Textual Trespassing: Tracking the Native Informant in Literatures of the Americas
Shemak, April A.
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This dissertation reframes notions of two disparate fields of study--postcolonial and U.S. ethnic studies--through an analysis of contemporary narratives located in the Caribbean, Central America and the United States. My choice of texts is dictated by their multiple locations, allowing me to consider postcolonial and ethnic studies as simultaneous formations. Throughout the dissertation I use the trope of trespassing in its various connotations to explore how these narratives represent native spaces, migration and U.S. spatial formations. Furthermore, I explore the manner in which testimonio surfaces as a narrative device in several of the texts. I establish the parameters of my project by describing the disciplines and theoretical discourses with which I engage. I argue that it is necessary to expand the boundaries of U.S. ethnic literature to include the literatures of the Americas. Furthermore, I also consider the implications of the trope of trespassing vis-à-vis my own subject position my own subject position and the narratives I analyze. Chapter two investigates the manner in which, despite contemporary theoretical and cultural critiques of essentialism, one continues to sense a reverence for sacrosanct notions of authenticity, origins, and nativism in contemporary narratives. I explore these themes as they occur in texts from Jamaica, Guyana and Martinique and consider how these novels complicate the alignment of indigeneity with essentialism through their use of postmodern narrative tactics. In chapter three, I shift my investigation to Haitian and Cuban narratives of migration and the manner in which testimony, when it is linked to migration, becomes a means of trespassing especially for refugees who must constructing the postcolonial native space as &#8220;corrupt&#8221; as they attempt to gain political asylum in the United States. I argue that such texts as Edwidge Danticat&#8217;s Krik? Krak! and Cristina Garcia&#8217;s Dreaming in Cuban reflect discourses of disease as a way of representing the &#8220;unhealthy&#8221; relationships between the U.S. and Haiti and Cuba. Chapter four charts the movement of the native informant from the postcolonial native locale to the ethnic immigrant space. I use Gayatri Spivak&#8217;s critique of the postcolonial critic as &#8220;New Immigrant-native informant&#8221; as an analytical frame for addressing the ways in which Dominican American writers adopt or reject the role of native informant in the novels (for example, Julia Alvarez, Loida Maritza Perez and Nelly Rosario). Chapter five reflects a convergence of postcolonial and ethnic American concerns as it explores the implications of trespassing and testimony in narratives that represent transnational labor practices. I juxtapose the 1991 U.S. Congressional Hearings which address the plight of Haitian sugarcane cutters in the Dominican Republic through an appropriation of testimonial discourse with the subjective representations of migrant workers in the novels of Edwidge Danticat and Francisco Goldman.