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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Locating the ideal homeland in the literature of Edwidge Danticat Okot Bitek, Juliane


Edwidge Danticat, who has lived most of her life in the United States, retains a strong link with Haiti and primarily writes about the Haitian experience inside and outside the country. For Danticat, the ‘ideal homeland’ is a psychic space where she can be Haitian, American, and belong to both countries. Danticat's aspiration and position as one who can make claim to both Haiti and the United States somewhat supports Stuart Hall’s notion of cultural identity as a fluid entity and an identity that is becoming and is, not one that is static and was. However, Danticat locates her ‘ideal homeland’ within the Haitian Dyaspora, as a social construct that includes all the people of the Haitian descent in the diaspora, whatever their countries of citizenship. This ideal homeland is an emotional and literary space for continued expression and creation of Haitian identity, history and culture. It is not a geographical space and as such, requires that membership in it engage through text. This paper investigates ways in which Danticat expresses the ideal homeland in her fiction and nonfiction works. I use Dionne Brand, Kamau Brathwaite, Edward Soja and Judith Lewis Herman among others, as theorists to discover this ideal homeland in order to show that Danticat, like many diasporic writers, is actively engaged in locating for themselves where they can engage in their work as they create new communities and take charge of how they tell their stories and how they identify themselves. Danticat’ s work is a valuable contribution to the re-clamation of the Haitian storytelling tradition which she writes in English to a readership that is wider than the borders of both United States and Haiti, thereby redefining the Haitian borders and indeed, the citizenship of who can claim Haitian-ness by being able to relate to and access her work.

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