Popular Spaces : Space, Race, and Gender in Four Post-Apartheid Novels
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This study investigates engagements with space, race and gender in the post-apartheid South African literature. It examines how Niq Mhlongo’s After Tears (2007), Kopano Matlwa’s Coconut (2007), Kgebetli Moele’s Room 207 (2006) and Zukiswa Wanner’s The Madams (2006) reflect upon and deconstruct national narratives of newness and freedom through ironic portrayals of the embeddedness of apartheid era structures of geographical containment and domination. Part of this embeddedness the project argues, is the rise of black patriarchal rule in South Africa and its ensuing gendering of space, both materially and discursively. In order to problematize and unpack gendered spaces, the project draws on black feminist geography as a means of thinking through home and intimacy as symbolic of the nation, racialized and gendered spaces, and urban spaces. Further, the dissertation argues that the four novels reveal an underlying tone of uncertainty with regard to the trope of newness and the formation of gendered subjectivities, which is partially rendered in the novels’ destabilization of fixed notions of interiority and exteriority. However, the novels also imagine and celebrate various alternative and oppositional means of moving through these geographies of containment and domination. Essential to those oppositions are ways that the novels aestheticize and lift the everyday through popular culture. The dissertation argues that popular culture becomes the means through which the authors carve out liberatory textual space as well as imagine such spaces for their characters. These spaces are often created through a trope of opacity in resistance to colonial era ideologies of transparency. Finally, I look to black feminist imaginaries in the two feminist novels as a means of exploring how popular culture and feminism potentially generate productive dialogue with regard to gendered space and opposition to white heteropatriarchy.