This dissertation explores the psychological effect of social inequality and social injustices fostered by colonialism as portrayed by Tsitsi Dangarembga in her novel, This Mournable Body (2018), the third novel in her acclaimed trilogy. I look at how some of the colonial social injustices were inherited and are being perpetuated by post-colonial governments and societies of today. The advancement of trauma theory has opened up new fields of studies to be explored when looking at postcolonial African literature. These subjects range from historical injustices, to issues involving oppression, race, and gender. Most recently the rise of the #metoo movement has exposed a deep rent in societies’ treatment of female voices. The rise of the #metoo movement suggests that there is an inadequacy of platforms where women can share their stories of trauma. Trauma narratives written by African female writers provide a platform where the social injustices endured by black women are expressed and realized. Dangarembga’s novel, like some other postcolonial African novels, reimagines the history of colonialism and aims to give perspectives necessary to redress the current social structures that oppress black women. To explore the presence of trauma in the novel, I use the psychoanalytic theories offered by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM), a publication proposed by the American Psychiatric Association used or the classification of mental disorders, together with the work of literary trauma theorists such as Caruth, Rothberg, Kaplan and Kaplan and others. I aim to reveal the psychological damage suffered by black women because of their gender and race. I argue in my analysis of the novel that colonial legacies are the driving force behind the social injustices that the black female characters in the novel face. History and memory function as the site of injustices and oppression in which trauma is situated. Through the exploration of history and memory, I reveal the history of victimization that the protagonist suffers and that is connected to her trauma. Dangarembga’s narrative renders in detail the process of reexperiencing, remembering, and narrating trauma. The dissertation is part of a Master’s in Creative Writing. The creative writing part of the M.A. is a novel titled The Straw That Grows in Dry Savannah Plains, which explores the subjects of migration, displacement and nostalgia in relation to the Zimbabwean diaspora in South Africa. Trauma in the novel is multidirectional: firstly, it experienced through the journeys undertaken in the process of migration and then it manifests in displacements as the immigrants struggle for survival in the new countries. Lastly, trauma in the South African context manifests through xenophobic attacks that immigrants suffer in the country and the loss of livelihoods that accompanies it.
Keywords: trauma, historical injustices, affect, gender, colonialism, patriarchy, Zimbabwe, Dangarembga.