Representation of trauma in selected Ugandan short stories
The study explores the representation of trauma in selected Ugandan short stories. Defining trauma as a response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event or experience, an act of violence or harassment, or even an abrupt or unexpected experience that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, dismisses their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences, the study explores the texts’ engagement with trauma. The study’s central thesis is that, while there exists a substantial Ugandan short fiction writing tradition that skilfully depicts the Ugandan traumatic past, there is a paucity of critical attention on this theme. Existing literature on the concept of trauma in Ugandan Literature privileges the novel, poetry, and drama. Only a few researchers have considered the short story in the exploration of this concept. The recurrence of the theme of terror in Ugandan fiction makes it imperative that we consider all the genres as they form a part of the legacy of the turbulent history of the country. The study delineates three attributes of the selected texts that explain why such short stories were considered namely, usage of tropes and motifs in the representation of trauma; the linguistic and stylistic tools that the authors employed to surface trauma, and how the writers used their craft to envision post-traumatic recovery of either the characters or the societies represented in their texts. The study is largely textual analysis exploring the motifs/tropes of trauma, the stylistic/linguistic tools of representing trauma, and the character (s) post-traumatic trajectory in the selected Ugandan Short Stories. The primary sources of data include Doreen Baingana’s “Hunger”, “A Thank–You Note” and “Tropical Fish” in Tropical Fish (2005) and Austin Ejiet’s “Aida”, “Hurray for Somo” and “The Pipe and the Lesu” in Aida, Hurray for Somo and other stories (2005), while secondary sources include journal articles, and other critical literary work on Ugandan literature, generally, and the Ugandan short story, specifically. The study draws from trauma theory especially Cathy Caruth's notions of unrepresentability of trauma and focuses on how the authors succeed in the herculean task of representation of trauma in their texts. The three main chapters are thematically-organized to highlight specific attributes of trauma as depicted in the selected short stories. The findings of the study reveal that the Ugandan short story is, indeed, an archive of Uganda’s troubled and traumatic past, namely, the trauma of dictatorship through Somo, the prototypical ‘Amin-figure’ in post-independence Uganda and hunger as a trope of a repressive boarding school system; the physiological and psychological corporeality of diseases especially, HIV/AIDS, scourge on the Ugandan populace, and gendered trauma of women due to patriarchal ideology. The study also reveals that the authors, through evocative literary language, are able to surface the complexities of trauma. The authors also envision post-traumatic recovery through psychological introspection, downfall of dictators, prayer, testimony, walking away from marriage and abortion as ways through which the characters and societies depicted can recover their full capacities for agency. The study recommends research in the repression of men due to hyper-masculine patriarchal ideology and mental illness as a manifestation of trauma in post-colonial African Literature as well as the inclusion of trauma studies on the undergraduate Literature curriculum.