The politics of ‘othering’ in Tshiwa Trudie Amulungu’s Taming My Elephant
In post-colonial theory, the concept of ‘othering’ is commonly used by critics to describe the process by which the colonizer defines him/herself in relation to an inferior “other”: the colonized. This paper shows that in the anti-colonialist struggle, new dynamics emerge. The formerly colonized subject enters an altered power relation in which he or she practises forms of ‘othering’ as well. The case study of Namibian writer Tshiwa Trudie Amulungu’s autobiography “Taming My Elephant” reveals how this habitus has hampered SWAPO’s project of ‘national reconciliation’. In a personal account of her path to exile and back home 12 years later, Amulungu presents herself as an outspoken SWAPO-supporter. However, an analysis of her life narrative, while focusing on practices of ‘othering’, exposes persistent misalignments of and challenges for the post-colonial nation which are in conflict with the dominant political discourse. In the discussion of the performances of othering described in “Taming My Elephant” Amulungu’s life narrative comes to be seen as a correction of the state-written narrative, which glorifies the liberation struggle and celebrates Namibia’s ‘unity in diversity’. Simultaneously, it retraces how Amulungu overcame othering, undertook reconciliation in the private sphere and, together with her ‘interracial’ family, has created a peaceful cohabitation of black and white Namibians.
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