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Unseating Broken Stories: A Decolonizing Case Study of Warrior Queenmother, Nana Yaa Asantewaa



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Western scholarship and media continue to reproduce problematic, inaccurate representations of Africa. African women have borne the brunt of these misrepresentations, and despite all evidence to the contrary, have too often been presented as weak, submissive, voiceless, and dominated by African and other men. Pluralizing stories of African women’s agency, past and present, deserves more focused critical scholarly attention. This thesis aims to challenge stereotypical stories of African women’s defenselessness by modeling one approach to unseating such broken stories through a critical analysis of representations of the historical figure of Nana Yaa Asantewaa, an Asante warrior and one in a long line of anti-imperialist African women leaders seeking justice for their communities and nations. People who tell undermining stories about defenseless African women often do so from within the power systems they wish to uphold, or in which they are caught. Biases and stereotypes that benefit these systems inform circulating ideologies with a vested interest in producing and reproducing reductive stories about African women. The approach here is to start from strengths-based stories in a critical effort to model the construction of more complete stories about African women. Nana Yaa Asantewaa has left a profound legacy that still informs representations and understandings of contemporary Ghanaian women as critical subjects with agency. Her role in the war against the British from 1900-1901, and the ways that her story has been taken up since, illuminate the complex range of forces shaping Ghanaian histories, and framing local, regional, national, and transnational challenges perpetuated by, but also mounted against, hegemonic patriarchal power structures. This research examines the representations and vested interests of diversely positioned academic and non-academic storytellers in discussions surrounding Nana Yaa Asantewaa through narrative, discourse, and visual analyses, employing a critical decolonial theoretical lens that centers the perspectives, achievements, and promise of African women.



African women's agency, Afrocentrism, decolonization, matrilineal societies, pluralizing stories, storytelling



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity


Women's and Gender Studies


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