Dambudzo Marechera as shamanistic 'doppelganger': his shamanistic sensibility in his life and works

Jennifer Armstrong

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is concerned with the life and writings of Dambudzo Marechera, a black Zimbabwean writer who adopted a particularly Modernist style of writing. He lived from 1952 to 1987 and was a prolific writer during his short life. Much of this thesis is concerned with the way that psychological trauma in an African context is linked to an opening of the lens of consciousness into a very different understanding of identity than approaches relying on tradition or even contemporary identity politics. I argue that this alternative perspective has much in common with ancient traditions of shamanism as well as with some philosophical Modernist traditions that have shamanistic aspects (Nietzsche and Bataille). Overall, I examine a very significant aspect to Marechera's approach to writing literature -- and that is that he relies on a conceptual doubling of the self. In this doubling process part of the identity stays in the here and now, that is it is anchored by the physicality of the body and its realistic identity, based on historical fact and recognisable physical characteristics – such as race and gender; whilst another part of the identity 'journeys' into the spirit realm. This other part of the self does so in order to search for solutions to society's problems that are not accessible to the mind in its state of everyday consciousness. This second level involves understanding that a shamanistic practitioner psychologically dissociates from the body to experience a state of phenomenological disembodiment. A shaman may journey to the higher realms of consciousness, to the lower realms, as well as into the past and the future. The thesis argues that Marechera's writing reflects the quintessence of shamanistic practice and illustrates this by an analysis of his rich output of literary texts across a variety of literary genres.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010

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