Posted: August 6th, 2013

To what extent does Nervous Conditions illuminate or contradict Schraeder’s analysis of the politics of the African novel?

Tsitsi Dangarembga explores several themes in the story. She talks about the subjugation of women, by describing different characters in the story. She explores how, contrary to popular belief, some of the women in African societies fought for their independence. Although many women were submissive to their husbands and to their culture, there are those who dared to defy the norm. For instance, Lucie does not seem to mind working and being self-sufficient, in a culture that sees the men as providers in the family (Dangarembga, 2004, p. 121). The author shows that not all women obeyed all that the society expected them to, although these women were in the minority. Tambu does not mourn her brother’s death. Instead, she sees it as an opportunity for her to benefit. Indeed, Tambu gets the opportunity to go to school and to experience a new world. She develops a different perspective of the world, and she realizes that there is more to life than what her rural village presents. The book shows how Africans struggle between maintaining their culture and adopting the ways of the colonialists. This is especially clear in Babamukuru’s family, who all seem to have forgotten their African roots after living in England for a while. Nyasha and Chido find the African customs difficult (Dangarembga, 2004, p. 79). They are not willing to conform to the African practices. Nyasha does not let her father have the final word, and she dares to fight with him, something considered a taboo in the African culture. Chido on the other hand decides to date a white girl. Babamukuru’s wife rejects the duties assigned to her as the senior wife. She has experienced the life that the foreign women lead. Although she is educated, she does not have meaningful duties as a wife. There are struggles for the family, and they cannot decide whether they want to practice the ways of their people, or whether they want to adopt the foreign ways (Schraeder, 2003, p. 63).


Sahle observes that neo liberalism has affected men and women differently. It has encouraged patriarchal foundation in different sectors, such as the ownership of land and businesses (Sahle, 2006, p. 14). This has contributed to marginalization of women.  Neo liberalism has denied women the chance to work in formal sectors. They are denied a chance to work formally in agriculture and mining industries. Since the beginning of the colonial era, women are subjugated and down graded, and they are not given the opportunity to prove their worth. This is despite the fact that women are the major workers in farms, and they have contributed to building their economies in significant ways. The marginalization of women has meant that women have fewer chances and opportunities of getting ahead in life. It has created gendered employment in the sense that some sectors do not see the need to employ women. Women who do not have husbands to provide for them and their children have to look for a way to sustain their households. They result to doing high risk and illegal activities. Sahle points out that some of the women result to brew8ing beer and engaging in commercial sex trade so that they can get an income. Sex trade is a high-risk activity, and it has contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS (Sahle, 2006, p. 26). Colonialism in Africa brought about globalization, which in turn encouraged neo liberalism. Globalization disturbed whatever system was in place in the African context. Prior to this, women had the role of taking care of their families because they trusted the husbands to provide for them. Once neo liberalism emerged, new opportunities were created, and the men had to work far from home (Vavrus, 2006, p. 869). This encouraged family break ups, and left women with the sole responsibility of taking care of their homes. With the defined patriarchal society, women could not find worthy positions of employment, this compelled them to look for other means of getting an income, and they engaged in sexual activities. Unfortunately, patriarchal societies continue in most societies, and women are held in the same inferior position.


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