Abstract

abstract:

In this article, I read the postcolonial Bildung that Ian Holding's protagonist undergoes in Of Beasts and Beings in the context of Zimbabwe's policy of reconciliation. On becoming aware of his whiteliness, this character, prompted by shame, writes a narrative in which he projects himself into the position of a black person. I argue that this act of imaginative identification may be read as the white protagonist's attempt to reconcile with his black compatriots, but also show that the form of reconciliation here involved is dialectical in nature rather than assimilative. Thus conceived, reconciliation places the two races in a dialectical relationship that posits the possibility of their sublation and with it the attainment of a truly postcolonial condition. I, however, go on to argue that the novel self-reflexively questions its representation of this post-racial state by acknowledging its own implication in colonial history. Through a critique of its shameful complicity with this history, it casts doubt on the ability of the sympathetic imagination to enable a transcendence of the discourses of whiteness. Finally, I contend that the novel's desire for transcendence, despite its awareness of its implication in colonial history, invests it with an ambivalence that allows it to negotiate the problem of the shamefulness of white, postcolonial writing.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2044
Print ISSN
0034-5210
Pages
pp. 198-212
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-03
Open Access
No
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