Language as an instrument of hegemony in selected Namibian plays written in English

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Reproducing hegemony and strengthening patriarchy, Namibian playwrights present women who are groomed to be good wives and mothers in some selected Namibian plays. Because of these cultural and societal expectations and practices, women assume reproductive roles and responsibilities without much remonstration. Men, on the other side, assume that women’s place is at home and that men’s place is outside home, which limits the participation of women outside home and men at home (Husselmann, 2016). Capitalizing on this simple argument and unlocking language as an instrument of hegemony, the main objective of this article is to answer few fundamental questions: Do Namibian playwrights practise derogatory language against Namibian women in the plays? Is language an instrument of hegemony and discrimination in Namibian plays? Where does this language hegemony originate? Theorizing and answering these basic questions, the article follows a feminist stylistics theoretical framework, an interpretivist paradigm, an explanatory design, and a qualitative research approach. Purposively, we selected two Namibian plays: Francis Sifiso Nyathi’s God of Women (2012) and Keamogetsi Joseph Molapong’s The Woman and the Ogre (2002). The key purpose of the article is to find out how Namibian playwrights use language to represent and characterise women. The article also argues that both Nyathi (1998) and Molapong (2002) used language to present women as inferior to men in their plays. Nyathi (2012) employed language persuasively to characterise women as victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in the hands of their husbands within the Namibian marriage system and set ups. Similarly, we also argue that Molapong (2002) presented women characters negatively as dependent on their fathers. Molapong used language to portray women characters as beauty goddesses who are praised based on how beautiful they are, therefore, reducing and fragmenting their worth to appearances. Both playwrights used a wide range of linguistic devices such as metaphors and other figures of speech to characterise gender roles that are expected of women such as being domestic workers, providing sexual pleasures to their husbands as well as working in the fields to provide food for their families. In these plays, language is a strong instrument of economic hegemony. The article concludes that both Nyathi and Molapong largely practised language to characterise women negatively and Sara Mill’s Feminist Stylistic Theory (1995) is successful in unpacking these hidden assumptions, practices and hegemonies.


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Namibia, hegemony, patriarchy, playwrights, language and hegemony, feminist stylistics, Namibian plays, fragmentation, focalisation and gender roles


Absalom, W., & Woldemariam, H. Z. (2023). Language as an instrument of hegemony in selected Namibian plays written in English. Asian Journal of African Studies, 55, 65-119.