The Construction of Female Agency in David Mulwa’s Prose Fiction
This study seeks to examine how female agency is constructed in David Mulwa’s prose-fiction, the novella We Come in Peace and the novel Flee Mama Flee. In the selected texts, Mulwa’s re-imagines slavery and colonialism as systems that doubly marginalized women, yet, he deliberately portrays female characters who can acquire the power to make individual decisions against the backdrop of this marginalization. The study begins by (re)conceptualizing the notions of ‘power’ and ‘agency’ within the context of slavery by interrogating the extent to which Mulwa depicts female characters, laughter and voice as acts of agency. The study then examines characters within the binaries of white/black, colonizer/ colonized, man/ woman, and master/slave to determine how this construction leads to the ‘othering’ of women within the context of colonialism. Moreover, the study recognizes the author’s attempt to create women capable of subverting the forces that ‘Other’ them. The studyviews this representation as the author’s ‘enlightened compassion’ to restore agency to women. The study employs the theory of Narratology and Postcolonial theory as the interpretive grids. Narratology focuses on the structural and textual choices the author makes in the texts, and Postcolonial theory focuses on issues of marginality such as Said’s notion of Orientalism to examine how marginal groups articulate agency in relation to the social contexts. Besides, the study models Spivak’s approaches in representing the gendered subaltern to read the depiction of female characters in Mulwa’s prose fiction. The study concludes that by constructing typical female characters and then depicting them in a manner that foregrounds their voice and agency, Mulwa’s prose fiction breaks the powerlessness associated with the situation of the woman along the Kenyan coast. Definition of Terms Female Agency In this study, female agency refers to the ability of the female characters to have control to make decisions over the course of their lives, economically, politically and culturally. With this power, they can question the socio-cultural norms or even establish new standards for themselves. By writing the women into a historical context in which their voice has been shadowed, Mulwa’s approach is similar to that of the Subaltern Studies group. Led by Ranajit Guha, they attempted to reclaim the history of the Indian masses, which they argued had been either glossed over or silenced in the colonialist historiography and the nationalist narratives by the elite Indians. They espoused the idea that there may have been political dominance, but that this was not hegemonic. By tracing the voices of these ordinary individuals, they shifted the focus from the subaltern to “subaltern agency” which emphasized the power of the individual. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak developed on the work of the Subaltern Studies Project by introducing two aspects into it, namely: the position of the gendered subaltern and the representation of subaltern in literature. Regarding representation, the Subaltern Studies group provided two ways of doing this: either reading the elitist books against the grain to identify the silences and glosses or examine the representation of the subaltern agency in works that overtly attempt to give agency to the ordinary people. In “Can the Subaltern Speak”, Spivak focuses on the position of the gendered subaltern who is deeply in shadow and therefore cannot speak. Instead, she needs someone to speak for her. In this approach, the contribution and condition of the subaltern would be presented as part of the history of the nation. This study uses Spivak’s approach toexamine the representation of the female subaltern in David Mulwa’s prose fiction.
The following license files are associated with this item: