Citizenship and social status in Miriam Tlali’s Muriel at Metropolitan




intersectionality, citizenship, social status, apartheid, African Customary Law, Miriam Tlali


An intersectional feminist stance was reflected in South African literary texts as early as the 1970s. Miriam Tlali’s pioneering work Muriel at Metropolitan (1975), for example, explores how black women are most palpably confronted with intersecting oppressions and inequalities because of mutually reinforcing axes of race, ethnicity, gender, and class. These social categories provided the basis to differentiate groups from each other and were utilised to produce unequal power relations. Such inequalities were not only created by the apartheid regime, but also by African Customary Law, although the latter was subject to the twin influences of colonialism and apartheid. In this article I analyse five key passages of the novel through an intersectional lens by looking into the correlation between these systems, intersectional axes, citizenship, and social status. The close reading of the extracts shows that the characters’ civil rights are curtailed, and their social status reduced through inter alia dehumanising stereotypes, racial and gendered naming strategies, and polarising pronouns. Furthermore, the discursive counterreactions of the black female protagonist Muriel are charted. These consist of rational argumentation, norm-breaking, objectification, and distancing techniques. Her retorts represent her resistance against multiple subjugations and take the shape of what is now called intersectional feminism(s).


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Author Biography

Lieselot Tuytens, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Lieselot Tuytens is a PhD researcher affiliated to the Dutch section of the Department of Literary Studies, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, and a member of the Ghent Centre for Afrikaans and the Study of South Africa at Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


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How to Cite

Tuytens, L. (2024). Citizenship and social status in Miriam Tlali’s Muriel at Metropolitan. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 61(1), 35–45.



Research articles