CERLAC Brown Bag: Of No Nation: Writing Enslaved Women into Human Sorority and Citizenship in the Americas

November 25, 2014 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Kaneff Tower 8th Floor Lounge

BB_Jan Anderson Nov 25 2014Janice Anderson is an MA candidate in Humanities at York University in Toronto, Canada. She is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) as well as the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas.

“Of No Nation: Writing Enslaved Women into Human Sorority and Citizenship in the Americas” proposes a critical re-examination of the process of black female subjects writing themselves into being from the genre of slave narrative to other works the research engages as “factitious imaginary renderings.” My presentation focuses on Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes (2007), as a sample rendering of black female presence as “citizen” at “home in the Americas”. It is distinct from slave narratives and neo-slave narrative that revisits the trauma of slavery.

My work engages debates on the function, facticity and emergent subjectivities within slave narratives. It converses with literary theorist Martha Cobb who argued the significance of first-person voice in projecting experiences of black reality on the narrators’ own terms rather than those imposed by the enslaving society (Cobb, 1982). Among others, Timothy Spaulding took up the question of first person narrative as a convention of slave narrative form and as a symbol of black subjectivity (Spaulding, 2005). Historians Sekora and Heglar argue that literary authority remains contested because it was not black storytelling but white authentication that made for usable narratives (Sekora, 1987; Helgar, 2001).

The factitious imaginary rendering encourages a review of Canada’s role in Trans-Atlantic slavery beyond a questionable metanarrative. Particularly through the analysis of Hill’s work, Canada is repositioned in the theorizing of literary and cultural production of the African diaspora.