Repository logo

Mother, daughter, sister, wife? interogating construction of South African Indian women's Identity – a study of South African Indian women playwrights and our plays.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This thesis interrogates the gendered constructions and representations of Indian South African women (ISAW), South African Indian women (SAIW), and/or South African women of Indian descent’s (SAWOID) identity through a study of such playwrights and their plays, including my own work. ISAW, SAIW and/or SAWOID lives are critically affected by the roles we are expected to perform in our families, namely those of daughter, sister, wife, and mother. Sylvia Walby (1990) distinguishes two key forms of patriarchy: public and private. Such a differentiation is particularly relevant to ISAW, SAIW and/or SAWOID who have long been confined to the private domain in South African Indian (SAI) communities and families for the purposes of patriarchal and cultural preservation (Govender, 1999, 2001). Thus, although great strides have been made in ISAW, SAIW and/or SAWOID’s lives, traditional patriarchal roles remain entrenched (Rajab, 2011). Theatre, particularly in this study playwriting, offers SAIW like myself, an empowering public space to articulate our own subject positions (Govender, 2001). The study therefore adopts an autoethnographic and practice-based research (PaR) approach, methodological modes that are rooted in each individual’s creativity and experiences. Autoethnography and PaR connect in my thesis through the play I have written and directed as a primary part of this study, Devi (2019). Furthermore, the research explores the theatrical work of ISAW, SAIW and/or SAWOID through a reflexive thematic analysis of interviews with selected playwrights and a textual analysis of their selected plays. In undertaking such a study, I unpack the politics of identity construction through a feminist poststructural framework. Principally, I assert that Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs), as conceptualised by French philosopher Louis Althusser (1971, 2006), especially those of family, religion and culture, are powerful ideological constructs. These ISAs strongly shape our experiences and the construction of our identities, which paradoxically, are both personally chosen but also socially regulated (Hall, 1997; Weedon, 1997; 2004). As a SAIW playwright, I am critically examining the specificity of the SAI (diasporic) community and how we continue to maintain traditional patriarchal values postcolonialism and post-apartheid. The often marginalised yet vital voices of ISAW, SAIW and/or SAWOID playwrights challenge the predominant patriarchally embedded socio-cultural practices of SAI communities and families, offering a dynamic “re-representation of brown female identity” (Naicker, 2017: 39).


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.