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Negotiating Multi-Ethnic Identities on the Contemporary North American Stage
This book, the first cross-cultural study of post-1970s anglophone Canadian and American multi-ethnic drama, invites assessment of the thematic and aesthetic contributions of this theater in today’s globalized culture. A growing number of playwrights of African, South and East Asian, and First Nations heritage have engaged with manifold socio-political and aesthetic issues in experimental works combining formal features of more classical European dramatic traditions with such elements of ethnic culture as ancestral music and dance, to interrogate the very concepts of theatricality and canonicity. Their “mouths on fire” (August Wilson), these playwrights contest stereotyped notions of authenticity. In¬spired by songs of anger, passion, experience, survival, and regeneration, the plays analyzed bespeak a burning desire to break the silence, to heal and empower. Foregrounding questions of hybridity, diaspora, cultural memory, and nation, this comparative study includes discussion of some twenty-five case studies of plays by such authors as M.J. Kang, August Wilson, Suzan–Lori Parks, Djanet Sears, Chay Yew, Padma Viswanathan, Rana Bose, Diane Glancy, and Drew Hayden Taylor. Through its cross-cultural and cross-national prism, “Mouths on Fire with Songs” shows that multi-ethnic drama is one of the most diverse and dynamic sites of cultural production in North America today.
Social and Imaginary Space in Writings by Chicanas
Of interest to informed readers responsive to combined textual and cultural approaches to Chicano/a literature and literature in general, Battleground and Crossroads weaves in various critical and theoretical threads to inquire into the relationship between intimate and public spaces in Chicana literature. Without claiming the borderlands as exclusive of the Chicana/o imagination, this book acknowledges the importance of this metaphor for bringing to view a more intercultural United States, allowing it to become inflected with the particularity of each text. The analyses of Chicana fiction, drama, and autobiography explore the construction of identity through the representation of social space and the transformation of literary space. For discussion of a diacritical territory this volume draws on a interdisciplinary practice that facilitates the journey from the most intimate spaces to the most public spaces of modernity, so that the aesthetic text yields its knowledge of the contingent historical circumstances of its production in material and existential terms. The apparent regionalism and localism of this literature is nothing but a reflection of the relationship between the local and the global, the private and the public, the personal and the political, the aesthetic and the ideological, the subversive and the mainstream. Each text stands by itself while it also reaches out to the sociopolitical imaginary for interpretation through an interdisciplinary methodology that is indispensable to do justice to a politicized aesthetics.
Common Traditions and New Developments
In postcolonial theory we have now reached a new stage in the succession of key concepts. After the celebrations of hybridity in the work of Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak, it is now the concept of diaspora that has sparked animated debates among postcolonial critics. This collection intervenes in the current discussion about the 'new' diaspora by placing the rise of diaspora within the politics of multiculturalism and its supercession by a politics of difference and cultural-rights theory. The essays present recent developments in Jewish negotiations of diasporic tradition and experience, discussing the reinterpretation of concepts of the 'old' diaspora in late twentieth- century British and American Jewish literature. The second part of the volume comprises theoretical and critical essays on the South Asian diaspora and on multicultural settings between Australia, Africa, the Caribbean and North America. The South Asian and Caribbean diasporas are compared to the Jewish prototype and contrasted with the Turkish diaspora in Germany. All essays deal with literary reflections on, and thematizations of, the diasporic predicament.
Women, Writing & Subjectivities
The essays in this collection ( on Canada, the USA, Australia and the UK) question and discuss the issues of cross-cultural identities and the crossing of boundaries, both geographical and conceptual. All of the authors have experienced cross-culturalism directly and are conscious that positions of ‘double vision’, which allow the / to participate positively in two or more cultures, are privileges that only a few can celebrate. Most women find themselves “caught between cultures”. They become involved in a day-to-day struggle, in an attempt to negotiate identities which can affirm the self and, at the same time, strengthen the ties which unites the self with others. Theoretical issues on cross-culturalism, therefore, can either liberate or constrict the /. The essays here illustrate how women's writing negotiates this dualism through a colourful and complex weaving of words - thoughts and experiences both pleasurable and painful - into texts, quilts, rainbows. The metaphors abound. The connecting thread through their writing and, indeed, in these essays, is the concept of ‘belonging’, a theoretical/emotional composite of be-ing and longing. ‘Home’, too, assumes a variety of meanings; it is no longer a static geographical place, but many places. It is also a place elsewhere in the imagination, a mythic place of desire linked to origin.
Policies of multiculturalism can throw up more problems than they solve. In Canada, the difficulties surrounding the cross-cultural debate have given rise to a state of “messy imbroglio”. Notions of authenticity move dangerously close to essentialist identities. ‘Double vision’ is characteristic of peoples who have been uprooted and displaced, such as Australian Aboriginal writers of mixed race abducted during childhood. ‘Passing for’ black or white is full of complications, as in the case of Pauline Johnson, who passed as an authentic Indian. People with hyphenated citizenship (such as Japanese-Canadian) can be either free of national ties or trapped in subordination to the dominant culture; in these ‘visible minorities’, it is the status of being female (or coloured female) that is so often ultimately rendered invisible.
Examination of Canadian anthologies on cross-cultural writing by women reveals a crossing of boundaries of gender and genre, race and ethnicity, and, in some cases, national boundaries, in an attempt to connect with a diasporic consciousness. Cross-cultural women writers in the USA may stress experience and unique collective history, while others prefer to focus on aesthetic links and literary connections which ultimately silence difference. Journeying from the personal space of the / into the collective space of the we is exemplified in a reading of texts by June Jordan and Minnie Bruce Pratt. For these writers identity is in process. It is a painful negotiation but one which can transform knowledge into action.