Towards a Decolonial Feminist Performance Praxis: An Exploration of Performance and Women's Leadership in Botswana

  • Towards a Decolonial Feminist Performance Praxis

  • Author / Creator
    Disele-Pitso, Lebogang
  • This dissertation reflects on a research process that explores how performance can foster women’s leadership in Botswana. The process began with the question, “where are the women,” which in turn grew out of curiosity about what happens to women between the time they leave the classroom and the time they enter the workplace that stops them from ascending to leadership positions. In its 2019 report, Emang Basadi found that social responsibilities, socialization, lack of financial support, the electoral system (first-past-the-post) and ambivalence in the constitution worked together to diminish women’s capacity to participate in political leadership specifically. The research process focused on issues of socialization, taking a particular interest in the narratives around women and leadership, and women’s voice. To explore how performance can foster women’s leadership the process used performance-as-research, incorporating performance creation, interviews and focus groups. The performance creation resulted in five performances that investigated different themes related to the question, “where are the women?” Performance creation also allowed for the exploration of this question with other women. Interviews, focus groups, and post-performance discussions to were conducted between 2018 and 2020 to unpack issues of gender equity with a broader cross section of people. The common issues discussed in these platforms were cultural oppression and socialization, as well as financial support (or lack thereof), and playing multiple roles. Another recurring issue was that of women not supporting each other. This issue was addressed by working with women-only groups, a strategy I started employing in 2017. The performance creation also explored the use of traditional performance forms to foster intergenerational dialogue and develop a deeper understanding of Botswana cultural beliefs and practices. This stemmed from Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí’s seminal research, in which she asserts that gender stratification as we understand it today is a colonial inheritance. Oyěwùmí’s assertions challenged the assumption that African cultures necessarily oppress women, and to try to understand my culture from its own perspective. A core part of the research process was developing a decolonial feminist performance praxis which is a way of being and doing in the world that is cognizant of how the intersections of race, gender, colonization, and imperialism impact gender equity in Botswana as a post-colonial country. Looking at Botswana culture and trying to understand it from its own perspective calls for a consideration of how the history of women’s leadership may have been erased. Thus, a decolonial feminist performance praxis provided is a lens through which to see the ways that culture intermeshes with colonial domination to erase women’s spaces and women’s leadership, casting women as perpetual victims in the post-colonial state.
    By exploring the question “where are the women?” through performance-as-research, this research process focused on the ephemeral aspects of gender inequity, to find the things women feel and experience but cannot always name or touch, and to connect those things to language. This dissertation reflects on the process of developing a decolonial feminist performance praxis, which involves telling women’s stories, creating women’s spaces, and conducting an intersectional analysis of the barriers that women face to find agency and sovereignty amongst women. That is, to allow women to speak about themselves, for themselves and as themselves.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.