The Unbearable Burden of Culture: Sexual Violence, Women’s Power and Cultural Ethics in Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death
On June 30, 2004, Washington Post foreign service correspondent Emily Wax published an article titled, ‘“We Want to Make a Light Baby’: Arab Militiamen in Sudan Said to Use Rape as Weapon of Ethnic Cleansing.” The article chronicled the genocidal onslaught occurring in western Sudan where at the time of the story’s publication “1.2 million Africans had been driven from their lands by government-backed Arab militias, tribal fighters known as Janjaweed.”1 The two-page story profiled African women speaking out about their experiences of being raped, typically a taboo subject in Muslim cultures. Human rights officials and aid workers confirmed that the rapes were systematic, enacted by Arab militia in order to produce Arabic babies who would inherit lands occupied by African ethnic groups. Linking with the reproductive concerns presented in Fledgling, this page from recent history serves as the inspiration for Nnedi Okorafor’s 2010 novel Who Fears Death, in which she examines the unbearable burden of cultural expectations for women to reproduce biological, social, and cultural norms, rendering them vulnerable to the sexual and social violence described by Wax.
KeywordsEthnic Identity Sexual Violence Cultural Ethic Great Book Female Circumcision
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