Transcultural Space(s) in Black British Women’s Writing

Sebnem TopluConference Room

Gender, identity and power relations are reproduced through both spatial interaction and the negotiation of private and public space. This panel intends to explore women’s relations to and representations of spaces in Black British women’s writing. The overall aim is to investigate how transcultural narratives written by black women writers address a variety of issues such as the complexity of cultural assimilation and identity formation in composite linguistic and cultural contexts. The panel will bring into focus transcultural connections in the works of Winsome Pinnock, Bernardine Evaristo and Andrea Levy.

Spaces of Encounter in Winsome Pinnock’s Leave Taking (Dr. Giovanna Buonanno -University of Modena and Reggio Emilia)

The play Leave Taking, originally written and staged in 1987 and revived at the Bush Theatre in London in 2018, revolves around the life of a Caribbean family in North London and dramatizes the tension between the first-generation immigrant Enid and her second-generation daughters Del and Viv. Memories of Enid’s mother who worked on a sugar plantation help to fill the gaps in the family’s history, a history that is shaped by migration and displacement across continents. The play hinges on the generational clash and mother-daughter relationship, while bringing to the fore a web of interconnected issues such as the tension between home and ‘back home’, personal aspirations vs. cultural allegiance, the long shadow of slavery and colonialism. This paper aims to show that the theatrical space becomes the site for the negotiation of transcultural spaces and the retrieval of female stories and memories across continents and generations.

Networking Women in a Space of Emplacement: Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other (Prof. Dr. Sebnem Toplu- Ege University)

Evaristo’s novel Girl, Woman, Other (2019) is based on women at several stages of life: from a wide range of physical and psychological backgrounds, of diverse ages spanned in a century, covering a large spectrum of issues. Yet, Evaristo creates a rhizomic network of relationships. Foucault in “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias” states that “[t]here were places where things had been put because they had been violently displaced, and then on the contrary places where things found their natural ground and stability. It was this complete hierarchy, this opposition, this intersection of places that constituted what could very roughly be called […]: the space of emplacement”. Thereby, this paper explores how women characters create their spaces of emplacement and argue that in their network women are deployed in a position to fight for their space in the society.

“Why Are You Here?” Gender, Place and Memory in Andrea Levy’s Short Fictions and Essays (Senior Lecturer Dr. Charlotte Beyer- University of Gloucestershire)

In Six Stories and an Essay (2014), Andrea Levy explored fragments of memory and representations of black British subjectivities negotiating complex hostile and/or indifferent spaces. This paper uses the phrase, “why are you here” from Levy’s essay, “Back to My Own Country”, as starting-point for exploring her use of the short prose form to interrogate ideas of belonging, place and literary production in selected texts from Six Stories and an Essay. Examining these short fictions and the accompanying prose essay which reassesses her own and her family’s history, my paper argues that this work throws fresh light on Levy’s evolving poetics as a black British author. Levy’s short prose texts and annotations provide intriguing glimpses into Levy’s imagination, and align with the rest of her body of work to produce a powerful and compelling critique of gender and post-Windrush black British identities.

Sun 11:30 am - 12:45 pm