- Transnationalism and Resistance: Experience and Experiment in Women’s Writing ed. by Adele Parker, Stephanie Young
Transnationalism and Resistance: Experience and Experiment in Women’s Writing is a wide-ranging, theoretically informed collection of essays that explore the interrelations between the concepts and categories of the title. The volume appears to be carefully curated, representing writing by women from many parts of the [End Page 320] globe. While some of the texts that the authors analyze are widely read, many are not well known. One of the volume’s strengths is in bringing critical attention to marginalized authors and texts. The volume’s authors and editors also raise important questions about the politics of identity and representation in an era of greater geographic mobility and increased transnational cultural production. Though the authors and editors offer some answers to these questions, the tension between the variety of perspectives represented in the volume seems more productive, opening up avenues for future inquiry.
In their introduction, Adele Parker and Stephanie Young situate the volume within the field of transnational studies, distinguishing this perspective from a “global” approach, represented here by David Damrosch’s concept of “World Literature.” Citing Françoise Lionnet and Shu-Mei Shih’s argument that the transnational perspective is “less scripted and more scattered” than the “global” and noting that it may be more attentive to cultural specificity, the editors conclude by leaving the political value of transnationalism open: “One of the debates currently in circulation is whether transnationalism is a move beyond the traditional nation-state paradigm, or is just another name for an institution that reinforces the nation state” (3).
While few of the authors engage with transnationalism on a metatheoretical level, most regard the transnationalism in women’s writing as a positive “deterritorializing” force. For example, in Liama Durán Almarza’s essay about Josefina Báez’s performance Dominicanish, Almarza focuses on the liberatory character of the hybrid or “nomadic” identity that Báez seems to embrace in her work. Drawing on Homi K. Bhabha’s influential The Location of Culture, Almarza writes that Báez creates “a Janus-faced ‘third space’ where traditional linguistic, ethnic, and generic boundaries are transgressed and transcended” (47). The author goes on to claim that “the transcultural body of the narrator is enacted in all her multiple embodied subjectivities” only at the “interstices” of the contacts between Dominican and US experience. Adele Parker’s essay on the Slovenian French-language author Brina Svit somewhat similarly (though less emphatically) suggests that transnationalism offers insights and reveals aspects of identity that cannot be accessed in a monolingual, national culture.
Though these and a number of other contributors succeed in demonstrating that transnational encounters are symbolically rich and potentially liberating for individual subjects, the celebration of cultural hybridity does little to advance scholarly understanding of transnational literary production. Theorists like Homi K. Bhabha and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari—whose work underpins many of the arguments in this volume—made important interventions in the 1980s and 1990s when transnational experience and literature were still regarded with suspicion in hegemonic high and popular culture. Concepts such as hybridity, deterritorialization, and a “minor literature” allowed authors and critics to claim and study identities and cultural objects that were either devalued or excluded. Yet, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, many kinds of hybrid identities, as well as the capacity [End Page 321] for cultural and geographic mobility, have become highly valued in the dominant culture. Though this valorization is problematic and excludes other kinds of transnational identities, the theoretical apparatus needs to account for these historical changes.
On the other hand, in this volume, essays that valorize hybrid transnational identities are placed in a productive tension with ones that portray transnational subjectivity as fraught, painful, or traumatic. Stephanie Young’s essay explores the work of Yugoslav author Dubravka Ugrešić, focusing especially on her experimental novel The Museum of Unconditional Surrender. Young develops an interesting reading of Dubravka’s work in...