Of dirt, disinfection and purgation: Discursive construction of state violence in selected contemporary Zimbabwean literature

Keywords: dirt, filth, disease, dissenting voices, state violence, power, nationalism, Zimbabwe, memory and belonging, discursive construction, Gukurahundi massacres, Operation Murambatsvina


This paper examines post-independent Zimbabwean literary narratives which engage with how the ruling ZANU-PF government frames dissenting voices as constituting dirt, filth and undesirability. Making use of Achille Mbembe's postulations on the "vulgarity of power" and Kenneth W. Harrow's readings of the politics of dirt, the central thesis of this paper is that the troping of dirt and state sponsored violence are closely related to the themes of memory and belonging. Literary works by writers such as Chistopher Mlalazi, NoViolet Bulawayo and John Eppel become self-effacing speech acts that are involved in reimagining and revisioning our understanding of power dynamics and how this affects human and social experiences.

Author Biography

Gibson Ncube, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch

Gibson Ncube is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at Stellenbosch University. His interests are in gender/queer studies, cultural studies in Africa.


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How to Cite
Ncube, G. (2018). Of dirt, disinfection and purgation: Discursive construction of state violence in selected contemporary Zimbabwean literature. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 55(1), 41-53. https://doi.org/10.17159/2309-9070/tvl.v.55i1.1548
Research articles