14. Postcolonial Abjections: Physical and Moral Corruption in Rhoda by Igiaba Scego

by Jessica Sciubba

This article explores the trajectories of moral and bodily abjection in Rhoda by Igiaba Scego. Drawing principally on Judith Butler’s theory of social abjection and on her critique of the heteronormative discourse, this article identifies the importance of the heteronormative imperative in the shaping of gender roles and points at the abject status acquired by those identities that do not conform to this norm. The complexity of Rhoda’s relationship with her body and with her sexuality represents a key point in the further developments of her abjectifying trajectory; the self-imposed denial of her homosexuality indeed drags her into a self-destructive spiral that leads to a progressive deterioration of her body via prostitution, illness and ultimately death. The article outlines the various configurations of abjection located at the intersections of gender, sexuality, colonialism, religion, and racialization within the novel and highlights the transformative as well as the paradoxical potential embedded within them. The ultimate aim is to trace the subversive trajectory of Rhoda’s efforts to reclaim her body, and, with it, a degree of agency.

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