This is an essay from guest writer for Intersections, Jacqueline Walker, the author of Pilgrim State.
In 1959, as a five year old, I arrived in Southampton from Jamaica having experienced periods of separation from my mother. Like many Caribbean parents of the time, my mother had been working away, in her case in Canada, to save enough money to take her family to Britain. As children we were being united not just with our physical mother but with the country we had been taught to think of as the Mother Country. Many years later, when I began research into the construction of British Caribbean identity for a postgraduate thesis, it became clear that the confluence between Caribbean notions of mothers and Motherland with experiences of separation and reunion were not just part of my personal childhood history. The work of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, amongst others, has explored the response of Black British people to migration and colonialism. My intention here is to examine one strand of this thinking, with particular reference to a number of literary works, Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and my own book Pilgrim State in order to better understand the ways that the experience of migration and settlement for people of Caribbean descent has changed over the last sixty years.
The effects of enslavement on the relationship to ‘self’ has been commented on by writers such as CLR James and Franz Fanon. For more than two hundred years people of African descent had their bodies and minds enslaved through a number of violent and subtle stages that internalised oppression, making bearable what was, in reality, insufferable. However, people will always subvert oppression and Africans were not passive victims; they never have been, they rebelled, not just through acts of open revolt, such as those which occurred in Barbados or Haiti. In every day life enslaved peoples subverted the power of the plantocracy, developing coded, highly mobile language systems, casting spells, corrupting food and saboutaging work schedules. However, one of the most effective and least known modes of resistance was the action taken by women in relation to their own reproduction. Control of fertility was, not surprisingly, a central arena for conflict; the issue being not simply how many children a woman would have, but when they would be born, who the father would be and the eventual fate of those children. Continue reading
My last post was about some of my favorite fiction and non-fiction about the migration/diasporic experiences. While I mentioned that most of my previous reading has an “Iranian” slant, I’ve just come across a great book written about a diaspora I know little about, but after reading Pilgrim State, I hope to learn more about.
Pilgrim State is about, author, Jacqueline Walker’s dynamic childhood and the lessons she and her siblings learned from their equally dynamic and strong-willed mother, Dorothy. I recently had the chance to meet and have a chat with Jacqueline and she alerted me to the fact that many books written about the migration and diasporic experience rarely are about mothers who bring their families over to begin a new life elsewhere. This is why I feel her book is a noteworthy addition to diasporic literature and to the Afro-Caribbean experience in Britain.
I’ve invited Jacqueline as a guest blogger for Intersections and am excited by the wealth of knowledge and genuine understanding she’ll be able to bring regarding the Afro-Caribbean diaspora.
International Conference to be held at
the University of Copenhagen
8-10 November 2007
Literature by migrants – those not at home where they write – foregrounds many questions concerning cultural and linguistic identity, not least the relationships between identity, language and territory. Fundamentally, such literature challenges the categories according to which literary disciplines have traditionally (that is, since the late nineteenth century) organised their research.
This conference on “Migration and Literature in Contemporary Europe” aims to bring together scholars researching within this field and to establish or negotiate the sense of a shared discipline with common paradigms and problematics.
See more information about the conference programme and registration at http://migrationandliterature.engerom.ku.dk/
Dr. Federica Mazzara is Post-Doctoral Mellon Fellow at University College London (UCL). The topic of the Mellon Programme for the next two years is “Translations/Transpositions -migration and non-mother-tongue writing”.
Here’s a brief outline of Federica’s project which is focused on the Italian case of the literature of migration. Federica welcomes comments and feedback on this work, as well as ideas about similar projects and relevant themes.
You can find more information about the UCL Mellon Programme and Federica’s work at:
‘Italophone Literature of Migration and Auto-translation: A New Avant-garde in a World Literature Perspective’
Dr. Federica Mazzara
Literature of Migration in Italy is a general label that denotes a group of very diverse writers, who only share the choice of writing in Italian – a foreign language for them – as the idiom for literary expression. They have all adopted the Italian language and relate to it in multiple ways according to their personal experiences of migration and their attitudes toward the culture of the “host” country.
By focusing on the case of Italophone immigrant writing emerging over the past two decades, this project will investigate the challenge on three levels. Firstly, through an exploration of writers whose trans-cultural itineraries and personal backgrounds are very diverse, the contours of a contemporary Italophone literary field will be drawn with respect to the “internal translation” each writer engages in his or her writings, their discursive and linguistic explorations of bilingualism, and the literary forms they employ to negotiate the migration experience (notably, but not exclusively, autobiography). Secondly, the project will determine the specific dynamics within the Italian cultural, linguistic and literary landscape which condition but is also itself modified by the emergence of these immigrant voices. Thirdly, the project engages the reception and recent theorization of Italophone migrant literature in the light of available critical discourses predominantly based on British and French examples and cultural histories. The project discusses to what extent a local case, such as the one investigated here, can be described and theorized fully by reference to “global” academic discourses deriving from Anglo-American cultural studies and post-colonial theory, or whether local conditions call for local considerations.
In an attempt to bridge the gap between critical insistence on local diversity and the more globalised cultural studies discourse, this project aims at finding a middle way in order to investigate both the circulation of migrant literature in Italy and its reception and theorisation. Here the recent interest within comparative literature studies in “World Literature” (in effect Goethe’s old concept of Weltliterature), offers a perspective that has already proven productive for translation studies. One basic assumption of a World Literature perspective is that literary “works gain in translation” (Damrosch, 2003). This perspective is found to be especially productive for this project, since it offers a framework with which to approach literature and its various modes of circulation and transaction across borders (Casanova, 1999), its trans-national genres (Moretti, 2000) and its in-betweenness.
Exiled Writers Ink invites you to participate in:
4 FREE POETRY WRITING WORKSHOPS FOR REFUGEES AND EXILES
Tuesdays 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th October, 11.00 am to 1.00 pm
Where do you come from, what is your identity?
If you are interested in writing poems about your life experiences and what it is like to be exiled in a new country, do come along and be encouraged to find a way into writing. All welcome. Poetry Writing Workshops with poet and workshop facilitator Lynette Craig who holds an MPhil in Writing; she mentors exiled writers and leads workshops for both beginners and more experienced writers. Her own writing reflects her interest in the dispossessed, the persecution and exile.
245 St.John Street
Close to corner of St John Street and Skinner Street
Tube: Angel, Northern Line
Wheelchair access. Disabled toilet.
PLEASE LET US KNOW YOU ARE COMING: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exiled Writers Ink thanks Islington Libraries for providing the workshop venue.
23 October 2007, 5.30pm, Room NG 15, Senate House, University of London
Dr. Peter Morey
‘Stereotypes and Strangers: Muslims in Film and Television Drama since 9/11’
Seminar ‘Inter-University Postcolonial Studies’, organised by the Institute for English Studies, University of London
Dr. Peter Morey is Reader in English at the University of East London. He is author of ‘Fictions of India: Narrative and Power’ (Edinburg UP, 2000), ‘Rohinton Mistry’ (Manchester UP Contemporary World Writer’s Series, 2004), and co-editor of ‘Alternative Indias: Writing, Nation and Communalism’ (Rodopi, 2006). He has published widely in the fields of colonial and postcolonial literature, and is currently working on a new monograph, entitled ‘Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation from 9/11 to 7/7’, co-authored with Amina Yaqin, to be published by Harvard University Press.
The autumn 2007 seminar series of the Inter-University Postcolonial Studies is dedicated to the topic of Postcolonial/Muslim Cultures and Representation. Find the full programme on their website: http://www.sas.ac.uk/events/visitor_events.php?page=ies_seminars&func=results&aoi_id=70
The editorial committee of Exiled Ink magazine, a magazine featuring the work of exiled writers, invite contributions for the next issue.
Deadline: end of September 2007
Please send contributions to: email@example.com
For more information see: http://www.exiledwriters.co.uk/