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Battleground Bodies

Gender and Sexuality in Mozambican Literature


Eleanor K. Jones

This is the first book to provide a comparative exploration of the gendered and sexual body in Mozambican literature, engaging with the work of six authors spanning different generations, styles and aesthetics. The study begins by providing a detailed and innovative survey of the dynamics of gender, sexuality and power in the Portuguese colonial and Mozambican post-independence contexts, from the nineteenth century to the turn of the millennium. This initial investigation provides the sociohistorical backdrop for in-depth analyses of representations, uses and subversions of the body in poetry and prose fiction by José Craveirinha, Noémia de Sousa, Lília Momplé, Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa, Paulina Chiziane and Suleiman Cassamo. Using a wide and interdisciplinary range of theoretical frameworks, the book offers a fresh and creative new perspective on Mozambican history, political life and literary output.


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Introduction: An Iron House: Approaching Gender and Sexuality in Mozambique


Introduction An Iron House: Approaching Gender and Sexuality in Mozambique In the heart of urban Maputo, halfway between the modern skyline of downtown and the uphill sprawl of residential neighbourhoods, stands an unusual building. At odds with the colonial grandeur, Soviet minimalism or capitalist gleam that characterize the bulk of the city’s architecture, the building is unique, made not from stone, concrete or weatherboard, but of neatly stacked geometric iron panels. The popular legend behind Maputo’s ‘Casa de Ferro’ [Iron House], repeated ad libitum by tourist guides online and in print, is that it was designed by Gustave Eiffel himself, and com- missioned in the early 1890s by Mozambique’s Governor General to serve as his place of residence in the city, then known as Lourenço Marques. Having never set foot in Mozambique, however, Eiffel had failed to take the country’s tropical climate into account, and the newly constructed Iron House turned out to be too hot inside to inhabit (Briggs n.d.; Fitzpatrick et al. 2013: 149; Slater 2013: 39). The House’s official history is both more complex and less certain. An 1895 study by Eduardo de Noronha, tasked with organizing the dis- trict’s governmental archive in 1880, states that the House was indeed com- missioned by the Portuguese colonial government as a place of residence (108). The reason for choosing the design, Noronha affirms, was one of fashionable caprice, inspired by the craze for Belgian-manufactured pre- fabricated iron houses in the Congo (108). It was brought in pieces from...

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