Identity and transnationalism: narrating the Haitian-American home in selected works by Edwidge Danticat


Abstract

In contemporary discourses, the lives of migrants are often marginalised and silenced. For this reason, bringing the theme of migrants’ identities to the foreground in literary research appears to be increasingly important. This article discusses the experiences of Haitian immigrants to the US as narrated by the Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat. I explore the theme of making a transnational home in her novel Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) and short stories from the collection Everything Inside (2019). The analysis is based on a combination of two theories: Steven Vertovec’s theory of transnationalism and Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy of narrative identity, which enable interpreting intergenerational identity changes, certain methods of cultural reproduction, and “little” cultural cross-connectedness of “family and household” (Vertovec 2009: 3-18) in the context of personal identity understood as formed through narratives. This article focuses on the transition from a Haitian home to an American one as an important part of identity-formation processes. It also views a migrant’s journey as still incomplete after coming to the US and requiring “emplotting” (De Fina 2003: 17) its fragmented events into stories. The article attempts to demonstrate intangible ways of creating a transnational home and domestic methods of narrating and negotiating one’s cultural identity in Danticat’s fiction. I claim that Danticat’s works narrate personal experiences to generate a “refigured” understanding of time and transnational ties within the family sphere.


Keywords

transnationalism, home, identity, Haiti, storytelling, trauma

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Published : 2022-08-01


Dudek, M. (2022) “Identity and transnationalism: narrating the Haitian-American home in selected works by Edwidge Danticat”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (36). doi: 10.15290/CR.2022.36.1.06.

Mateusz Dudek  matdud2@amu.edu.pl
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland  Poland
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5580-6760

Mateusz Dudek obtained his MA degree with distinction in 2020 in the field of literary studies at the Department of English, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. He continues his academic education as a doctoral student at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. His research concentrates on analysing the issues of narrative and cultural identity in contemporary diasporic literature written in English. His publications include: “2084. The End of the World. Subjectivity and Power in Boualem Sansal’s Vision of an Islamist Totalitarian Society”, published in a post-conference volume entitled Faces of Crisis in 20th- and 21st-Century Prose. An Anthology of Criticism (Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2020) and “Krik? Krak! and Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat: The Transnational Experience of Haitian Refugees”, published in Archiwum Emigracji Vol. 28 (Toruń, 2020). He is interested in political philosophy, the theory of transnationalism and diaspora studies, and the works of Edwidge Danticat, Boualem Sansal, and Philip Roth.