In the late 20th and early 21st century, cultural productions, and literatures specifically, increasingly deal with topics of both voluntary and forced migration. This is particularly true in the context of the Americas. Migrations always have a multifaceted impact on societies and individuals. Identities, cultures, histories, politics, etc. are all influenced on individual, collective, national, and transnational or diasporic levels. However, it seems as though the individual (or personal) experiences are quite often neglected in prevailing sociopolitical debates. In this regard, it is all the more important to remember that any definitions of phenomena or terms such as “diaspora,” “im/migrant,” “citizen,” “nation,” and "home" and so on must always be seen as preliminary and subject to change and perspective. These terminologies are quite often employed to not only describe and categorize, connect and unite, but also, quite frequently, to dominate and oppress.
This course deals with the specific corpus of early 21st-century novels and life writing by Caribbean/Canadian and Caribbean/US writers who write from diasporic locations in Canada and the US. We will read and discuss a selection of written texts by writers who have emigrated from different regions in the Caribbean to Canada and the US (as well as texts by later-generation im/migrants). These works of so-called “im/migrant literature” contribute, for instance, to our understanding of Caribbean (diasporic) cultures and societies; Canada’s trendsetter status as the ultimate or model multicultural society; intersecting issues of “race,” gender, class, and sexuality; as well as general issues surrounding processes of im/migration. In the discussions of all of the above, questions of belonging and unbelonging, of home and not home, arise inevitably and these questions will take center stage in this course. Considering this seminar's focus on concepts and ideas surrounding topics of belonging and home, we will thus ask questions such as: (How) can belonging and home be represented and critically approached both in our corpus of primary works and beyond? Does living in the diaspora mean losing home? What do the works in question teach us about this region called the Caribbean, as well as Canada and the US? How does literature critically deal with multiculturalism? In this course, literature is always viewed and approached not only in terms of aesthetic cultural production but also as a way of "making and remaking theory".
The focus of the seminar will be put primarily on the reading of a selection of novels and life writings and on group discussions of said corpus. Further reading on context, critical approaches, and terminologies will be assigned (e.g. on Canada and the US as immigration destinations, multiculturalism, the Caribbean and its diasporas, terminologies of home and diaspora).