Ilott, Sarah, Ana Cristina Mendes, and Lucinda Newns, eds. New Directions in Diaspora Studies: Cultural and Literary Approaches. London, New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018. xxxiii + 165 pages. ISBN 978-1-78660-516-0. Hb. £85.
Zadie Smith’s most recent novel, Swing Time (2016) continues her exploration of individual identity in relation to the broader social context by telling the story of an unnamed narrator and her childhood friend, Tracey, members of the second-generation British-Jamaican diaspora in London, whose cultural and racial hybridity positions... them against hegemonic discourses in contemporary British society. The text vividly portrays the consequences of their deviance, particularly how the specific intersections of race, gender, and class they embody limit either their cultural or socio-economic agency, and impair their capacity to construct a sustainable identity. Since the desire to transcend bodily determination in performative ways is as crucial a dimension of the characters’ life journey as is the experience of the effects of socio-economic stratification arising out of intersectional difference, this essay explores the complex relationship between intersectional difference and agency in Swing Time through the double theoretical lens of Rosi Braidotti’s nomadic performative model of identity and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality, arguing that Smith’s novel does not simply bear out Braidotti’s theory but rather interrogates it, especially its insufficient attention to the diverse and disempowering effects resulting from certain intersections of what Braidotti calls “variables” or “axes of differentiation.” (MK)
Butler, Judith, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay, eds. Vulnerability in Resistance. Durham: Duke UP, 2016. x + 336. ISBN 978-0-8223-6290-6. Pbk. $26.95.
Investigating the literary representation of urban spaces and identities the essay untangles the complex psychological and emotional relationship between the heroine and her beloved and hated cities in Sunetra Gupta’s The Glassblower’s Breath (1993). Drawing on Gernot Böhme’s (1993) theory of the atmospheric qualities of space,...Steve Pile’s psychogeographical approach to reading cities, Walter Benjamin’s concept of phantasmagoria, and various interpretations of fascination, it explores the creation of atmospheres in the novel and the role of fascination in the perception of London and Gupta’s female protagonist as phantasmagorias. I argue that—as urban imaginaries—the emotional fabric and atmosphere of the cities portrayed are as much created by their spaces and places, their inhabitants and visitors, as they are manifested and formulated in emotional states of being, whether real or fictional, phantasmagoric or imaginary. (ÉP)
Beezmohun, Sharmilla, ed. Continental Shifts, Shifts in Perception: Black Cultures and Identities in Europe. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016. 190 pages. ISBN 9781443888240. Hb. £41.99.
This essay develops an alternative notion of Black flânerie, one that foregrounds the flâneur’s auditory experiences and practices in the city, explaining how sound patterns work as indexes of historical traumas such as slavery, colonialism, and indigenous dispossession. More specifically, it investigates how sound and space are connected a...nd what these connections may reveal about acoustical and historical conditions of urban sites. Analyses advance readings of spaces as shadowed by sonic traces, echoes, afterlives, and memories, which point to the sedimentation of sound in geographic as well as psychic structures and ruptures and hence show how different soundscapes suggest different forms of relationality: alienation, rupture, intersection, connection, and transformation. Finally, it demonstrates how sound imagery—including music, dialects, noise, voices, and silence—functions to signal fantastic spaces and places, fantastic or speculative linkages in particular, and produces a version of the non-White fantastic. (DKM)
Wilker, Frank. Cultural Memories of Origin: Trauma, Memory, and Imagery in African American Narratives of the Middle Passage. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2017. 302 pages. ISBN 9783825361921. Hb. $49.05.