Implications of Tambu’s and Nyasha’s homosocial bond in Nervous Conditions

Boehmer, Elleke. “Tropes of Yearning and Dissent: The Troping of Desire in Yvone Vera and Tsitsi Dangarembga.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 38.1 (2003): 135-148. Sage Premier All Access. Web. Feb 2016.

Of the articles present here, this is the one I will be most in conversation with because it offers an applicable approach for reading a myriad of homosocial bonds to restructure how women’s African literature is configured within the greater socio-political discourse of African literature. Boehmer brings juxtaposes Zimbabwean women writers and “a question of same-sex sexuality: its configurations of desire, its vocabularies of aspiration.” She situates her argument keeping her mind that queer sexuality still goes unspoken in African writing and criticism and, in post-colonial discourses, more generally. She defines the differences in how we might read LGBTQIA literatures as distinct from how we me read Queer readings of literature. She advocates using “a malleable, restorative aesthetics of queerness would” widen women’s possibilities for articulation, witness, and self-healing

Dangarembga,Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. Women’s Press. London. 1988.

Dangarembga’s book will be my primary source. I’ll focus on the homosocial bond between Tambu and Nyasha paying particular attention to the room and bathroom that the cousins share. Through the lens of queer theory and postcolonial theory, I will offer argue that their abbreviated “love affair” suggests a limit to the re-productivity of the fusion of the re/structured African independent state and the notion of progress offered by colonial education. Dangaremba’s inclusion of these shared bed moments suggest the opportunity for young women to explore a sexuality and selfhood not limited to roles as vessels of the reproduction of the political agents at play in the countries they inhabit. In some way that I have not yet decided on, I will have to address the idea of incest with regard to sexuality in the narratives.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. The Book of Not. Ayebia Clarke Publishing. 2006

The sequel to Nervous Conditions offers an inside look at the space of the all-girls school, a new rendering of Babamukuru’s role within former Umtali, and a view of Netasi as a  female soldier. I will use this book as background and to keep a clear sense of the trajectories of the hierarchies of power initiated in the Nervous Conditions.

Driver, Dorothy. “Drum Magazine (1951-9) &the Spatial Configurations of Gender.” k. darian-smith, L. gunner & Sarah Nuttall (eds) Text, Theory, Space: Land Literature & History in South African & Australia. London: Routledge, 1996: 231-42

Driver’s discussion of Drum offers the clear and pertinent argument that “femininity was being made to fit a certain space, but that it was always also threatening to exceed that space; contradictorily, then, in a state of ‘nervous condition.’” Her claim echoes a leading concern in Dangerembga’s Nervous Conditions that will, I suspect, inform how I read the bloodied bathroom, the violated bedroom,  and the subsequent disintegration of a generative, though reproductively inviable relationship between Tambu and Nyasha.

de Lauretis, Teresa. “Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities: An Introduction.” Originally published in differences. 1991.

I’m using this article to understand the origins of Queer Theory, to point out that there is no corresponding theory that originates from African literatures, and to argue for how it might be applied despite that significant limitation.


Shaw, Carolyn Martin. “‘You had a daughter, but I am becoming a woman’: sexuality, feminism and postcoloniality in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions and She No Longer Weeps.” Research in African Literatures 38.4 (2007): 7+. Biography in Context. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

This will be a secondary source. It is included in this list because the article offers insight into a complication in sexuality within an additional familial context that includes a generational component. Anthropologist Carolyn Martin Shaw offers a reading of the novel in light of the play provides insight into the sexual tension in the father-daughter relationship and suggests that Nyasha’s nervous condition is in good part derived from the opposition between becoming a woman and being a daughter. Dangarembga’s feminism, expressed through the power of speaking up and the erotic as power, has traces of the work of Audre Lorde, which Dangarembga uses and critiques.


Selvick, Stephanie M. “Beyond the binary: Same-sex desire and gender defiance in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditons.Journal of Postcolonial Writing 49.3 (2013): 278-290. Taylor & Francis. Web. Mar. 2016.

I am reading this article in conversation with Boehmer’s in an effort to triangulate the meaning of “beyond the binary” and “queer” so that I can situate my interpretation of the roles of Tambu and Nyasha in conversation with a mode of reading African women writers broadly as separate from reading a homoerotic relationship. This article reads Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions through the critical perspectives of queer and postcolonial theories to explore how the intimate relationship between the narrator Tambudzai and her cousin Nyasha is constructed beyond the binary of “homosexual” and “heterosexual”, and outside the temporal markers of “colonial” and “postcolonial”. In particular, it focuses on the role that colonial objects of material culture play in Tambu and Nyasha’s intimate and evolving relationship. Clothing, books, tampons and music become catalysts which encourage Tambu and Nyasha to interrogate their gendered and sexual preferences. At the same time, Tambu and Nyasha queer these objects’ homogenizing imperial purposes and in doing so produce same-sex eroticism.


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