Radical Psychology
Volume Nine, Issue 2

Mother Power in the African context: Resisting agendas through mobilising m/other positions 

Jude Clark *


While much of our lives involve the enactment of socially constructed cultural representations which take gender specific forms, motherhood stands out as a construct imbued with extraordinary ideological and cultural significance (Kruger, 2003; Phoenix & Woollett, 1991). It also provides a pertinent illustration of the way in which some constructions come to assume an identity politics which homogenizes and naturalizes social categories and groupings. In Africa, like elsewhere in the world, motherhood has been an important theme (Oyewumi, 2001; Sudarkasa, 2004), informing women’s social identity and shaping their political involvement (Walker, 1995).  Within the African context, the construal of motherhood is heavily implicated in the network of ideological imperatives (gender, ‘race’, class, culture, nation, and empire) in response to which the Black, female subject is constructed (Mama, 1995). In South Africa a number of contextual factors, but perhaps most explicitly the system of Apartheid, has informed the ways in which White and Black women have put possibly common notions of motherhood (under patriarchy) to different political uses (Walker, 1995; Hassim, 1991).

A conceptual starting point for this paper is that Black women are produced as particular kinds of subjects through the discursive deployment of dominant constructions of African womanhood and motherhood, with the conflation of African womanhood and motherhood in itself being a discursive mobilisation with significant political implications. These discursive constructions are powerful in shaping how women perceive themselves and narrate their everyday lived experience and in positioning women in ways that could constrain possibilities for personal-political power. However, as stated by Walker (1995), although “particular, limited constructions of ‘motherhood’ have been appropriated within various patriarchal discourses, these discourses should not themselves be seen as definitive of women’s actual identities and experiences” (p.418). Acknowledging the different ideologies and discourses of motherhood under patriarchy, a more complex configuration of motherhood and gender identity has been called for (Walker, 1995; Kaplan, 1992). A multifaceted account of motherhood is especially important in the South African context, one that recognises historical and cultural specificity without reifying difference in the interpretation and experience of motherhood across the boundaries of ‘race’, class and sexuality that have so heavily prescribed reality in South Africa. Provocative questions on whether the construct of motherhood can offer women an emancipatory political identity would thus need to be explored (Walker, 1995; Lewis, 1992). Regarding the ambivalences and ambiguities of such questions, and with reference to Black South African women, Lewis (1992) has argued:

…the national liberation movement has defined women with reference to patriarchal ideology as sisters, mothers or wives, and women’s self-perceptions have often been shaped by these constructs. Within these disempowering statuses, however, women often developed new roles of authority and strength. However limited and ambiguous, these identities differ from the conventional passivity and silence of the western, middle class conceptions of sisterhood, motherhood and wifehood (p.13). 

Along a similar trajectory, this paper considers the ways in which women amend dominant narratives of African womanhood and motherhood and resist related agendas that constrain the possibilities for agency. Here, agency is broadly understood as the capacity to act, with an emphasis on how women “consciously re/produce their own conditions of being and assume responsibility for this process” (Kiguwa, 2006, p.14). However, as recognized by Butler (1995, p.46-47), “agency is always and only a political prerogative.  As such, it seems crucial to question the conditions of its possibility, not to take it for granted as an a priori guarantee”.                            

Agency is grounded within the instability of gender norms within society, and it is through a “process of narration that we mediate and make sense of inconsistencies, facilitating an imaginative and conscious process of change” (Kiguwa, 2006, p.14). However, as made evident in the above observation by Lewis (1992) and later on in this article, women’s agency remains a complex issue not only due to the contextual diversity in which it is actualised, but also because of the layers of negotiated meanings that shape how it is conceptualized and performed. What it means to be an agent is contested, and often in “facilitating an imaginative and conscious process of change” (Kiguwa, 2006, p.14) women can subvert even dominant notions of agentic action, performing agency by appropriating positions of seeming lack of agency, and in very real ways can thus “consciously re[-]produce their own conditions of being” (Kiguwa, 2006, p.14). Two central examples of this complexity of the notion of agency are given in this article. One concerns the way in which women in the research study co-opt, or appropriate, the archetypal image of victim (which contextually takes the form of the powerless African woman). The other is the way in which silence and the trope of the voicelessness of African women is used to mobilize an agentic position for these same women.

Informed by Foucauldian and critical feminist theoretical resources and drawing on a qualitative research project that focused on the life narratives of Black women in KwaZulu-Natal, this article explores the ways in which women adopt and adapt the patriarchal continuities across the private-public domain by utilising the subject positioning of ‘mother’. Of primary concern is the way in which this revised ‘m/other’ positioning was mobilised in ways that informed participants’ resistance to the research agenda and the tacit paternalism of the research relationship. This agentic performance unsettles the common opposition of the relative lack of power of the research participant and the institutional privilege and power of the researcher (a polarization that is amplified when the participants are Black, women and African and complicated even further when the researcher herself is from a historically marginalized group). The implications of resistant action by participants are considered particularly significant in contexts where African gender issues have been shaped by a history of colonialism and Apartheid, and where research activity increasingly draws on Black women as subjects and objects of knowledge production.

This article has a methodological focus, interrogating the discursive connections between the text and the contexts within which they are produced and in so doing, drawing predominantly on reflections on the research process. The discursive and ideological construction of research as a site of institutionalised power is taken seriously, necessitating an interrogation of the kinds of knowledges and subjectivities constructed and represented within this domain. Analytic commentary fluctuates between the descriptive, discursive and reflexive. Beginning with a methodological contextualization of the research and a description of the significance of critical reflexivity, this article moves on to address three thematic areas. The first is the dominant construal of African women as mother-figures, as self-sacrificing carers and nurturers. A description is given of how this construction was drawn on by participants and the possible historical and political sources of this trope are considered. The second thematic area concerns the interrogation of my own positioning as researcher. The final area analyses the ways in which the position of ‘mother’, and its various connotations, was utilized as a conduit of participants’ resistance to the research agenda, and by inference, to the power structures it represented.

Methodological Context

The research project drawn on in this paper was influenced by an interest in the social construction of Black, female subjectivities and in the everyday lived experiences of Black women. It explored the dominant discourses that were drawn on, or challenged, in Black South African women’s life stories and the ways in which socio-political transition was discursively represented in the stories women told of their lives (Clark, 2006). Between 2003 and 2004, a series of individual interviews and focus groups were conducted with twenty black women from KwaZulu-Natal, focusing on their life narratives. Ten participants lived in a rural context, were between the ages of 48 and 76 years, and all but one spoke isiZulu as a first language. They were involved in part-time waged labour as workers on sugarcane farms, domestic workers, and assistants in a child care centre, or were receiving a state pension. These ten women were connected to each other by their involvement in a sewing group run by a community-based charity and it is their narratives that inform this article. 

Participants’ life narratives were analysed using discourse analysis as outlined by Parker (1992). This version of discourse analysis which largely draws on the work of Foucault (1970) is interested in the social constitution of subjectivity, selfhood and power relations (Willig, 2000). It uncovers the political and social issues made relevant by the text, focusing on how certain subject positions are, or are not, made available in discourse and the ways in which this affects the experience of subjectivity (Willig, 2000). Within the discursive framework, life narratives are seen as presenting valuable material for analysis, as the ways in which women construct and narrate their lives and experiences present particular understandings of historical and contemporary social relations, hierarchies and practices. More broadly, stories are useful in performing the mediation of meaning, because they are associated with multiple and situated versions, rather than as singular truths (Burman, 2003). In so doing they can make evident the various layers of representation and interpretation and, as such, the position of the discourse analyst is not inconsequential, but of significance.

In the context of research activity, one consequence of the contribution of feminist knowledges has been an increased attention to the researcher’s experience and position(s) in the research process. Feminist scholarship has long recognised the complexities of the research process (Fine & Weiss, 1996), problematised the position of the researcher and unsettled previously taken-for-granted or ‘invisible’ positions of subjectivity of the researcher herself. A central aspect of the methodological resources drawn on within the critical feminist domain, and within the research informing this paper, is critical reflexivity (Lather, 1992). The weighty critique that has been levelled at the notion of reflexivity has generally been due to the fact that it has been construed and practiced as a passive, confessional process of inner exploration, as an individual and individualist activity (England, 1994; Parker, 2005). However, a critical reflexivity can allow for an interrogation of the workings of power within the institutionalized site of power that is research. As stated by Parker (2005, p 42) "critical reflection is an active rebellious practice that drives the individual into action as he or she identifies the exercise of power that pins him or her into place and the fault lines for the production of spaces of resistance".  Critical reflexivity at its interface with feminist and Foucauldian theoretical resources can thus provide “a contextualisation of experience and an analysis of its constitution and ideological power” (Weedon, 1987, p.125), offering conceptual possibilities for us to scrutinize the social world through the lens of our own subjectification (Davies, 2000).

Over a period of approximately six months I conducted focus groups and in-depth individual interviews with participants. This process of ‘data collection’ became an interesting and intricate performance of intersubjectivity and of the politics of knowledge production more broadly. The notion of motherhood was implicit in this interaction, compounding the social geometry of differential power along dimensions of age, ‘race’ and educational status in which the research interaction was embedded. Critical reflection allowed for an awareness of the ways in which a constellation of historical, institutional and personal factors informed research interaction, choreographing the shifting power relations between participants and I, and complicating my own positioning as a young, Black, female academic. 

Portrait of the African woman: Living just enough for the children

In the first phase of engagement with participants my academic status was salient and my positioning as an institutional representative  (i.e. as a researcher/psychologist from a university) largely shaped the content and form of initial interaction. The following necessarily lengthy excerpt from an introductory focus group reveals a narrative theme which was reproduced in subtle and explicit forms in subsequent individual interviews. The exchange below is translated from isiZulu:

Mrs D: You see as I’m learning how to sew, I have to take it, I’ve been sewing continental pillows, you see. Some people bought some so I used the money to buy other stuff. You know, now I can be able to pay the school fees with the money I’ve earned. Now I’m able to settle my debts, you see.

Mrs C: I’m not satisfied ( ) Compared to things I have to do for my grandchildren, it’s not enough, as they are still in school, they are supposed to carry lunchboxes. -

Group response: Yes!

Mrs C: That’s the problem. They have to carry lunchboxes! That’s the problem. 
It’s important for me to give them money to carry to school. But no! I don’t have it.
And you see this problem I have ( ) it seems to be the same that other women have.

Group response: We have the same problem, same problem.

There are many interesting points that could be discussed in reference to the above excerpt, not least of which being the form that this narrative takes.   However, more pertinent for analytic purposes is the ‘work’ that this narrative does.  Because stories are inextricably caught up in the larger sociocultural context, it is necessary to interrogate the conditions under which “particular individuals tell particular stories to particular listeners” (Kruger, 2003, p.199; Riessman, 1993).

In this extract the position of ‘mother’ (through that ‘grandmother’) is strongly mobilized in describing and representing everyday difficulties and in legitimizing a collective request for assistance. This narrative draws heavily on the trope of the multiply burdened African woman-mother, struggling on in dire adversity with her sole goal being to care for and nurture her children. The plea for help (or ‘aid’) gains its discursive power in representing what are commonly construed as taken-for-granted responsibilities of women, duties that are normalized and naturalized by being feminised. The act of ensuring that children attend school with “lunch” thus easily slips into a representation of a mother’s duty to feed her children, with the image of a hungry child and the unassailable virtue and altruism of the grand/mother working together to provide a potent moral optic for the narrative. Similarly, the act of financially enabling children’s education and supporting unemployed adult children powerfully invokes a dominant developmental theme of the mother’s primary responsibility to the ‘development’ of the child (this development represented here as ‘progress’). The historical transmutation of the cultural value of care is evident in the way in which the topic of education is core to participants’ narratives, not only in the above excerpt, but in the research project as a whole. Education has been constructed as a significant site of progress, but has also served as a site of racialised and gendered strategies of exclusion (having a particular economic nuance through the issue of school fees). As such, it continues to evoke profound emotional legitimacy, with women’s roles as ‘enablers’ of their children’s formal education being intricately linked to their roles as caregivers and mothers. This is evident in the excerpt below:

Mrs B: The biggest problem that we are facing is these children, especially these ones that have children of their own. We have raised our children, taught them, they have Grade 12, but now they can’t continue because we can’t afford to pay their tertiary fees. We don’t know which doors we should knock on so that they can continue to study. That is the problem.-

Mrs D: As they are waiting for funds to further their education, they’re having children. As they are waiting, they’re continuing having children of their own. They are suppose to be fed and well as their children, fathers are rejecting them or denying the paternity - 

Mrs B: If only their mothers were working in order to take care of their children. 

In the South African context, where formal education is highly valued and a site of visible meritocracy and social mobility, positioning women as the agents responsible for that forward mobility is a strong discursive move. When education comes to be so intimately linked to the construction of women’s roles as nurturers and carers (of children and family), the school seems to work as an extension of the home (and family) in service of ‘the nation’. This reproduces a longstanding theme of the ways in which gender issues permeate the conceptual and political domains surrounding nation-projects, with feminist scholarship having interrogated the strategies that normalise, naturalise and universalise women’s role as mothers in service of the nation (eg. Yuval-Davis, Anthias, Mama, Spivak, Kandiyoti).

A collective narrative that presents women as willing but unable to fulfill their ‘motherly’ roles of effectively caring for and nurturing children is a powerfully seductive narrative, one that international donor, charity and development agencies seem to respond to, reproduce, perpetuate and expand. Motherhood is at the centre of a representation of the African woman as powerful matriarch as well as powerless victim, both images constraining the possibilities for agency on the part of these women (Clark, 2001). The extremely difficult realities and limited resources of the older generation of rural women is certainly not being disputed, rather what is being explored is the function of a common elicited narrative that draws on a dominant trope of the African woman. Lewis (2000) posits that there is a particular historical source to this trope. She states:

The myth of the black woman as strong mother and nurturer, ever-sacrificing, ever-dutiful and denying her own pain and thoughts, seems to reach back in the South African cultural imagination to the familiar figure of the reliable, ever-present domestic servant. Both her status, as "mother" whose services are bought (and from absolute duty can therefore be expected) and the familiar stereotypes of her humility, loyalty and duty seem to come into play when we examine South Africa’s prominent images of the unconditional love, loyalty, fortitude and strength of black women as mothers (p.5).

While it is recognized that these images are implicated in redefinitions of motherhood by Black women themselves, it is important to recognize the “potentially coercive effects” and some of the “more oppressive sources of the Black-woman¬-strong-mother image, particularly because the image is so seductive, seemingly celebrating an empowering identity for a politically subordinate group” (Lewis, 2000, p.5).

The relationship between collective subjectivity and the notion of agency is evident in the focus group excerpt. Furthermore what is highlighted is that even when women present themselves as the archetypal victim, this can involve adopting an agentic position and subverting the dominant discourse. Butler (1995, p.135) suggests that ‘agency’ is present at points where discourse is renewed, i.e. where there is a “resignification, redeployment, subversive citation from within, and interruption and inadvertent convergences with other networks” . 

Subject Positioning: Are you an academic, a child or a mother?

The subject positioning of ‘mother’ also influenced the research interaction and discourse in important ways. An example is presented in the following excerpts from the same focus group discussion used earlier:

Excerpt 1

Mrs A: … If we talk to her she might be able to open some doors we were not aware of. To be able to get help from the doors she had opened for us, even though she doesn’t have power ( ) we’ve got so many problems as grandmothers.

Mrs B: We have grandchildren, no money to help them further their education even though we wish we could, we don’t know where to turn. Maybe if we talk to her she can refer us to white people who can help us, that’s what I thought …

Excerpt 2

Mrs A: But I think that we should try and help ourselves, not that we should wait and see if other people can help us. It should be that if other people help us, but we also must have started something and carry on with our plans -

Group response:  Yes.

Mrs A: They must meet us halfway, even the one who has nothing, that is not a problem…

In these excerpts, I, as an institutional representative, am positioned as gatekeeper, perceived as being able to facilitate access to assistance or solutions to problems. Although there is acknowledgment of my limited power in the earlier excerpt ('even though she doesn’t have power'; 'even the one who has nothing, that is not a problem'), these statements ring hollow as they are subsumed beneath the narrative’s broader agenda of soliciting assistance. Furthermore, while I am the immediate audience - the one spoken to (although not even that, because I am referred to in the third person, as if I was not present), this story is directed at a particular audience (for “white people”). The initial deference to my status done, and the gesture towards my limited power acceded to, I am re-positioned as messenger to the ‘real’ power base – the racialised (and almost certainly gendered) institution. The various reiterations of the paternalism of research relationships are exposed as structured both within and around particular relations of power, with me positioned as the culturally masculine knower in this particular context of interactions.

Attending to the power relations within the context of research necessitates interrogating the range of complex subject-positions beyond that specific context. Analysis involves considering how subjectivity and associated privileges and inequalities are negotiated in the research process. The workings of power and the different ways in which subjectivity is embodied and institutionalised are thus interrogated at the level of interaction of the interview or focus group, but also beyond that specific context. This is consistent with feminist approaches that have highlighted the need for an account of the historical and cultural location and production of analytic processes (Burman, 2004). This process includes accounting for the position of the analyst and necessitates attending to the concept of reflexivity.

The positions of ‘mother’ and ‘child’ were significant in shaping the specifics of the research interaction and informing the broader framework of assumed commonality and difference between the researcher and participants. In the opening focus group introductions, all but one of the participants had described themselves as mothers.  My description of myself as not having children of my own received two general responses. One was of shock, possibly based on the perceived cultural uniqueness of a married adult woman being without biological offspring. For the most part however, participants responded with support and encouragement, offering their commiserations and encouraging me to ‘keep trying’ and to keep praying. One participant offered to obtain a herbal remedy for my ‘condition’ from a local traditional healer. In many parts of the world a woman is seen as an oddity as a result of not claiming or performing motherhood as a central aspect of her identity. In the African context it is not uncommon for children to be ‘given’ to women who do not have biological children or whose children have died or no longer living with her (Sudarkasa, 2004). I experienced this conferring of the motherhood role when, at one point in the research, a participant asked me if I would raise her two grandchildren. She explained that their mother – her daughter – had died and that their father was very ill and close to death and that she was already not coping with the responsibility of taking care of numerous other dependents. She reasoned that I would welcome this opportunity, seeing that I ‘did not have any children’. In our context of heightened need for carers of children due to the AIDS pandemic, this phenomenon is probably on the increase, bringing further dimensions to the discursive nuances and implications to notions of motherhood. This anecdote also illustrates how issues of power and representation infiltrate all acts of knowledge production, with much at stake (theoretically and politically) in the methodological and interpretive choices we make.

“Call me mother”

The dynamics around language were also a significant part of the research interaction, reflecting historical patterns and discourses of transition in the ways in which differences and shifts in educational status were mapped onto ‘race’, age, class and regional (urban/rural) categorisations. Again, the notion of motherhood is at the core of an illustration, showing the implications of specific methodological choices. The issue of ‘naming’ and how I, as researcher, addressed participants, illustrates the inextricability of language from broader cultural and power systems. Throughout (and beyond) the research interaction, I addressed the participants using the prefix ‘ma’[mother].   Within the localized cultural and linguistic setting, this is deemed the most appropriate way of addressing an elder African woman. There are various implications to this manner of address. Most broadly, by literally calling your participant “mother”, you are positioned as minor, as child. This might not be problematic outside of the research context, but has direct impact on the research interaction and in this instance was mobilized in powerful ways by participants. In one incident where I addressed the youngest participant (at 48 years old) as “sister”, she responded by saying “Call me mother”, clearly issuing an instruction and prescribing our subsequent interaction. By being made complicit in these generational and cultural communication networks has a host of other implications. Apart from taking on the role of ‘minor’ in the interview, my positioning as child and my intermittent questions, particularly when they were perceived as probing questions, was construed as rudeness. Furthermore, my positioning as child shaped what was seen as admissible in narrations, with certain topics such as marital relationships and sexuality being viewed as inappropriate for discussions between generations (between ‘adult’ and ‘child’).
An additional consequence of these various factors is that I was addressed and spoken to as a child, with the following excerpt showing a subtle illustration thereof. Here, the participants are discussing children’s changing behaviour and the role of discipline in light of a new discourse of children’s rights. 

Mrs B: You can never handle the child like we did before ( ) no no, they can have you arrested for abuse, while it’s the child who is abusing you -

Mrs C: At the same time the child has the audacity to tell you that s/he has rights to do whatever s/he likes -

Mrs B: Rights are supposed to be changed so that -

Mrs A: That’s the main reason why we are in this situation.  It’s giving us a very hard time. You know sometimes I look outside at a black child and realise that a black child was not born to be taught without a hiding -

Group response: Yes, a good hiding!

Mrs A [to researcher]: You know that, hey?

Group laughter

Mrs A: We grew up like that, you see, you grew up scared but not now -

Group laughter: Yes.

While the above discussion is a common one in everyday conversation, it takes on a specific function when a statement is directed at me. In reminding me of my own experiences of physical punishment of beatings (which are assumed), not only am I being more overtly positioned as child, but I am being disciplined in that very moment. That pointed statement, amidst all the chuckles, felt like a subtle threat, a reminder that as a child, there is still that possibility – that I could still receive a ‘good hiding’. The normalizing and naturalizing of beatings aside, these participants clearly mobilize their role as mothers to make their claim to power in the research interaction. The next section goes on to discuss various other strategies of agency used by participants in resisting the research agenda and my power within it.

Agentic strategies

At points where I seemed to contradict the expected ‘child’ role, participants would challenge or ‘pause’ the process in various ways. One was through asking what exactly it was I was researching. The continual questions were not merely a representation of the uncertainty of what the process was about, but were also ‘doing different work’, challenging what I was putting forward as the dominant framing of the process. The interview is a powerful site of narrative production (Czarniawska, 2004). Researchers have the power to determine, shape and frame the questions that are asked, not only as we speak them into being, but as we mediate their discursive and ideological and value underpinnings (which are sometimes not as easy to see or hear as the words we speak). As participants continued to ask me what the research ‘was about’ and why I was doing it (questions usually asked at points where we were moving into a topic area unsuitable for children), I became less and less able to clearly answer this question. These strategies that worked to render me as uncertain of the topic and the process as participants can be viewed as an act of agency and reclamation of power. A consequence of this was that I was pushed to analyse the issues and the implications of particular ways of framing, relating and producing knowledge. The role that these strategies played highlighted the need to go beyond the immediate spoken text and context of the interview and to focus on the broader cultural resources drawn on to perform agency.

Silence was also discursively present in the research interactions. At certain junctures, participants’ silence was not conceived or experienced as being due to their anxiety or the presence of the tape recorder. This silence felt like the participant was consciously choosing not to speak, clearly knowing what was being left unsaid, but also alluding to the possibility that I knew what was being left unsaid. In this particular research context, I experienced participant’s silence in a rather persecutory way, as a resistance to the particular way in which I was attempting to engage and ‘know’ and interact. Intellectually, I also recognized how I used this kind of silence from contexts where I felt pushed to ‘know’ or to convey my knowledge in ways that I experienced as unfamiliar and/or oppressive. However, in this case I was on the receiving end of this strategic silence, it was being directed at me and made me recognise (in a visceral way) the power of the participant choosing not to speak.

As highlighted by feminist engagements with the theme of silence, women have been and continue to be forced into silence because the patriarchal forces in society dispossessed them of the power to speak about their experiences of these oppressive forces (van Schalkwyk, 1999). While silence can enable exclusion or marginalization through a number of ways, it can arise not only out of the inability to speak but can also be grounded on the unwillingness to speak. In South Africa’s historical context of Apartheid, choosing to remain silent has historically been one of the few choices open to Black women and has been a significant site of agency and resistance. Viewing silence as an agentic act, a choice to withhold oneself or information also highlights how silence can act as a form of resistance to the dominance of those who have historically been accorded the power to interpret the words and silence of the subordinated ‘Other’. In this context silence was working in the research process as an agentic act of resistance – not only within and against the power dynamics and hierarchies within that context (between ‘me’ and ‘them’), but crucially, within and against the very discourses that framed that research process (for the participants as well as for me). And mother – child dynamics were at the core of it all.


The discursive power of the construct of “African woman” and the validation of African women’s presumed qualities - primarily as mothers - serve a range of political agendas that often work to perpetuate the subordination and exploitation of these women while appropriating a discourse of their empowerment. As researchers, we need to turn our critical attention to the oppressive implications of having particular images of African femininity as the ideal, and question the imperative behind the motherist ideology. We need to consider the ways in which representations move us further away from the realities of Black women (Motsemme & Ratele, 2002), but also recognise that these images are intricately caught up in redefinitions of motherhood by Black women themselves (Lewis, 2000). This paper illustrated how participants’ identities as mothers combined both complicity with and challenge to dominant norms.

In showing how critical reflexivity can bring to the fore salient methodological and conceptual debates, it also considered how the mobilization of the mother position shaped the kinds of knowledges and subjectivities constructed and represented within the research interaction. As researchers we cannot separate ourselves from the institutional privileges of power. However there is great potential in interrogating “the ambiguities, ambivalences and instabilities of the identities of researcher and researched” and the “shifting convergences and tensions between respective agendas” (Burman & MacLure, 2004, p.288). Exploring the historical, material, discursive and subjective conditions of power that prescribed or precluded certain speaking positions for women, might very possibly be the key to uncovering the possible political opportunities for, and modes of, resistance within our prevailing social arrangements of patriarchy in Africa.


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Biographical Note

Jude Clark is a clinical psychologist and lecturer in the School of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. Her research interests include critical trauma theory and discursive constructions of Black women’s experiences.