University of Sussex
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Women's movement: the politics of migration in contemporary women's writing

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:34 authored by Sharon A. Krummel
This thesis focuses on fiction and poetry written by women who have migrated from former British colonies in the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia, to Britain or North America; it explores how issues of race, gender, sexuality, belonging and power are raised through the writings‘ accounts of migration, displacement and changing identity. The thesis stresses the importance of these writings in addressing key issues in feminist politics and in women‘s lives, and in making significant contributions to these debates. It argues that women‘s migration, and literary accounts of migration, are important to feminism, as is feminism to understanding migration. Key texts include Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga; The Unbelonging, by Joan Riley; Lucy, by Jamaica Kincaid; and No Language is Neutral, by Dionne Brand. I also draw on a number of other novels, poems and anthologies of migrant women‘s writings. The diversity of the texts by migrant women that form the basis of the thesis has shaped my understanding of the issues they raise; the breadth and variety of the writing calls for a wide range of critical approaches in order that the writing is, as far as possible, illuminated rather than constrained by any one critical model. I am committed throughout the thesis to a feminist approach which incorporates an attention to women‘s activism along with 'the theoretical'; and which takes seriously the personal/emotional implications both of the kinds of imbalances of power which many migrant women explore and resist in their writings, and of feminist theorising and practice. The thesis consists of six chapters, the middle four of which are organised into two pairs. I begin the thesis with a chapter looking at accounts of women‘s decisions and journeys of migration, and the personal, political and historical contexts in which their migration takes place. Chapters Two and Three, which are paired under the title 'Women and Place', examine the impact of migrant women‘s changing relationships with place, before and after migration, on their sense of home, belonging and identity. In Chapters Four and Five, I move on to address the significance of these writings in terms of feminist politics and contemporary debates about identity, difference and racism. I have paired the chapters under the common title 'Literary Activism' in order to highlight connections between reading, writing and political activism. In conclusion, the thesis looks at representations of women‘s emotional and bodily experiences of the liberatory and/or oppressive aspects of their migrations. It addresses the possibilities –or impossibilities—of migrant women living with, coming to terms with, and resisting their oppressions, both personally and politically. This final chapter brings together, and takes further, various issues addressed throughout the thesis, in terms of writers‘ portrayals of both the effects of migration on women‘s sense of themselves, and of their explorations and responses to the impact of migration.


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  • eng


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