work forthcoming, in Green Letters (2017), Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (2017) and scrutiny2 (2016).

Ryan Topper and Thando Njovane on Yvonne Vera

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Yvonne Vera

The next Finding Africa seminar will be two papers on the Zimbabwean author and scholar, Yvonne Vera.

Ryan Topper will present on “Life Beyond the Archive: Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins” and Thando Njovane will give a paper on “Architectures of Voice and Language in Yvonne Vera’s Under the Tongue” at 5.30pm at the University of Leeds’ Humanities Research Institute on 25 November 2015.

*Entrance is free and all are welcome* Continue reading

24 May 2016

Ruth Daly (University of Leeds) on Liberating the Female Voice from the Patriarchal Order of the South African Pastoral Tradition.

25 November 2015 

Ryan Topper (University of Leeds) on Life Beyond the Archive: Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins and Thando Njovane (Rhodes University) on  Architectures of Voice and Language in Yvonne Vera’s Under the Tongue

30 September 2015

Elinor Rooks (University of Leeds) on Cattle, Gardens and the Madness of Power:The Radical Developmental Politics of Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

12 June 2015

Yorkshire African Studies Network: Culture and Politics in Africa Workshop (University of York)

08 June 2015

Arthur Rose (University of Leeds) on Dwelling in Triomf; or Building the Infrastructure for Postapartheid Dasein

1 June 2015
Katherine Furman  (London School of Economics and Political Science) on Is Thabo Mbeki Morally Responsible for his AIDS Denialism? and Gráinne O’Connell (University of Sussex) on Post-AIDS’ Futures, Global Health Governance and Representations of HIV and AIDS in Post-Apartheid Literary Fiction
7 February 2015
African Intellectual Mobilities Conference (University of York)
21 January 2015
Richard Stupart (Erfürt University) on “Compassion Fatigue, the ‘CNN Effect’ and the Need for Better Media-Humanitarian Theory” 
29 October 2014
Brendon Nicholls (University of Leeds) on “Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: Environment, Psyche and Objects”

*email us on findingpocoafrica@gmail.com with any queries. *