Translational Space and Creolising Aesthetics in Three Women’s Novels: the Radical Diasporic (Re)turn

Published: May 1, 2015
Velma Pollard Beryl Gilroy Andrea Levy Caribbean translation diasporic imaginary creolization
Joan Anim-Addo

Proposing the notion of translational space, I consider the classroom and the literary text as crucial though differentiated spaces of translation. The idea of translational space borrows from Doreen Massey’s elaboration of space as a “complex web of relations of domination and subordination, of solidarity and cooperation.” I interlink the complexity of Massey’s “web” with an intention by the radical Other to translate, and interrogate how selected Caribbean diasporic texts might be shown to engage a process of translation, and for whom, particularly in light of George Lamming’s pronouncement concerning the West Indian writer, that “[h]e writes always for the foreign reader”. What is the translational impetus of a later generation of writers who Lamming was unable to imagine, namely, women authors of the region? I consider the translational space created by those authors’ challenging of canonical traditions that not only break through publication barriers, but place black women protagonists as central to their writing. The crux of my enquiry is the diasporic imaginary–represented in Beryl Gilroy’s In Praise of Love and Children, Andrea Levy’s Small Island, and Velma Pollard’s Karl–an imaginary which, centring black women characters is also concerned with a dialogic representation of the Other. I highlight issues of Creole or Caribbean identity that such an imaginary figures in its aesthetics and I foreground the diaspora as contested space whether public or intimate. Additionally in these texts, the (re)turn, as I consider it, affords a contemporary contextual presencing in dialogue with a violently muted historical past. Arising from this, my larger questions concern the meanings that might be inferred from such a Creole diasporic imaginary and its representation in terms of aesthetics and translational space. I explore the fictional representation of Caribbean lives “on the move” in Cresswell’s terms and their transnational representation. In their gendering of creolisation, diaspora and race, how do the writers translate the spatial interface that their characters negotiate? Whether in memories of Toronto in Pollard’s writing or in the London of Levy’s and Gilroy’s fiction, how do these texts represent space not only as cultural crossings but also as translational space within the new triangle that contests and dislodges notions of identity?

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Author Biography
Joan Anim-Addo
Joan Anim-Addo is Professor of Caribbean Literature and Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is Director of the Centre for Caribbean Studies. Her publications include the libretto, Imoinda (2008); poetry, Janie Cricketing Lady (2006); and literary history, Touching the Body: History, Language and African-Caribbean Women’s Writing (2007). Her co-edited books include Interculturality and Gender (2009), I am Black, White, Yellow: An Introduction to the Black Body in Europe (2007). She is co-editor of the Feminist ReviewSpecial Issues, ‘Affect and Creolisation’ (2013) and ‘Black British Feminisms’ (2014). She is co-editing ‘UNCHAINING SELVES: The Power of the Neo-Slave Narrative Genre’ (Callaloo). 
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