Gender and Behaviour

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Class and masculinities un/making in Kopano Matlwa’s coconut

Nonhlanhla Dlamini


In Coconut (2009), Kopano Matlwa grapples with several modes of self-writing that seek to locate the place and value of Black identities, culture and language within the contested spaces of Mokopane township and the first-class world city of Little Valley Estate and Silver Spoon. In a world where being human is still conflated with Whiteness and sociological theorisations of masculinity continue to position black masculinity in an oppositional relationship to White masculinity, Matlwa’s novel makes narrative choices that critique discursive practices that produce subjection and subjecthood and ways of spatial occupation that continue to alienate black youths in contemporary South Africa. This paper examines strategies of identity creation used by the young adult ‘coconuts’ within the contexts of economic disparities, skewed racial relations and Black class mobility in Coconut. It concludes that the novel’ choices of a double addressee and the modes of self-writing are futuristic while also showing the contradictory nature of identity making and self-narration that is dependent on a long rich history of African ancestry, cultural difference, globalisation, and assimilation through class mobility.

Keywords: Class mobility, Coconut, Family, Masculinity, Femininity.

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