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Open Access

Document Type


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Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

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Month Degree Awarded



Zakes Mda, Ways of Dying, Cultural Identity, African Literature, Orality, Imagination


Since the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and his subsequent election to the presidency in 1994, South Africa certainly has not achieved the hopes and dreams of its people or for the rest of the continent. But despite bleak conditions, there are many who still have hope for their country. One of those people is Zakes Mda, and his hope is reflected in his novels. Yet, his novels remain complex. They do not provide all-encompassing solutions or answers to the problems that face the nation. But they do address questions with possibilities, suggestions, and innovation. The South Africa he creates, both in the past and the present, embodies what the real South Africa is and isn’t, and what it has the potential to be. Mda is not afraid to be critical of his own people, he is not afraid to face the history of his country with an equally critical lens, and even more importantly, he is not afraid to face the future of his country with that same critical gaze. This open approach to the people of his country, to its history, and current policies opens up his narrative to imagination, allowing his characters to re-envision themselves more completely and form a more complete and encompassing cultural identity that was previously denied to them.


First Advisor

Stephen Clingman