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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Victoria L. Bergvall

Committee Member 1

Patricia Sotirin

Committee Member 2

Diane L. Shoos

Committee Member 3

Tarez Samra Graban


In response to calls for cross-cultural and transnational perspectives in discourse, gender and politics research, this work argues for a Global Southern view on women’s politics based on the assumption that a critical comparative analysis of women’s political experiences requires perspectives drawn from diverse translocal contexts. Focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa and the specific experiences of Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings—a longtime advocate of neoliberal empowerment discourse and the first female presidential candidate in Ghana, with her links to Akan (Asante) royal lineage, this dissertation argues that the (African) postcolony’s complex mesh of varied historico-political factors forms inter(con)textual flows and tensions that complicate women’s political efforts. Besides engaging a complex view of politics—including, among other meanings, the intersection between party politics, gender politics, politics as critique, and the politics of knowledge production, this dissertation proposes a Comparative Multiscalar Multitheoretical Discursive (CMMD) paradigm for unravelling the longue durée chronotopic (space-time) entanglements that characterize the backdrop of African women’s political performance. Giving equal emphasis to influences from local space-times (e.g., the postcolony’s stylistics of power, femocracy, the “obaadenden” [‘hard/ difficult woman’] trope) and those from a more transnational space-time (e.g., tropes like the “iron lady,” “Ghana’s Hillary Clinton” and neoliberal “empowerment” discourse), the analysis simultaneously foregrounds the distinctiveness yet worldliness of postcolonial African women’s politics. This dissertation emphasizes the complex local power dynamics that on the one hand, propel and derail Agyeman-Rawlings’ political candidacy and on the other hand, significantly impact transformational politics; it also highlights the contradictions and limits of “empowerment” as a transnational discursive resource for postcolonial women’s politics, with implications for vocal agency and memorialization in the political archive, at both the local and transnational levels.