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Between fiction and history: Modes of writing abortion in Africa

Clandestine abortion is a frequent topic in African feminist novels of the 1980s and 1990s, and the paper proposes that historians should wonder why. It first provides a review of the medical and social scientific literature on abortion in Africa, showing how the problem went from a virtual neglect in 1965 through two explosions of research and concern, one gynecological and popular in the late 1960s, and another social scientific and epidemiological in the late 1980s. A close reading of five African novels as artifacts about abortion follows. Each of these novels represents abortion as a personal trial inextricably entangled with relationships, and most see the desire to terminate a pregnancy as an aspect of self-fulfillment. The paper argues that it is necessary to write a history of women seeking modernity in Africa, and to establish links between this quest, fantasy and desire, and their recourse to abortion. These novels should be read and taught not as reflections of the social, but as constitutive objects. Historians have much to learn from interrogating fiction as modes of textualization that enable us to rethink form, structure, sequence, and anachrony in historical writing.

More information

  • Publication Year: 2007
  • Country/Region: Africa
  • Accessible: Yes
  • Source: Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines. Volume 47, Issue 2.
  • Link: http://www.cairn-int.info/resume.php?ID_ARTICLE=E_CEA_186_0277
  • Language: French
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