Review Article

Of Jane and Manche: Bodies and virginity as agency for narrative discourse

Sekgothe Mokgoatšana
Theologia Viatorum | Vol 44, No 1 | a56 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/tv.v44i1.56 | © 2020 Sekgothe Mokgoatšana | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 February 2020 | Published: 23 September 2020

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Sekgothe Mokgoatšana, Department of Cultural and Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, South Africa


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Abstract

Spivak’s rhetorical question ‘Can the subaltern speak?’ finds true expression in the story of Jane Furse and similarly Manche Masemola dying at the same age as Jane. Two marginal girls are the subject of my discussion, namely Jane Furse and Manche Masemola. The two girls’ bodies are employed as agencies to (re)create a religious narrative of proselytising. Both girls do not speak in their voices, but through other bodies who reconstruct the narrative to achieve particular goals. The virgin body is essential to elevate the narrative to a myth. I will argue that the two girls’ virginal condition was necessary to construct a discourse that would shape Anglican historiography in the Northern Transvaal. Also, I argue that their marginal condition, subjects them to competing for hermeneutics: firstly, the power of virginity; secondly, the role of the young body to preserve sanctity and transmogrification; and lastly, to begin a debate on the role of young people, especially girls to construct alternative history. I invoke the question of subalternity whether these young people had the power to speak for themselves or they merely become agencies of discourse. I begin my discussion with the Anglican Church’s narrative of Jane and then proceed to the story of Manche Masemola to explain how her marginal body was a fit instrument of creating martyrdom and urgency. This discussion is a product of critical inquiry into an oral historical narratives that continues to shape feminine discourse in respect of power, race and inter-subjectivity.

Keywords

virginity; martyrdom; asceticism; narrative discourse; Jane Furse; Manche Masemola; missions; children in missions; subalternity

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