- Introduction:Fugitivity, Futurity, and a Moving Pedagogy
Six scholars from Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United States have contributed essays to this conversation tracing movement as an underlying theme in the literatures of the Americas that can be revealed by comparative readings. We focus our analyses on auto/biographical narratives and constructions of the self in relation to historic and contemporary movements, whether forced or chosen. The multivoiced format extends and reflects transnational discourses on life writing and generates an assessment of the role of movement in auto/biographical literatures of the Western Hemisphere.
For us, "movement" refers not only to people on the move, to the biopolitical mass mobilization and management of populations in distinct and interrelated phenomena including migration, diaspora, slavery, dispossession, incarceration, and border fortification. It also points to the singular, smaller-scale, sometimes almost imperceptible actions and traces of bodies, texts, images, and sounds "in motion," as black visual studies scholar Tina Campt encourages us to listen for; to the circulation and remediation of life texts across borders and through zones of cultural and political power and disempowerment, as Gillian Whitlock emphasizes in her work on life writing in a global frame (3-4); and to the possibilities of concerted collective action and solidarity that are motivated by dreams of social and political transformation (OED).
Our thematic and theoretical focus on a multidimensional concept of movement is precipitated by a transnational turn in the contemporary field of auto/biography studies. As scholars working in this rapidly transforming interdisciplinary field, we perceive a deep intellectual and social need for intrahemispheric intellectual connections and are committed to building the networks and infrastructure necessary to support them. The contributors to this Forum are active members of the "Americas" [End Page 629] branch of the International Auto/Biography Association, a regional chapter founded in 2013 at an international symposium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which has since convened two biennial meetings, one at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2015, and another at York University, Toronto, in 2017. As our publications to date attest, a founding insight of this trans-American collaboration is that "the historic or contemporary movement of peoples to, in, and from the Americas-forced or chosen-underlies the ways in which identity is constructed in this contested space. Such an understanding of the importance of movement to narratives of the western hemisphere leads to considerations of belonging steeped in the strata of performativity, relationality, and intersubjectivity" (Chansky, "Moving" 7).
Mindful as we pursue this work of the dangers of a "new homogeneity" (Chansky, "Reading Beyond Borders" 15), we have been working towards a "sustained comparative analysis of lives narrated in the Americas" (8) and are endeavouring to heed our colleague and fellow steering committee member Sidonie Smith's call for a deep "resituating of relationality" in the wide-ranging intellectual and activist work of engaging "the cultures of the autobiographical across the Americas" (35). In this Forum on "Movement in the Americas," we consider how particular instances and/or traditions of self-inscription-ranging from slave narratives, ethnographies, experimental poetry, novels, memoirs, poetry, public debates about cultural memory, serial autobiography, and visual diaries-can be understood as responding to historical and contemporary currents of power and dispossession and, more specifically, as wresting underlying mutability into new forms, practices, and rhetorics that foster resistance. We engage, in turn, in a set of shared but variegated self-reflections on the ethical, pedagogical, and political vocabularies and critical practices necessitated by lives and texts "on the move" in the Americas.
The Forum opens with two essays in the field of Black Studies that illuminate the relationship amongst these different scales and dimensions-and indeed contestations-of movement. The persistence and creativity of movement in the face of oppression and displacement is compellingly illustrated by Joycelyn K. Moody's emphasis on "fugitivity" and "shape-shifting" as the core operations of African American women's autobiographies since the eighteenth century. As Moody indicates, the traditions and the emergent modalities of black women's writing not only "choreograph" ways of eluding and exceeding the harsh glare of state and racialized surveillance, but also generate embedded maps and codes...