2006 Student Research Conference:
19th Annual Student Research Conference

Language & Literature

Dirt as Power: Resistance to Patriarchy and Colonialism in Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions
Annie E. Schippers
Dr. Hena Ahmad, Faculty Mentor

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions illustrates the struggles of the female members of young Tambudzai’s Rhodesian Shona family with colonialism and patriarchy through the use of dirt as a symbol for female power. Dangarembga details the transition between traditional Shona culture, where power is earned through connection with the earth, and English colonialism, which offers power by suppressing natural aspects of living. The false “antiseptic sterility” of Tambudzai’s Anglophile uncle’s mission school exposes her to rebellions involving dirt by both her cousin Nyasha, who harbors Western feminist ideals along with a destructive body image, and her “wholesome and earthy” mother, whose family is abandoning their way of life. Through her experiences, both positive and negative, with Western education and the interactions with her oppressed mother and aunt Maiguru, her empowered aunt Lucia, and her defiant yet unfortunate cousin Nyasha, Tambudzai is able to expand her consciousness of both her female and native conditions.

Keywords: Gender, Colonialism, Dangarembga, Dirt


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 22-4
Location: VH 1320
Time: 10:30

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