Elleke Boehmer
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The hero’s story
The male leader’s autobiography and the syntax of postcolonial nationalism

Narratives give form to and legitimate the process of post-colonial and national coming-into-being. In nationalist movements in India and Africa, leaders' tales operate as inaugural symbolic texts shaping and justifying configurations of status and power in the post-colonial nation(-to-be), including the interconnection of nationalist ideology and gender politics. Looked at more closely, the leader's autobiography effectively sets in motion a process of reciprocal, even circular, legitimation. This chapter looks at the independence autobiographies by national leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta. Where the story of the growth to self-consciousness of the independence leader presents as a synonym for the rise of the nation, and where that leader has historically been male, it follows that national-son figures become the inheritors of the nation's future. Throughout his autobiography, Nehru is strongly aware of the symbol-making power of nationalism; of that way in which national movements are constituted out of compelling images. The chapter also mentions the self-representation of Sarojini Naidu as a political leader.

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Stories of women

Gender and narrative in the postcolonial nation


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