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Mothering the Nation

Mothering the Nation

Women’s Bodies as Nationalist Trope in Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory

(p.96) 4 Mothering the Nation
African Diasporic Women's Narratives
Simone A. James Alexander
University Press of Florida

Addressing the masculinist guise embedded in the term “mothers of the nation,” this chapter demonstrates how Danticat confronts hegemonic masculinity and nationalism by decoding the nationalist language of the term “mothers of the nation.” It examines how women were politicized as “a wife and mother of the nation,” prerequisites for good citizenship, and saddled with the duty to not only take care of her children but also her country. The language within which women are scripted is articulated and dominated by men. As such, men are projected on the national scene as protectors/defenders of women and the state and enforcers of state-regulated laws. The language of nationalism is used to not only restrict or limit women's public roles or appearances, denying them the ability to “practice citizenship,” but it also requires them to control their sexuality by espousing and practicing proper womanhood. Therefore, the nationalist language functions as an approved language through which sexual control and repression are justified and masculine prowess is expressed and exercised.

Keywords:   Nationalism, Nation, Hegemonic masculinity

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