International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Paradoxes of Sexual Power in Song of Malaya
Gladys Nyaiburi Ogaro

This paper is a post-colonial reading of Okot p’Bitek’s work, Song of Malaya. By premising her arguments on feminism and Michel Foucault’s genealogical ideas on power, the author provides the reader with a better understanding of power discourses in Okot p’Bitek’s poetry. The author systematically explores how the direct relation between power and bodies operates. With relevant examples from Song of Malaya, this paper shows how sex is political primarily because the male-female relationship is the paradigm for all power relations. Patriarchal ideology, for instance, exaggerates biological differences between men and women making certain that men always have the dominant or ‘masculine’ roles and women always have the subordinate or ‘feminine’ ones. This ideology is so powerful such that men will coerce or intimidate a woman where they feel that the woman has failed to submit or subordinate. For the woman to avoid a situation of cruelty and barbarity against her, she had better act feminine. It is this subordination that the poet wants the woman to liberate herself from. The author goes further and shows how other institutions like the church and family also help to enhance this ideology. In Song of Malaya, the family and church blame the prostitute for her actions just because she is a woman. The men fail to realize that they are the ones who have participated in the act of sex with the ‘Malaya’ (prostitute) so as to complete the action. Consequently, the author argues that since the works of Okot p’Bitek are premised on socio-cultural experiences, the individual characters in the selected work locate themselves within socio-cultural experiences by way of describing, contesting, refuting and illustrating them. The characters are located within given spaces of which they share and at the same time contest the power which they claim to signify. For example, Malaya is located in an immoral and hypocritical society which accords her a vantage position to criticize the hypocrisy of socio-cultural values. The more these characters fortify their positions, the more they expose themselves to criticism. Therefore, the selected work is constructed around characters that seem to be constantly engaged in conflict with each other, within themselves and their society. This paper thus explores the way the protagonists’ bodies in Okot’s Song of Malaya locate themselves either within the way of power over bodies or of bodies in the Foucauldian sense.

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