Imperialism and Gender in J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians

  • Shadi S. Neimneh The Hashemite University, Jordan
Keywords: Imperialism, Gender, Identity, Hegemony, Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians


Considering how power relations govern the construction of race and gender, this article looks at the ambivalent relationship between the Magistrate and the "barbarian" girl in J. M. Coetzee's novel Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), exploring intersections between imperialism and gender and negotiating how issues of representation are implicated in questions of identity construction. It highlights how identities inflicted by gender are constructed in imperial discourse: first by the colonizer who speaks the language of power and inscribes on the colonized meanings serving imperialism; second by the humanist colonizer who fails to relate to the other on equal terms except for a position of "feminized" weakness; and third by the resistant colonial subject eluding imperial constructions yet still manipulated in language. Between the discourses of pain and humanism, the colonized body remains a malleable yet impenetrable object of colonial discourses. Coetzee subverts dominant gender boundaries, aligning oppressive patriarchal practices with imperialism while undermining hegemonic ideologies that construct gender through the figure of the enigmatic other.


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