Crossroads and Identities: Contemporary Canadian Women Writing Displacement

    • Presentation speakers
      • Magali Sperling Beck, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil / Visiting Scholar, Trent University, Canada


    The crossing of borders has been part of human experience, and the stories we tell of our journeys inform how we imagine ourselves and others in the world. In fact, narratives of geographical displacement have become pivotal in the production and understanding of cultural identities. According to James Clifford, “[c]ultural action, the making and remaking of identities, takes place in the contact zones, along the policed and transgressive intercultural frontiers of nations, peoples, locales” (Clifford 1997, 7). Thus, travel and displacement are reinserted into critical debates about cultural productions and identity-making processes. Despite the fluidity that such crossings might evoke, the travelling (or migrant) subject is constantly re-positioned in the encounter with the foreign. As Karen Connelly suggests, “[t]he body is the first country, the first and the last country” (Connelly 2013, 199). By reading the body as a place of arrivals and departures, Connelly elaborates on the tensions involved in the desire for displacement and the need for grounding. Not only Connelly but also other contemporary Canadian women writers address their interest in embracing the experience of “not being at home” as a way to re-read or re-invent their selves. For them, the crossing of borders is marked by their gendered, cultural and social bodies, which are constantly reading and being read by the people they encounter. In this context, this paper focuses specifically on Connelly’s literary production as a way to investigate in more detail the kinds of questions posed by women writers engaged in writing displacement. The paper also explores to what extent Connelly’s writing allows the reader or the critic to reconfigure the political implications involved in constructing and reconstructing identities at the crossroads.