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Generosity and Belonging in Post-colonial Ireland and South Africa

  • Author(s): Allen, Elizabeth C.
  • Advisor(s): Duffy, Andrew
  • et al.
Abstract

This project explores why gestures of generosity, so prevalent in Irish and South African writing from 1980 to 2002, repeatedly fail to generate cross-cultural understanding and social cohesion. It uses gift exchanges, particularly monetary gifts and acts of hospitality, as vehicles for better understanding how post-colonial communities recognize and respond to difference, and how this often limits the possibilities of more inclusive communities. The overall impetus of “Generosity and Belonging” is to examine how dominant models of community in contemporary Ireland and South Africa construct the privilege of inclusion through the exclusion of ethnic, racial, gendered, and national Others. While these communities operate by exclusion, they present a facade of inclusivity; as such this project focuses on models of belonging that take on the form of exceptionalism, or the belief that a particular national community is distinct and extraordinary from others. While the emphasis is on national community this project uses friendship, specifically Derrida’s examination of the hegemonic Western model of friendship explored in The Politics of Friendship, as a concrete point of entry. The microcosm of friendship illustrates how individuals respond to each other’s differences, and illuminates how otherness is then understood at the macrocosmic level of community. Ultimately “Generosity and Belonging” is invested in exploring how representations of generosity in Irish and South African texts not only reveal the limits of community, but push against them in order to imagine more capacious forms of belonging. The case examples investigated in this project are ethnic difference in James Joyce’s early twentieth-century Ireland (Joyce’s Ulysses); racial difference in Apartheid South Africa (J.M. Coetzee’s Age of Iron, Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People, and photos by David Goldblatt and Rosalind Solomon); gender difference in the Irish Republic during the Troubles (Edna O’Brien’s House of Splendid Isolation and Pat Murphy’s Maeve); and finally, racial, class, and national difference in neoliberal, globalized South Africa (K. Sello Duiker’s Thirteen Cents and Gordimer’s The Pickup).

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