Theories of women’s relationship to public space in all their complexity with reference to Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North. The world we live in is arranged in ways that are not gender neutral. This is obvious in modern society where despite decades of equal opportunities legislation in the United States and other developed western countries there are still huge differences in the earning capacity of woman as compared to men, and there are many areas where men dominate and take control of the best resources, leaving unjust proportion for women…
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When we look at large scale events in global history like major exploration, war and colonization, it is the male ambition to conquer, control and exploit which characterizes them. Traditionally, males are active and operate in the public arena, while females are passive and are confined largely to private and domestic spaces. These stereotypes are evident in the system that we know as patriarchy, and they operate at the level of individuals within families, in different social and cultural groups, and in the way that nations and states relate to each other. Journeying out to capture and control a physical location is a classically patriarchal activity. We can detect this kind of influence when we look at the narratives of history that have been drawn up to make sense of human behaviour. The age of empire building, somewhat ironically under the leadership of a British Queen, as well as various kings and prime ministers across the globe was one of expansion for the conquerors and cultural demolition for those who were colonized. Just as women in Victorian England were nominally revered and respected, but at the same time dominated and repressed by their husbands, so narratives of the “exotic” and the “primitive” were used to give a positive spin to the systematic exploitation of vast areas of Africa, India and Asia. Hierarchical Western systems were introduced to replace overlapping tribal and national structures and women found themselves on the bottom rung of all these new hierarchies. The position of former colonies was for many years to be trapped into an opposition to this dominance, rather than to develop freely in whichever direction they would themselves have chosen. It was only in the mid to late twentieth century that authors in former colonies began to theorize this bitter experience and emerge from the imposed binary opposition of colonialism into a more nuanced appreciation of power relations in the modern world. One such author, Tayeb Salih, reflects on these matters in his novel Season of Migration to the North (Salih, 2009) and draws complex parallels between the subjugation of Sudan under colonialism and the subjugation of women under patriarchal systems. The novel revolves around themes of colonialization, a term which in feminist theory “almost invariably implies a relation of structural domination, and a discursive or political suppression of the heterogeneity of the subject(s) in question” (Mohanty, 1988, p. 61) and exploration of the complex and various types of male and female relations that exist in the post-colonial world. This makes the book at times complex, even ambiguous, but this quality ensures that it is true to situation, Unresolved issues that were paramount in the period immediately after independence was gained in the Sudan are presented as they were experienced, not least the evolving role of women and their gradual emergence into public life. The plot revolves around, as the title suggests, what happens when some of the residents of Sudan migrate back to where the colonial masters came from, before returning to their homeland having gained new and shocking knowledge which then contributes to the way that the
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