Liminality, hybridity and ‘Third Space:’ Bessie Head’s A question of power

Liminality, hybridity and ‘Third Space:’ Bessie Head’s A question of power

First Online: 2017-06-07
pages 1–17
DOI: 10.1007/s11059-017-0387-8

Sayyede Maryam Hosseini
University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

Hybridity has been a controversial issue not only in eugenic hypotheses of the nineteenth century but also in the postcolonial, cultural, linguistic, and geographical contexts. It can be seen as a ‘Janus-faced’ entity. Theorists like Bhabha consider it as a ‘Third Space’ which is fraught with ambiguities, while some use the term ‘liminal’ to point to its location in history, culture, and society in general. This essay deals with a ‘coloured’ writer’s coloured character in the light of hybridity. Elizabeth, the coloured protagonist of Bessie Head’s A question of power lives as a hybrid in a state of liminality, and tries to dismiss the worldview of colonialism and the postcolonial nationalism of South Africa and reconstruct her shattered identity in the ‘Third Space’ of Motabeng. Elizabeth’s hybridity and her iconoclastic condition are intensified by rampant liminal elements in the novel. The essay follows the intricate interrelationships of hybrid elements in terms of Elizabeth’s multi-faceted character, her garden, and the borders she crosses in the course of the novel. Hybridity here is by no means a mere inter-racial issue, the attempt here is to relate this concept to the anti-conventional and iconoclastic; the things that are liminal and indefinable within established epistemology.

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