The Language of Reification: Mediating Exilic Identities in Post-Yugoslavian Literatures

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Jessica Ruzek, University of Lethbridge, Department of English, Canada


    Identity ‘individual, ethnic, national’ is problematized by the multiplicity and instability that is potentiated in transnational movements and relocations. The breaking apart of identity is, furthermore, accelerated by exile which Edward Said declares as ‘the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted’ (Reflections of Exile, 173). A questioning of identity is symptomatic of the exile who attempts to reconcile the loss of nationality by writing the hyphenated identity into being. The social ecology of displacement necessitates a reconstitution of identity as former identity constructions endure disruptions that defer, or negate, the continuation of its performances. By remaining in ontological transit, the exile experiences a dislocation that is at once physical and metaphysical; it is, Dubravka Ugresic testifies, ‘the restless process of testing values and comparing worlds: the one we left and the one where we ended up’ (Thank you for not reading, 128). In this paper, I argue that the negotiation between worlds is realized in exilic literatures which moderate the ways in which language, despite the multiplicities of meaning it engenders, may be used as a self-reflexive testament of exile. My analysis will focus on David Albahari’s Bait, Dzevad Karahasan’s Sarajevo, Exodus of a City, and Dubravka Ugresic’s The Ministry of Pain. All expatriates of former Yugoslavia, these authors? texts represent the transitioning between identities and the trauma that provokes it. I will examine how each text employs a language of reification whereby the experiences of identity and displacement are portrayed through the instability of dislocated languages and subjectivities as a means to authenticate these experiences in the written artifact. These literary curations reify the authors’ trauma of dislocation, thus establishing an episteme of the ‘essential sadness’ of exile.