EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Writing across borders: textual mediation and collaboration in an interconnected world

Location S-232
Date and Start Time 31 July, 2014 at 14:00


Helena Wulff (Stockholm University) email
Pál Nyiri (Vrije Universiteit) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Writing and reading fiction, reportage and other genres across borders are expanding and increasingly diverse activities. The scrutiny of relationships between texts and shifting social contexts raises key issues in relation to diasporas, literacies and translation.

Long Abstract

Writing and reading across borders are expanding and increasingly diverse activities influencing cultural, political and academic debate. Reportage as well as fiction by diaspora writers are now a major source of understanding of a mobile world. Yet diasporic writing is becoming harder to distinguish from writing by other authors who are globally mobile and often write in more than one language. Many writers contribute to the transformation of the global order of writing, publishing, reading and critique. The scrutiny of relationships between texts and shifting contexts raises key issues of literacies and diasporas, and more generally of the influence of migration and media. This circumstance accentuates the importance of exploring in detail the structures and processes of writing, publishing and reading across borders, and across genres and languages. Home audiences, diaspora audiences and global audiences are different, and may be reached through different writing and publishing strategies. What are the characteristics of diaspora writers? What are the topics that reach across borders? How do publishing markets operate? What are the processes of collaboration between literary actors? The role of translations is important - at present these channel transnational cultural flow only very unevenly. Yet, a far broader range of "bridgeblogs" and other online media ensure that these flows are faster and wider-reaching than before. The panel welcomes papers on writers and writing in the diaspora, and related anthropologies of border-crossing literature and journalism, translation, literacy, and transnationally oriented genres such as crime novels, memoirs, and travel writing.

Discussant: Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Writing from an imagined diaspora

Author: Oscar Hemer (Malmö University)  email

Short Abstract

Rather than blurring the boundaries, cross-border writing makes them more transparent. The presentation discusses two interrelated projects: a dissertation in a literary form, and a novel trilogy written from an imagined diaspora, as if the author were an Argentinean exile in Sweden.

Long Abstract

Writing across borders is usually associated with the literal experience of exile: Writing in or from a diaspora, addressing the "host" culture, or the imagined "homeland" (which is often a temporal rather than spatial category). But borders can just as well be boundaries between genres, or disciplines, in which case exile and diaspora still appear as apposite metaphors.

I am engaged with all these forms of transgression and my reflections upon their interrelations are based on two recently concluded writing projects:

• An artistic research project investigating the role of fiction in the transition processes of South Africa and Argentina, and

• A novel trilogy with strong thematic connections to the Argentinean case study.

Whereas the first project in the end resulted in an academic dissertation, although in a literary form, the second project was informed by the academic research in a way that paradoxically emphasized its fictionality.

Rather than blurring the borders, the transgressive efforts made them more transparent. In recent writing I attempt to merge academic and literary approaches in a cross-genre that I tentatively call ethnographic fictions.

The Argentina Trilogy is written from an imagined diaspora, as if I were an Argentinean exile in Sweden, addressing experiences that obviously resonate more with an Argentinean audience than a Swedish one. Yet unless the trilogy is translated to Spanish, these potential connections will never occur. Language is the principal barrier that I am constantly and increasingly confronted with, and translation is crucial to all forms of transgressive writing.

Transnational creativity in Irish: a case of "vernacular cosmopolitanism"?

Author: Máiréad Nic Craith (Heriot-Watt University)  email

Short Abstract

Focusing on the Dutch-born writer Alex Hijmans and the Finnish-born writer Panu Petteri Höglund, this presentation explores the emerging phenomenon of immigrant creativity in the Irish language from the perspective of literary anthropology.

Long Abstract

Focusing on the Dutch-born writer Alex Hijmans and the Finnish-born writer Panu Petteri Höglund, this presentation explores the emerging phenomenon of immigrant creativity in the Irish language from the perspective of literary anthropology. It asks why Hijmans and Höglund choose to publish in a minority (albeit official) language. What issues are of interest for these writers and how do their writings compare with publications by native-born Irish-speakers? A focal point is whether the act of writing in Irish as a second/third language reflects a position of dis-placement/re-placement or dis-location/re-location for Hijmans and Höglund and the extent to which they are opening up new geographical spaces in the Irish-language publishing world. The presentation queries whether the act of crossing boundaries into Irish language publishing is an expression of what Homi Bhabha calls "vernacular cosmopolitanism" - that is an expression of solidarity with a people whose language has been subject to colonial exploitation in the past. To what extent is writing in Irish a reaction against the growing phenomenon of Anglicisation? Finally the paper queries whether Hijmans and Höglund are simply "freaks on the margins of global cultural production" or pioneers of a new form of migrant creativity on the Island of Ireland.

The role of travel literature in the production of Paradise

Author: Anette Nyqvist (Stockholm University)  email

Short Abstract

The cosmopolitan literary genre of travel writing translates, mediates and circulates accounts from and of the world. This paper explores travel writers who with continuity produce a notion of the South Seas as ‘Paradise on Earth’.

Long Abstract

The cosmopolitan literary genre of travel writing translates, mediates and circulates accounts from and of the world from one local setting to another, and over time. This paper presents a planned study of Western travel writers' persistent and persuasive accounts of life in the South Seas as 'Paradise on Earth'. For 250 years, travel writers have travelled to the South Seas, found it to be 'Paradise' and written home about it. The forthcoming study is both of a genre and a profession in which I seek to understand how the discourse of 'Paradise on Earth' is constructed and also what makes it resilient. The texts analyzed will be in English and cover the genre from early accounts of British explorers through contemporary American and Australian travel literature that cater to a large readership. For comparative insight the more limited Swedish travel literature on the South Seas will also be taken into account. As a particular corpus, travel writing is one of the oldest forms of literature and has in fact been more influential in shaping perceptions of people and places than scholarly ethnographic publications. Contemporary travel literature lump together the thousands of tropical islands scattered in the South Sea and turn them into an idea rather than a geographical location. The project will contribute to a debate on exoticism and domination through textual (mis)representation. The issue at stake is: How does Western travel literature, past and present, produce the resilient notion of the South Seas as 'Paradise on Earth'?

Speaking truth to power: the role of public intellectuals in Ireland and beyond

Author: Helena Wulff (Stockholm University)  email

Short Abstract

Taking Edward Said´s idea of writers as public intellectuals who speak the truth to power as a point of departure, this paper explores the social world and work of Irish writer-public intellectuals in Ireland, Britain and the United States.

Long Abstract

On a recent upswing, the anthropology of literature and writing goes a long way

back. In a study of the social world of contemporary Irish fiction writers and their English-language work, a number of these writers such as John Banville, Colm Tóibín and Fintan O´Toole stand out as public intellectuals. In addition to writing novels, short stories, and plays, they write journalism commenting on Irish political and cultural affairs. Many of them come out of journalism, and this continues (even for those who acquire a transnational reputation) to be one way of making a living. As they do not only write for Irish Times, but are also regular contributors to British and U.S. newspapers and journals, primarily The Guardian, the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books, they write and are read also as public intellectuals, across borders.

Taking Edward Said´s idea of writers as public intellectuals who speak the truth to power as a point of departure, this paper explores how Irish public intellectuals form an eloquent ethnographic case that illuminates theoretical issues of emigration and exile, postcoloniality, the conflict and post-conflict in Northern Ireland, and sudden prosperity followed by a dramatic downturn. Because the Republic of Ireland is a small country, there is a sense on certain occasions that a public intellectual can summon his or her compatriots over a national predicament, perhaps identifying alternative perspectives and a way forward.

How an oral language becomes a literary one (the case of "Grecia Salentina")

Author: Evgeniya Litvin (Russian State University for the Humanities)  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines the way of literary language ща еру Greek minority in Salento (Italy) formation, its interference with the official languages (Italian and Greek) by means of texts translations and literary genres adoption and the meaning of this process for the local society representatives.

Long Abstract

The Greek minority of Salento (Southern Italy) conserves its dialect over at least 1000 years but since the decadence of the Byzantine Empire it became a rural oral idiom valued at a low rate. Since the beginning of the 20 century it gradually achieved the status of a literary language, in a great measure due to the efforts of local intellectuals that wrote grammar books and dictionaries for it and collected folk poems and fairy tales. They also created their own poetry in this dialect. The presented paper examines the strategies they used in order to enrich the "poor" rural language vocabulary, the literary genres that turned into account and the way of how translations from Italian, Greek and Latin have been made.

During the last decades when this idiom is almost disappeared as an actually spoken language their works and activities became a mThed" giving a material for performances, school courses etc. Research that has been made includes the results of the field work considering the reflections of the poets themselves, members of their families and other representatives of the society on the links between the language, literature and the boundaries of the society.

Indigeneity, identity and representation in north Australia's Gulf Country

Authors: David Trigger (University of Queensland)  email
Richard Martin (University of Queensland)  email
Philip Mead (University of Western Australia)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores fiction, autobiographic and scholarly writing focused on overlapping and contested social identities in north Australia. Analysis of this literature is complemented with ethnographic studies of the significance of indigeneity, ancestry and sense of place.

Long Abstract

The Aboriginal author Alexis Wright's novels Plains of Promise (1997), Carpentaria (2006) and The Swan Book (2013) have prompted scholars and critics towards enthusiastic comparisons with the ground breaking work of a range of international writers. With her novels all set partly in the remote Gulf Country of north Australia, Wright's genre arises from intellectual and political commitment to Indigenous people, and aspires to the idea of a distinctive 'Aboriginal sovereignty of the mind'. Much less known, yet we argue of complementary significance, are a broader suite of writings about this region, and we address representations of cultural identity and connections to place by authors with both Aboriginal and European ancestries. With our interest in a deliberately cross-disciplinary methodology, ethnographic research complements our focus on texts, to facilitate analysis of diverse identities in a setting produced through both the resilience of Indigenous cultural traditions and the legacies of European settler colonialism. We argue that the range of authorial representations arising from this sector of Australian society provides a focus for understanding shared and contested postcolonial imaginaries about place, culture and identity.

Writing across margins: upscaling and crossing trajectories of a slum-based autobiography

Author: Karel Arnaut (KULeuven)  email

Short Abstract

This paper envisages a descriptive and methodological contribution to the panel’s theme by presenting a case of collaboration between an anthropologist (myself) and an author cum slum-dweller in view of the editing, partial translation, and publishing of the latter’s 500-page autobiography.

Long Abstract

This paper presents a case of collaboration between an anthropologist (myself) and an author cum slum-dweller from Côte d’Ivoire in view of the editing, partial translation and international publishing of the latter’s autobiography.

The 500-page autobiography in question is entitled ‘Le companion: journal d'un Noussi en guerre: 2002-2011’ (The companion : diary of a Noussi at war 2002-2011) and is written in a mixture of French and urban vernacular by a former member of an Abidjan-based ‘patriotic’ militia whose nom de guerre as well as nom de plume is Marcus Garvey. The Noussi in the title indicates the author’s self-identification as a homeless school dropout.

This paper reflects on the three-year long trajectory during which an assorted set of hundreds of hand-written pages became the object of a project shared by Marcus Garvey and myself aimed at making this autobiography in-the-making reach wider audiences: (a) obviously, fellow ‘Noussi’ youngsters and urbanites but also middle-class publics, (b) within and outside Côte d’Ivoire (mainly France), (c) consisting of both former ‘patriots’ (and their ideological allies in the Ivorian diaspora) and their ‘liberal’ opponents who currently occupy powerful political and economic positions in Côte d’Ivoire. These processes and trajectories of social and geographical upscaling as well as political and ideological crossing entail myriad lexical, textual, and metalinguistic operations, which this paper tries to map out within an ethnography of grassroots literacy.

Methodologically, this paper revisits Fabian’s seminal 1979 paper on ‘ethnography as communication’ and Karen Barber’s work on popular culture and literacy, before engaging critically with recent mobility-related conceptual tools: navigation, ‘nonscalability’, ‘itineraries/trajectories’, and ‘infrastructures’. The overall purpose of this exploration is to develop a new analytical framework for the study of transcontextual communication and exchange.

A medieval oral legend from India: its new global reach via graphic novels and animated TV broadcasts

Author: Brenda Beck (University of Toronto)  email

Short Abstract

A Canadian Anthropologist has recently re-told a medieval oral legend from India, employing modern animation and graphic novel formats. The paper compares audience reaction to this work in India and in Canada, places where this 13 hour story was broadcast, versus sharing the books in Poland via six University lectures.

Long Abstract

A medieval legend from India has just traveled around the globe, thanks to its re-telling by a Canadian anthropologist. The story was animated in a 13 hour double series for TV by an Indian artist, grandson of a traditional teller, and recently written down in book form as a set of graphic novels. There is even an ipad ap and a digital game. This work has only been available for six months but already many audiences are providing their reactions, particularly in settings where it is currently running on TV. In addition the story is being taught at the third and the sixth grade level to Diaspora students in Canada, and is about to be used by a high school teacher in Chennai, India. Several university faculty have adapted the legend for course work and a series of university lectures was recently delivered in Poland during an invited four-city tour there. This paper will compare the interest expressed in different aspects of the story by these multiple audiences and it will also chart the educational direction this entire project is now headed in. This is a multi-media undertaking with wide cultural implications for blending traditional and modern perspectives, both within India and around the globe. Cross-cultural sharing and a universal fascination with “the other” are both playing a part in this venture. The author, herself, will be the speaker and small excerpts used in the TV series will be shared with attendees.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.