Tag Archives: women travellers

New publication: Walking the City in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, Journal of Victorian Culture

My article “‘A still ecstasy of freedom and enjoyment’: Walking the city in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette” has been published online  in the Journal of Victorian Culture. In this piece, I suggest that Brontë’s writing of women’s city walking makes a significant contribution to the idea of the flâneuse. Through a reading of Brontë’s letters from Belgium and her 1853 novel Villette, I argue that Brontë writes herself and Lucy Snowe into a growing canon of strolling city women, and that she brings a new perspective to the construct of the flâneuse through an embodied articulation of urban city wandering.

I start by looking at the prevalence of travel in Brontë’s letters, locating her within a new wave of women on the move in the mid-nineteenth century. There is a competing tension between the desire for mobility – “such a strong wish for wings” – and the reality of containment within the home, that runs through her letters, and this goes on to shape her fictional writing.* I then turn to her letters from Belgium: the city afforded Brontë new opportunities for “threading the streets”, and she starts to develop an attentiveness to the relationship between body, mobility and space that is developed more substantially in Lucy Snowe’s city encounter in Villette. Here, the thrill of city walking – “a still ecstasy of freedom and enjoyment” – emerges as an acutely embodied experience, and I argue that through this Brontë carves out a new discursive space for her woman walker, shifting from the spectatorship of the flâneur to a more fully sensory experience of the urban environment. This becomes crucial to the strong sense of autonomy and agency that walking affords women; at the same time, Brontë recognises the difficulties of mobility for women, and in the final section I look at how she negotiates this tension through highly embodied accounts of Lucy’s wandering in later sections of Villette.

* I explore this trait in Jane Eyre in my book.

 

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Travelling between the Centre and Periphery: Creating a Feminist Dialogue for the Diaspora

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

“Women & the Arab Spring” at Travelling between Centre & Periphery conference

Travelling between the Centre and Periphery: Creating a Feminist Dialogue for the Diaspora

Keynote: Professor Miriam Cooke (Duke University): “Women and the Arab Spring

c. Leila Bibizadeh 2013
c. Leila Bibizadeh 2013

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.

CFP: Travelling between the Centre and Periphery: Creating a Feminist Dialogue for the Diaspora

IAS Travel and Mobility Studies Network Conference

Friday 11th July 2014

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Key-note address: Professor Miriam Cooke, Duke University

Guest speakers include Professor Haideh Moghissi and Professor Evelyne Accad

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Call for Papers

c. Leila Bibizadeh 2013; http://www.iwantthatpainting.com/
c. Leila Bibizadeh 2013; http://www.iwantthatpainting.com/

In recent years, discussions of travel narratives have examined the creation of the diaspora, highlighting themes of loss and exile using the centre-periphery framework. This symposium seeks to develop discussions 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. Questions to be addressed include: how does travel through forced or voluntary migration create new opportunities to liberate or oppress women? How do women of different socio-cultural and historical locations/parameters formulate their relationship to feminism? We also invite papers to reflect anew on the “centre” and “periphery”. Where (if anywhere) are they located and what is at stake in mapping these spaces today? What does peripheral status imply? How can we re-imagine the centre-periphery dynamic for the current age?

The organisers invite proposals for 20 minute papers which seek to respond, but are not limited to the following topics:

• Multifaceted journeys with(in) feminism
• Geographies of diasporic spaces
• Geographies of feminism
• Transnational feminism
• The transnational exilic and migratory experience
• Body politics in the diaspora
• Forced migration and displacement
• Pedagogies of crossing
• Political mobilisations
• Labour and the economics of migration
• Dismantling stereotypes of the Muslimah
• Debates on Islamic Feminism
• Historiography of third world feminism
Please send 250 word proposals by Friday 25th April 2014 to travelmobilitynetwork@gmail.com

Further information will be added to the conference website in due course.