TransQueer Negotiations and Decolonial Space-Making in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions


  • Aqdas Aftab Loyola University Chicago


Trans, Queer, Decolonial, Colonial Gender Binary, Space


This essay intervenes in the long critical reception of Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions as a postcolonial feminist novel by using a decolonial framework – one that is attuned to the history of how the cisgender heterosexual gender binary constructs patriarchy – to propose a transqueer reading of the novel. My transqueer hermeneutic performs two primary functions in this essay: it foregrounds the centrality of movement in the prefix trans; and it emphasizes how this movement queerly manipulates gender and sexual normativity. A transqueer reading of the novel points to gendered and sexual subversions of the colonial gender binary by arguing that Dangarembga’s protagonist Tambu queerly reorients herself to and transly negotiates with the physical spaces where she is placed, instead of simply escaping them. In doing so, Tambu quietly delinks from the colonial cisgender heterosexual binary. Overall, I examine the relationality between colonial physical space and Tambu’s transqueer subversions in the novel by showing how she moves, however fleetingly, within and through decolonial liminal spaces of refusal.

Author Biography

Aqdas Aftab, Loyola University Chicago

Aqdas Aftab is an assistant professor of English at Loyola University Chicago, working in decolonial and postcolonial transgender studies. Their research explores how the imposition of the cisgender binary is central to the processes of racialization and colonialism. Some of their academic and creative work can be found in Queer Kinship: Race, Sex, Belonging, Form; Journal of Global Postcolonial Studies; Bitch Media; Transcendent 4: The Year’s Best Transgender Themed Speculative Fiction; and Strange Horizons. Their first book project argues for the importance of reading for speculative interiority in trans of color cultural productions as a strategy to evade the fixity of the colonial cis gaze.