The Ethics of Dissident Desire in Southern African Writing

Dobrota Pucherová



Desire has had notoriously negative connotations in southern African contexts due to its association with racialized and gendered violence as part of the region’s experience of settler colonialism. In this book, desire in South African and Zimbabwean fiction and poetry written between 1960-2005 is re-evaluated as a positive force that can contravene the racially exclusive identity discourses of the region’s history. In a context where rationalism failed to offer ways out of colonial violence, affective impulses towards the other – associated here with Levinas’ eros, as well as Derrida’s friendship and hospitality – become a boundary-breaking energy that can redefine both the body and the nation. Through the trope of dissident desire, the creolisation and hybridity of culture and identity in southern Africa is emphasized, placing the region at a crossroads of cultures and as part of a cosmopolitan community. The study has implications for recent developments in South African and Zimbabwean history and politics, where racial and ethnic nationalisms are seen to have clandestinely entered the discourses of multiculturalism and development.


One of the most exhilarating aspects of this bold new text by Dobrota Pucherová is the extraordinary feat of transnational ventriloquism that underlies its authorship. The author’s desire to intimately embrace the literary culture of a foreign nation to which she bears no ties of birth or citizenship might be read, meta-textually, as being an instance of precisely the kind of ethical gesture described in the book – which is fuelled by the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and concerns desire as a boundary-breaking energy that has the capacity to redefine both the body and the nation. - Alexandra Dodd, Journal of Postcolonial Writing


Dobrota Pucherova is a researcher at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Institute of World Literature, where she specializes in Migrant and Diasporic Literature, and Postcolonial studies.