chapter  14
16 Pages

Performing Trauma: The Body as Site of (De)colonization in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions

WithJennifer Williams

One of the most provocative discussions of the impact of colonial trauma on the colonized body is Frantz Fanon's Black Skins, White Masks. Fanon's premise necessitates an engagement with various theoretical positions. Though Fanon takes a psychoanalytic approach to colonialism and racism, he is ambivalent in regard to Freud aside from claiming the unconscious as a primary source of analysis. Fanon's quotation speaks of an internal reaction to external violence. His invocation of Nausea alludes to Sartre's novel La Nausee, a work that destabilizes binary opposites, particularly race and sex. Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions refuses pathological notions about the female body while (re)claiming it as a site upon which the illnesses of colonialism and patriarchy are writ. Nervous Conditions traces the development of two female protagonists, Tambudzai and Nyasha, whose passage into womanhood is challenged by the inherent paradox of colonial education coupled with the patriarchal law that commands women's silence in Shona culture.