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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Between Fiction and History: Modes of Writing Abortion in Africa
Author:Hunt, Nancy R.
Periodical:Cahiers d'études africaines
Geographic terms:Subsaharan Africa
Health, Nutrition, and Medicine
Abstract:Clandestine, unsafe abortion is a frequent topic in African feminist novels of the 1980s and 1990s, and the paper proposes that historians should wonder why. It first provides a review of the medical and social scientific literature on induced abortion in Africa, showing how the problem went from virtual ignorance in 1965 through two explosions of research and concern, one gynaecological and popular from the late 1960s, another social scientific and epidemiological from the late 1980s. A close reading of five African novels as artefacts about abortion follows. They are: 'Le baobab fou' by Ken Bugul; À vol d'oiseau' (Véronique Tadjo); 'C'est le soleil qui m'a brûlée' (Calixthe Beyala); 'The Sympathetic Undertaker and Other Dreams' (Biyi Bandele-Thomas); and 'Butterfly Burning' (Yvonne Vera). Each represents abortion as a personal trial inextricably entangled with relationships; and most speak to an individual desire to terminate a pregnancy as an aspect of self-realization. The author argues that we need a history of girls seeking modernity in Africa and knotted links among this seeking, fantasy and desire, and their resorting to abortion. According to her, these novels should be read and taught not as reflections of the social, but as constitutive objects, posing selves in formation. Historians have much to learn from interrogating fiction as modes of textualization that enable us to rethink form, structure, sequence, and anachrony in historical writing. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]