Transcultural Bodies: A Comparative Approach to Dissident ‘Minor’ Women’s Writings in Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish

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de Medeiros Mota Pimentel, Joana




Postcolonial criticism has been academically defined by an over-reliance on Anglophone texts creating a new type of dominant discourse under which other postcolonial contexts get subsumed. This dissertation is a comparative study of transcultural literary works written by women in Portugal, Spain, and Italy as well as these countries' former African colonies Mozambique, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Somalia. It brings into conversation Lusophone, Hispanophone, and Italophone texts by Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida, Isabela Figueiredo, Dulce Maria Cardoso, Paulina Chiziane, Igiaba Scego, Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, Guillermina Mekuy, and María Nsue Angüe in order to highlight their shared preoccupations with breaching national myths, countering stereotypes, and historical redress. In other words, the aim of my project is to show how these texts contest Eurocentric national representations and propose new ways of belonging, insisting on the plurilingual and multifaceted realities of a world increasingly shaped by migration and diaspora. I use a postcolonial lens in my commitment to dismantling imperial narratives but I also shed light on it by drawing attention to the 'minority' status of these less canonical literatures and the silenced voices they bring into light. I follow the 'minor' transnational model of Lionnet and Shih to illustrate the productivity and creativity of horizontal transcolonial perspectives. My first approach to demonstrating the common dissident nature of these texts focuses on language. I outline how the writers use particular language-related strategies to resist and decolonize different regimes of authority and carve out rebellious forms of agency and subjectivity. Beyond language, I move on to explain how texts negotiate cultural difference through the category of the 'racialized' body marked by gender, race, and social status, specifically analyzing how signifiers of 'otherness' such as hair and skin colour both inform and disrupt lingering imperial narratives. Thirdly, by drawing on social history's attention to common people's voices, I look at these texts as repositories of national and transnational memory and present their contribution to rewrite historical representations of the South, which refers both to Africa and to the peripheral position of Southern Europe in the West.


Literature - Comparative




Carleton University

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Cultural Mediations

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Theses and Dissertations

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