This study identifies and critiques the historical, political and discursive moments and contexts that have shaped autobiographical writing in Zimbabwe. It does this by locating the autobiographies of Frank Johnson, Hans Sauer, Hylda Richards, Lawrence Vambe, Abel Muzorewa, Maurice Nyagumbo, Peter Godwin, Ian Smith, Joshua Nkomo, Fay Chung, Judith Todd and Edgar Tekere in their historical, political and discursive contexts, while also demarcating the narrating subjects in these contexts. The study seeks to examine the kind of autobiographical subjectivities that emerge in these contexts and its point of departure is that autobiographical remembering and story-telling are historically situated. It further problematises these subjectivities by showing how they are constituted by memory, experience, identity, agency and embodiment as they are inflected by history and power relationships. Literary criticism of Zimbabwean writing has not accounted for how self narration and conceptions of the self emerge out of historical, political, cultural and national processes at any given time. It has also not shown how these processes have occasioned the production of autobiographical narratives and the nature of subjectivities that these processes construct. Through the endeavours of this study autobiographical subjects are demarcated and understood in diverse contexts.
The study approached the analyses of the selected life narratives from postcolonial, dialogic and intertextual perspectives. Postcolonial theory as a critical method problematises human experiences and cultural and class identities as they relate to the power dynamics of colonialism and its aftermaths. In deploying postcolonial theory the analyses in Chapters Two, Three, Four and Five establish that subjects of postcolonial autobiography in Zimbabwe develop complex subjectivities that emerge from the contradictions of history and postcolony. While some autobiographers belong to a similar historical epoch, their subjectivities are not necessarily the same but diverse and complex. The study reveals that these contradictions are constitutive of the hybrid autobiographical subjectivities of the narrators, which range from pioneer, domestic settler, nationalist, radical nationalist to nation-builder, freedom-fighter, rights activist and dissenting subjectivities. Bakhtin‟s notion of dialogism provides insight into the nature of autobiographical discourse in these narratives from a stylistic perspective and reveals the dialogic practices that narrating subjects engage in to mediate their subjectivities. The application of dialogism shows that the narrating I‟s subjectivity is formed and manifests at the point where the “I” is in dialogue with another‟s word. Self conception is thus located where the public and private selves converge in narrative. The analyses of these narratives also make use of intertextuality, which establishes the relationality between studied texts and other narratives. The study reaches the conclusion that the historicity of autobiographical story telling should be a guiding framework for understanding autobiographical subjectivities and for a theory of autobiography in Zimbabwe. The study also facilitates a reconsideration of Zimbabwe‟s violent past since it positions autobiographical narratives as sites for rethinking the politics and practices of life writing.