Flâneusing the City: Cape Town through the Eyes of an Unnamed Female Narrator in Patricia Schonstein-Pinnock’s Skyline

Carol Leff

Abstract


Up until fairly recently, the literary figure of the flâneur, an aimless wanderer and detached observer of urban life, has generally been regarded as male. However, feminist critiques of the flâneur can be seen in the work of Wolff (1985; 2006), Ferguson (1994), Wilson (1995) and Scalway (2006), amongst others, and the female version of this literary figure has started to garner attention through publications such as Catherine Nesci’s Le Flâneur et les Flâneuses (2007) and cultural critic Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse (2016). This paper focuses on the gaze of the young narrator-flâneuse in Patricia Schonstein-Pinnock’s Skyline (2000), a novel set in the city of Cape Town in post-apartheid South Africa. Through the eyes of the unnamed narrator, who describes a city of contrasts and displaced individuals, the African humanist notion of ubuntu is seen to connect the marginal inhabitants of “Skyline”, a fictional apartment building that becomes home to African diasporic immigrants and refugees. Cape Town is a city in flux, and the youthful narrator-flâneuse questions the ambiguous spaces that she encounters. Despite various contradictions such as belonging or not belonging (she herself comes from a broken family and keeps company with refugees and social outcasts), the narrator-flâneuse chooses to embrace hybridity and entanglement. Running parallel to the young flâneuse’s narrative is that of Mozambican refugee Bernard, whose paintings are described ekphrastically at the end of each chapter. Drawing upon De Certeau’s work on cities as well as Sarah Nuttall’s concept of entanglement, I argue that Schonstein-Pinnock’s novel suggests alternative, inclusive ways of feeling at home in a city that is constantly changing and can sometimes feel unwelcoming. The paper concludes with reflections on what it means for displaced individuals to finally feel “at home” in an Afropolitan city such as Cape Town.


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Riferimenti bibliografici


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ISSN 2465-2415

 

Rivista pubblicata con il contributo di

Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche

 

 

 

Licenza Creative Commons
Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 4.0 Internazionale

 

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