Britain and the Narration of Travel in the Nineteenth Century: Texts, Images, Objects, edited by Kate Hill and published by Ashgate, is out now. The book offers a rich exploration of British travel to Europe, Australia, China and Africa, and looks at encounters through travel writing as well as objects such as guest books, posters, and guidebooks. My essay “‘The formation of a surface’: European travel in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit” reads the European journey of the Dorrit family through its articulation of borders and boundaries: from the dissolving landscapes of the Alps to the “formation of a surface” by the socially-conscious British abroad.
On Friday 11th July 2014 the IAS Travel and Mobility Studies Research Network held its second annual conference, “Travelling between the Centre and Periphery: Creating a Feminist Dialogue for the Diaspora”. With the aim of developing discussions of diasporic writing and the centre-periphery framework through a focus on feminism in travel narratives, the one-day event included a keynote presentation by the acclaimed Professor Miriam Cooke (Duke University) as well as ten presentations by academics working on contemporary and postcolonial literary studies, migration studies, history of art and contemporary art theory. The day produced rich and interesting discussions on centre-periphery frameworks, theories of the diaspora, transnationalism, mobility and gender, generating a diverse set of feminist perspectives on these themes.
The day commenced with Professor miriam cooke’s keynote on “Women and the Arab Spring”. miriam cooke provided an overview of the role of women during and after the Arab Spring. She argued that Arab women have a century-long history of participating in their countries’ revolutions, irrespective of attempts to remove them from the public sphere. She provided examples of women who have been forced into exile, and thus continue their activism using social media.
The first panel of the day, “Bodies and Flight”, provided three perspectives on the intersections between gender, mobility and diasporic theories. Lindsey Moore discussed Camilla Gibb’s Sweetness in the Belly (2005) to open up wider questions of female identity formation and travel; exploring issues around the representation of religion and spirituality, literacy and reading, and different spaces, Moore ended by suggesting that the text reiterates travelling across boundaries as productive to the identity of the female traveller. Max Andrucki and Jen Dickinson’s paper argued that while economic models are typically privileged in discussions of the centre-periphery framework, a more diverse and mobile concept of centrality and marginality might be posited as a productive theoretical model; two case studies of migrant experiences demonstrated how a ‘performative’ idea of the diaspora could be conceptualised. Anna Ball looked to challenge centre-periphery frameworks through an exploration of bodies in flight, reading three cinematic works that portray Afghan women’s flight to propose the concept of a ‘mobile periphery’.
In “Transnational Travel Narratives”, Ester Gendusa offered a reading of Bernardine Evaristo’s Soul Tourists (2005) that raised questions of identity and belonging, suggesting that diasporic belonging can be perceived as an issue of self-identification with particular groups, communities or identities. Maryam Ala Amjadi’s paper explored gender and mobility in the Safavid world, analysing the writing of a female traveller who travelled from Persia to Mecca in the late seventeenth century. Demystifying the figure of the Safavid female traveller, Amjadi drew links with contemporary representations of Persian/ Iranian women and explored the historical implications of these ideas.
Panel C on “Feminism and the Diaspora” endeavoured to examine the impact migration has on women. Latefa Narriman Guemar shared her research into highly skilled Algerian women who emigrated during the 1990s. Dr Enaya Othman focused on Palestinian immigrant women and the meaning ascribed to their choice of dress, which is often used to demonstrate belonging and affiliation.
In the final panel on “the Diaspora in Visual Arts” both papers explored the feminine visual diaspora; art reflecting interactions with place and the effects of diasporic movement. Kuang Sheng began the panel by showcasing the artworks of a Chinese female artist Yin Xiuzhen who creates ‘Portable Cities’, unfolded suitcases full of manipulated second hand clothes designed to emulate different geographical places. Dr Maria Luisa Coelho focuses on the Portuguese female artist Maria Lusitano who tries to recreate the experience of being torn between home and abroad through her autobiographical visual work.
The organisers would like to thank the Humanities Research Centre, Institute of Advanced Study, Faculty of Arts and Connecting Cultures Global Research Priority for their support.
Roxanne Bibizadeh and Charlotte Mathieson
Travelling between the Centre and Periphery: Creating a Feminist Dialogue for the Diaspora
Keynote: Professor Miriam Cooke (Duke University): “Women and the Arab Spring”
The full programme and abstracts are now online for this one-day conference at the University of Warwick on Friday 11th July 2014, including details of Professor Miriam Cooke’s keynote on “Women and the Arab Spring”.
This one-day symposium seeks to develop discussions of centre-periphery frameworks through a focus on feminism in travel narratives, examining how centre-periphery discourses are complicated, challenged, subverted or reinforced through gendered accounts of migration, ethnicity, identity conflicts and political connections. The symposium will explore how migration and diaspora formations are gendered to develop a centre-periphery narrative which juxtaposes traditional and conventional discourses often associated with the marginalised experience.
Registration is £15 standard (£10 student/Warwick staff) and details of how to register are on the website.
I’ve reviewed William Woods Cotterman’s Improbable Women: Five who Explored the Middle East in the latest issue of Open Letters Monthly.
Call for Papers: Edited Collection on ‘Sea Narratives’
Set in the wider context of a turn towards space and mobility, studies of the sea have come to take increasing prominence in the humanities and social sciences. This volume seeks to establish an interdisciplinary exchange on the theme of ‘sea narratives’, looking at how the sea has figured as an important site in different cultural and geographical contexts from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
The collection will explore how humans have interacted with the sea through trade, labour, migration, leisure and exploration; how the sea has figured in national contexts as a site of geopolitical control; and how it has featured in the cultural imagination as a space of danger and the unknown, but also as a source of inspiration. Historically the sea has been a space of possibility, representing the potential of travel, exploration and trade; it has also been a site of conflict and contest, where warfare and geopolitical disputes play out. From poets such as Derek Walcott, who links the sea powerfully with colonial history, to artists such as Paul Morstad who uses old maps as canvases for fantastic creatures, the sea has inspired a range of creative responses that generate new questions about its power and possibilities.
This collection seeks to investigate these varied, contested and provocative ways in which the sea has been chronicled. Contributions are invited from disciplines including (but not limited to) geography, history, literary studies, media studies, and art history, that focus on the theme of “sea narratives” from the 1600s to the present day. The collection will span geographical locations, taking as its premise the idea that sea narratives benefit from trans-national study. The concept of ‘narratives’ is interpreted broadly, to encompass fiction, travel writing, poetry, film, documentaries, oral stories, and other historical sources.
Final essays will be 6000-8000 words in length, and first drafts will be due in November 2014. Abstracts of 300 words should be submitted by Sunday 4th May 2014. Enquiries and expressions of interest are welcome before this deadline: please contact me at email@example.com
2 new book reviews in the next issue of Studies in Travel Writing: Juliet Johnston’s Victorian Women and the Economies of Travel, Translation and Culture, 1830 – 1870, an interesting exploration of the interrelations between translation and travel that highlights women’s work as translators in the nineteenth century; and Kathleen McCormack’s George Eliot in Society: Travels Abroad and Sundays at the Priory, an insightful new account into the social activity, at home and abroad, of Eliot’s later years.
The latest meeting of the Midlands Interdisciplinary Victorian Studies Seminar, at the University of Nottingham on 16th January, explored the theme of Victorian Masculinities. Holly Furneaux’s (University of Leicester) keynote on gender and care in the Crimean War started the day, seeking to overturn the narrow popular and academic focus on Florence Nightingale’s role in the Crimean War to look at the work of male solider orderlies on military wards. Through a range of diaries and accounts of the war, Furneaux presented a fascinating and complex picture of the gendering of solider orderlies: forging emotional connections with one another, performing physical acts of care, and undertaking typically feminine arts of embroidery and quilting, all contributed to a vital reassessment of military masculinity.