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Nomadism, diaspora and deracination in contemporary migrant literatures

Jana Evans Braziel, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The dissertation examines the nomadism of contemporary migrant writers who deliberately resist location and deterritorialize the dérive and déracinement of the nomad. Through nomadism, these writers elude the fixed identity categories—le nègre, le migrant, l'autre—often imposed on them by the country of adoption. These three writers—Edwidge Danticat, Dany Laferrière, and Linda Lê—each write out the diasporic and exilic dislocations of nomadism: linguistic, geopolitical and schizo-social. The hybrid methodology informing this study includes postcolonial, poststructuralist and feminist theories. ^ The first four chapters establish the theoretical parameters for reading nomadic literatures, and the final chapter offers nomadic readings of contemporary Haitian and Vietnamese migrant literatures in France, Quebec, and the United States. These subtitles are problematic; yet, I theoretically problematize these terms and the national boundaries (geopolitical, psychological, and schizo-social) that they signify. Thus, the terms—Vietnamese and Haitian, specifically as situated in France, Québec and the United States of America—are read less as discrete geographical or national domains, and more as a transmuting (if also transnationalist) impulse, a setting of the two states into creative tension. I examine the multi-cultural and plurilingual ‘border crossings’ which occur in nomadic migrant writers, such as Lê, who writes out the linguistic and identitary vicissitudes of migration. Similarly, I explore how two francophone Haitian writers—an émigré in Québec (Laferrière) and the other a refugee/immigrant in the United States (Danticat)—take flight in different languages: the first in a minor usage of French, the latter in a minor usage of English. ^ My analysis of these writers emphasizes several core themes: espaces exilaires; the deterritorialization of fixed identitary categories (whether around issues of gender, nationality, sexuality, or race); the destabilization of language, both the mother-tongue and the colonial (‘colonizing’) language; and the literary and cultural nomadism of migrant writers who ultimately resist immigration. Each migrant writer nomadically deterritorializes the spaces and tropes of migratory writing—territories of old, new, natal, adopted, native, acquired, immigrant, migrant and citizen. Through my readings, I show that even in texts by migrant writers, who move from one place to another, a sort of nomadism persists. ^

Subject Area

Comparative literature|French Canadian literature|Caribbean literature

Recommended Citation

Braziel, Jana Evans, "Nomadism, diaspora and deracination in contemporary migrant literatures" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9978478.