When the Political Becomes Personal: Political Consciousness in Black South African Women's Autobiography (1985-1995)

Jahn, Bettina. When the Political Becomes Personal: Political Consciousness in Black South African Women's Autobiography (1985-1995). 2010, Master Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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This thesis explores the development of political awareness and identity formation in the autobiographies of three prominent women each of whom made a mark on South African history. It comprises seven sections dealing first with theoretical questions relating to «the personal is political» as reflected in post-colonial life writing. Ellen Kuzwayo’s Call Me Woman (1985), Emma Mashinini’s Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life (1989) and Mamphela Ramphele’s A Life (1995) are the three autobiographies that are explored in the thesis. Using Fanon’s theory of self-constitution where the psychological operates within a political formation, autobiography is defined as an «authentic story» in which an individual interprets their own life in the frame of «cultural memory» in the relationship between self and society in an historical context. Moreover, drawing from feminist concepts, each autobiographer is located within either a female or a feminist frame. The thesis is interdisciplinary, moving between the history of each subject, feminist theory, and theories of representation derived from cultural studies. These theoretical concepts and a short historical introduction is the content of the first part of the paper.
What is important with all three writers, despite different theoretical positions, is their location in relation to community, apartheid and family. Thus how political consciousness emerged for all three is the key issue of the second part of the thesis. The experience of race and the gender order, emergent black consciousness and women’s role in the movement affected all three writers, but quite differently. The authors approached their socialization in different ways, and so did they identify the influence of collective life and individual family life, and the influence of Christianity. However, for all three politics was a defining activity, leading to self-consciousness and self-actualization. Personal crisis too, was significant in shaping the way they acted in history. Moreover, it is shown that self consciousness, self-confidence and self-expression were critical factors in leading all three to write their autobiographies.
Advisors:Harries, Patrick
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Geschichte > Ehemalige Einheiten Geschichte > Geschichte Afrikas (Harries)
UniBasel Contributors:Harries, Patrick
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Master Thesis
Thesis status:Complete
Last Modified:05 Apr 2018 17:38
Deposited On:06 Feb 2018 11:25

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