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Battleground Bodies

Gender and Sexuality in Mozambican Literature

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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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Chapter 4: States of Exception: Suicide, Hunger and Haunting in Lília Momplé and Suleiman Cassamo

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Chapter 4 States of Exception: Suicide, Hunger and Haunting in Lília Momplé and Suleiman Cassamo For those who are haunted, this kind of death becomes a way of life. — Stuart J. Murray, ‘Thanatopolitics’ (2006: 106) Africa, as Achille Mbembe affirms, has been implicitly bound up with death in the Western imaginary since the early days of European expansionism, figuring as ‘a bottomless abyss where everything is noise, yawning gap, and primordial chaos’ (2001: 3). This singular and enduring Western vision of Africa, in all its countless historical and contemporary permutations, has exerted a persistent influence both on the ways that the West has rei- fied and rationalized its imperial presence on the continent, and on the discursive frameworks it has used to understand the processes and events that followed in colonialism’s wake. The association of Africa with death contributes heavily to the failure of the Western academy to productively theorize the dynamics of power at work on the continent, a shortcoming outlined in the Introduction to this study, since canonical theories of social and political power structures have tended to centre life as the guiding light of political thought; Michel Foucault’s concept of biopolitics is chief among these frameworks. In order to understand the realities of contemporary postcolonial nation-states and occupied territories, Mbembe suggests, we must ask more of theories that centre life in this way, untangling the role played within them by the ‘right to kill’ (2003: 12), and problematizing the assumed mutual exclusivity of death and life...

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