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Challenging patriarchal normativity: Southern African women writers’ constructions of women’s concerns, needs, changing identities, agency and solidarity.

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This thesis explores literary representations of African women challenging the oppressiveness of patriarchal normativity that has and continues to undermine and destroy the quality of women’s lives the world over, by persistently oppressing them and denying them equal rights, freedoms and opportunities. Contesting patriarchal normativity is critical to addressing the discrimination and oppression experienced by women, and understanding how they seek to emancipate themselves, to enjoy their rights to respect, dignity and fulfilling lives, as full members of the society to which they belong. African women have played important roles in surviving and challenging a range of interlocking patriarchal systems. They have tackled the imperatives of transforming the oppressive structures that hinder peace and development in many societies. To address his topic, the researcher adopted an interpretive content analysis of feminist literature from Southern Africa, and reviewed a range of secondary literature to support the study. Lauretta Ngcobo’s And They Didn’t Die and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions are the primary texts selected for study. The research indicates the power and resilience of a range of women in struggles against colonial/apartheid/capitalist patriarchy that have intersected to compound the abuse and tyranny experienced by African women. Dangarembga and Ngcobo’s powerful representations of African women in their novels afford deep insights into the critical roles of African women in ensuring family and community survival, and challenging the assumptions embedded in patriarchal thinking. Drawing on the inspiring leadership of the authors, the study challenges more men to get involved in the feminist struggle against patriarchal normativity and oppressive systems, because all women, children, men, families, communities, societies, our continent, and the world benefit from gender empowerment and justice, and the full integration of women. The thesis also addresses the value and strength of women’s (and men’s) solidarity in challenging these oppressive systems.


Doctoral Degree, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.