Journal article Open Access

Examining the Politics of Female Identity and Ethnicity in Ngugi Wa Thiong'O

Paulomi Sharma

The primary purpose of this paper is to attempt an ethno-gendered study of women as portrayed in two neocolonial
novels of Ngugi wa ThiongÓ. Both Petals of Blood (1977) and Devil on the Cross (1980) are socially
located in post-independent Kenya; a society grappling with problems of its new-found freedom such as
consumerism, and the conflicts of oppositional binaries like indigeneity vs. modernity. Caught in the
maelstrom of such a mechanically male-oriented structure is the African woman who strives to carve a niche
for herself in an urbanized society, while being entangled in the perpetual dilemma of retaining her past
heritage. Ngugi has always been vocal about natives losing their self-esteem as a result of Western
conditioning. And here he envisions a nation which shall strive to reconstruct itself by juxtaposing the
fragments of its ancestral glory instead of replacing the norms of imperialism with that of hegemonic neocolonialism.
Adding a feminist dimension to this nationalist discourse, by foregrounding two women in central
roles, further problematizes the newly liberated nation’s endeavour to hold on to its indigenous roots and still
coping with the drawbacks of cosmopolitanism devouring its unique ethnicity.
The paper will be developed with Third-world and postcolonial feminist approaches, triggered by the aim to
examine how does the neo-colonial woman assert her individual agency in a world where the perpetrators are
her own black native companions and not the white colonial masters anymore.

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