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Stanlake Samkange’s Insufferable Zimbabwe: Distanciating Trauma from the Novel to Philosophy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 April 2021

Abstract

This article theorizes the Zimbabwean writer Stanlake Samkange’s turn from the novel to philosophy as an effort to circumvent the representational pressure exerted by African cultural traumatization. In breaking with the novel form to coauthor a philosophical treatise called Hunhuism or Ubuntuism in the same year as Zimbabwe achieves independence (1980), Samkange advances a comportment-based, deontological alternative to the psychic or subjective model of personhood that anchors trauma theory. Revisiting the progression from his most achieved novel, The Mourned One, to Hunhuism or Ubuntuism thus offers fresh insight into the range of options available to independence-era writers for representing the relationship between African individuality and collectivity. At the same time, it suggests a complementary and overlooked relationship between novelistic and philosophical forms in an African context.

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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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References

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30 Samkange with Samkange, Hunhuism or Ubuntuism, 39. Following Tarisayi A. Chimuka’s essay “Ethics Among the Shona,” the Shona word kuenzanisa/kuenzaisa would best correspond to this sense of “justice conceived as fairness”; see Zambezia 281 (2001): 23–37, esp. 34. I think it is worth adding here that kuenzanisa can also be translated as “to compare.” Interestingly, Chimuka then follows Herbert Chimhundu in seeing the Shona tendency to offer proverbs in contradictory pairs as evidence of a cultural bias toward moderation (ibid.).

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68 The kingdom or empire of Mutapa, often written elsewhere Mwenemutapa, lasted from 1430 to 1760, and the Rozwi empire, which emerged from Mwenemutapa, from 1684 to 1834. The Samkanges’ main purpose in introducing them is to show the diverse origins of what is collectively referred to as “Shona” culture.

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