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'"Outside the raced house": Language, heterotopia and diaspora politics in Toni Morrison's Paradise'

'"Outside the raced house": Language, heterotopia and diaspora politics in Toni Morrison's Paradise'

Baillie, Justine ORCID: 0000-0002-0056-9155 (2004) '"Outside the raced house": Language, heterotopia and diaspora politics in Toni Morrison's Paradise'. In: Gothic Voyages, 9 - 11 July 2004, The Mona Bismarck Centre, Paris. (Unpublished)

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For French philosopher and historian, Michel Foucault, there are several categories of heterotopia and their importance lies in their ability to break up a canvas of rational, ordered and seemingly transparent space. According to Foucault, heterotopias are real sites formed by a number of different principles: they can be recognised as sites which are incongruous, or paradoxical, because they are sites where socially transgressive practices take place, such as in the Convent in Paradise - once an embezzler's palace, then a Convent and ultimately appropriated by traumatised women; they may be sites which are ambivalent or uncertain, because of the multiplicity of social meanings that are attached to them, for example where the meaning of a site has changed or is contested; they are sites with an aura of mystery, danger or transgression, as the Convent has for the men of Ruby in Paradise. Such physical spaces share a disordering and pluralist impulse which can be linked with forms of writing and text that challenge mimetic or realist forms.

Heterotopias are complex sites that seem to contain the possibilities for subversion as well as control and oppression. In 'Of Other Spaces' Foucault talks of the ship as the heterotopia par excellence. It has served a colonising, oppressive function from the 'sixteenth century until the present' and has been 'the great instrument of economic development' but 'has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination.' Paul Gilroy's use of the ship as a metaphor for transatlantic Black diasporic creativity comes to mind as does Toni Morrison's references to ships in Beloved and Paradise. In a reversal of Beloved's horrific 'rememory' of the slave ship at the end of Beloved, Morrison's final images in Paradise are of a ship carrying the 'lost and saved' of the twentieth-century to 'home', rather than to face the injustices of the New World. Paradise or home requires 'endless effort' in the constant reshaping and creativity necessary for its maintenance. Importantly, as Morrison's image of the ship shows, the original trauma of slavery is kept alive in new and positive forms. In this sense, Morrison's mythic concept of paradise is analogous with Gilroy's appeal for a politics of the diaspora, which is encompassed by an appeal towards a universal, or non-racial humanism which again requires constant and vigilant attention.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Internationalism, Foucault, Gothic, Nationalism, Race
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2017 13:14

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