Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Urmila S. Seshagiri

Committee Members

Amy Elias, Gichingiri Ndigirigi, Catherine Higgs


In this dissertation, I interrogate the postcolonial condition in contemporary South Africa still controlled by the effects of unjust geographies. This project offers an examination of conceptualizations of home in contemporary South African novels in English; specifically, the focus reveals how these representations reflect the multifaceted politics of belonging and identity formation. Drawing on the frameworks of home, belonging, and space of Foucault, Soja, Bhabha and others, this dissertation contends that concepts of home provide fertile areas of exploration into past and continued dislocation, while challenging the binaries embedded in South African identity discourse haunted by colonialization and apartheid. The primary texts reflect various subgenres of the South African novel in English, and each chapter explores how a spatial reading expands the aesthetic texture of the novel. Rachel Zadok’s Gem Squash Tokoloshe (2005), Sindiwe Magona’s Mother to Mother (1998), and Matlwa’s Coconut (2007) interact and transform South African novel sub-genres born in traditions established through European colonialism and apartheid rule, and I explore the sites of dwelling as heterotopias. Next, I examine Andre Brink’s The Rights of Desire (2000) and Damon Galgut’s The Good Doctor (2004) and The Impostor (2009) alongside J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999) as crime novels revealing the unhomely condition of their white, middle-age protagonists. Finally, Zoë Wicomb’s October (2014), and Zukiswa Wanner’s London Cape Town Joburg (2014) reveal stories of those who left South Africa during apartheid and later returned. In this chapter, I utilize Bhabha and Soja’s dual vision of the thirdspace to reveal how Wicomb and Wanner explore the balance between the vacillating push and pull of home and the postmodern flux of cosmopolitan migration and rootlessness.

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