Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Posted in Books, Canada, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2017-05-30 20:54Z by Steven

Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
October 2017
295 pages
ISBN13: 978-1-77112-240-5

Michelle La Flamme, Professor of English
University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada

Canada’s history is bicultural, Indigenous, and multilingual, and these characteristics have given risen to a number of strategies used by our writers to code racially mixed characters. This book examines contemporary Canadian literature and drama in order to tease out some of those strategies and the social and cultural factors that inform them.

Racially hybrid characters in literature have served a matrix of needs. They are used as shorthand for interracial desire, signifiers of taboo love, images of impurity, symbols of degeneration, and examples of beauty and genetic perfection. Their fates have been used to suggest the futility of marrying across racial lines, or the revelation of their “one drop” signals a climactic downfall. Other narratives suggest mixed-race bodies are foundational to colonization and signify contact between colonial and Indigenous bodies.

Author Michelle LaFlamme approaches racial hybridity with a cross-generic and cross-racial approach, unusual in the field of hybridity studies, by analyzing characters with different racial mixes in autobiographies, fiction, and drama. Her analysis privileges literary texts and the voices of artists rather than sociological explanations of the mixed-race experience. The book suggests that the hyper-visualization of mixed-race bodies in mono-racial contexts creates a scopophilic interest in how those bodies look and perform race.

La Flamme’s term “soma text” draws attention to the constructed, performative aspects of this form of embodiment. The writers she examines witness that living in a racially hybrid and ambiguous body is a complex engagement that involves reading and decoding the body in sophisticated ways, involving both the multiracial body and the racialized gaze of the onlooker.

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The Hybridity Revolution

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2012-06-05 21:45Z by Steven

The Hybridity Revolution

Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review

Michelle La Flamme

Adebe DeRango-Adem (Editor) and Andrea Thompson (Editor), Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out.

Societies that pride themselves on an imagined monoracial norm have rare glimpses into the multi-racial experience. The contemporary literary phenomenon some refer to as the “boom in bi-racial biography” (Spickard) has offered nuanced reflections on the ontological impact of this liminal hybrid position. At their thematic core, most bi-racial and multiracial narratives demonstrate the complexity of this form of embodiment and the semiotics of a body continually affected, and constructed, by the racialized gaze. Several thematic issues are repeated in both Carol Camper’s seminal anthology, Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women (1994), and the more recent Other Tongue: Mixed Race Women Speak Out (2010). The writing in both anthologies is a bold testament to the pervasiveness of multiraciality and ultimately counters many social scientific conclusions. The interest in such anthologies is also in keeping with the rise in autobiography and critical race theories. In both fields there is a consistent tendency to privilege personal accounts of the mixed race experience and, as Camper claims in her preface, the importance of “speaking for ourselves” as “experts on our own lives.”

The women writers in Other Tongues outline moments of interpellation, the power of the racialized gaze, and the stages of their shifting notions of self based on multiply-coded bodies that challenge monoracial definitions of identity. The work accounts for various individual experiences of “passing” and the complexities of a body that is repeatedly read for signs of authenticity. These writers contest the notion of a “post-racial” world in that these poems, memoirs, short stories, and art work continually reference the fact that visual identifiers of race are understood within “always already” historical and cultural conditions that lead to the racialization of the body despite the individual’s efforts (or best intentions) to defy these norms. The editors of Other Tongues suggest that it offers unique perspectives on the “changing racial landscape that [has] occurred over the last decade” in order to offer a “snapshot of the North American terrain of questions about race, mixed-race, racial identity, and how mixed-race women in North American identify in the twenty-first century” in a time that is marked by “the inauguration of the first mixed-race Black president in North America.” However, the anthology is more personal than critical, privileges women’s voices, and fails to represent the range of mixedness in North America. Given that the themes and content echo Camper’s 1994 anthology, the uniqueness of this collection is perhaps overstated…

Read the entire review here.

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Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women

Posted in Anthologies, Autobiography, Biography, Books, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Women on 2011-04-16 04:02Z by Steven

Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women

Sister Vision Press
May 1994
389 pages
8.8 x 5.8 x 1 inches
Paperback ISBN: 092081395X; ISBN 13: 9780920813959
This book is out of print.

Edited by

Carol Camper

Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women is a stunning and long awaited collection of some of the most poignant writing by more than forty women of mixed racial heritage.  Together they explore the concept of a mixed race identity, the fervour of belonging, the harsh reality of not belonging—of grappling in two or more worlds and the final journey home.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Carol Camper Into the Mix
  • Edge to the Middle … location, identity, paradox
    • Camille Hernandez-Ramdwar Ms. Edge Innate
    • A. Nicole Bandy Sorry, Our Translator’s Out Sick Today
    • Culture Is Not Static
    • Lisa Jensen “journal entry 25/10/92″
    • Elehna de Sousa Untitled
    • Nadra Qadeer Spider Woman
    • Deanne Achong Untitled
    • Michele Chai Don’t
    • Naomi Zack My Racial Self Over Time
    • Mercedes Baines Mulatto Woman a honey beige wrapper
    • Mixed Race Women’s Group—Dialogue One
    • Michele Paulse Commingled
    • Lara Doan Untitled
    • Lisa Suhair Majaj Boundaries, Borders, Horizons
  • But You Don’t Look Like a… faces, body, hair
    • Lisa Jensen (one more time now.)
    • Ijosé Two Halves—One Whole (Part I)
    • Two Halves—One Whole (Part two)
    • Ngaire Blankenberg Untitled
    • Blue
    • Joanne Arnott Mutt’s Memoir
    • Lois Robertson-Douglass No Nation Gal
    • Marilyn Elain Carmen The Issue of Skin Colour
    • Claire Huang Kinsley Questions People Have Asked Me
    • Questions I Have Asked Myself
    • Gitanjali Saxena Second Generation; Once Removed
  • My Name is Peaches… obiectification.exoticizaiton
    • Mercedes Baines Bus Fucking
    • Where Are You From? A broken record
    • Michele Chai Resistance 153
    • S.R.W. What is a “Sister”?
    • Barbara Malanka Noblewomen In Exile
    • Stephanie Martin Is true what dem seh bout colrd pussy?
    • Michelle La Flamme Yo White Boy
    • Carol Camper Genetic Appropriation
    • Family Album
  • Some More Stories
    • Annharte Emilia I Should a Said Something Political
    • Victoria Gonzalez Nicaragua, Desde Siempre: War fragments from a woman’s pen
    • Marilyn Dumont The Halfbreed Parade
    • The Red & White
    • S.R.W. For My Sister Rosemary: Just Like Mine
    • Claiming Identity: Mixed Race Black Women Speak
    • Joanne Arnott Song About
    • kim mosa mcneilly don’t mix me up
  • The Unmasking… betrayals, hard truths
    • Lorraine Mention Journal Entry: Thoughts on My “Mother”
    • Letter to a Friend
    • Nadra Qadeer To a Traveller
    • Nila Gupta Falling from the Sky
    • Rage is my sister
    • Jaimi Carter Are You Writing a Book?
    • Nona Saunders Mother Milk
    • Children’s Games
    • Pussy Willows and Pink
    • S.R.W. Untitled
    • That Just Isn’t Right
    • Michi Chase One
    • Karen Stanley Warnings (Suspense Version)
    • Joanne Arnott Little On The Brown Side
    • Speak Out, For Example
    • Anonymous White Mother, Black Daughter
    • Mixed Race Women’s Group—Dialogue Two
    • Heather Green This Piece Done, I Shall Be Renamed
    • Myriam Chancy Je suis un Nègre
    • Yolanda Retter Quincentennial Blues
  • Are We Home Yet?… return to self and cultures
    • Diana Abu-Jaber Tbe Honeymooners
    • Nona Saunders Tapestry I
    • Tapestry II Carole Gray Heritage
    • Bernardine Evaristo Letters from London
    • Ngaire Blankenberg Halifax
    • Kukumo Rocks Route to My Roots
    • Pam Bailey Naming and Claiming Multicultural Identity
    • Maxine Hayman Shortbread and Oolichan Grease
    • Seni Seneviratne Cinnamon Roots
    • Shanti Thakur Domino: Filming the Stories of Interracial People
    • Nila Gupta The Garden of My (Be)Longing 350
    • Gitanjali Saxena Gitanjali’s Bio
    • Kathy Ann March Like Koya
    • Faith Adiele Learning to Eat
    • The Multicultural Self
    • Remembering Anticipating Africa
  • Contributors’ Notes
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Theatrical Medicine: Aboriginal performance, ritual and commemoration

Posted in Articles, Arts, Canada, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations on 2010-02-15 02:43Z by Steven

Theatrical Medicine: Aboriginal performance, ritual and commemoration

The Medicine Project

Michelle La Flamme

Dr. Michelle La Flamme is an Afro-NDN performer, activist and educator who completed a Ph.D. at UBC [University of British Columbia] in English literature (May 2006). In her other life, she is an avid performer and has worked in film and video production. She tries her best to bridge the world of academia and her creative life and she is often asked to speak or perform at Canadian conferences addressing representations of race in contemporary Canadian art and literature. She was born and raised here on the “best Coast” and has had the good fortune of taking her ideas abroad as a guest lecturer in Germany, Spain and The Netherlands. These days she is particularly interested in Native/Black issues as her bloodlines encompass both sides of the 49th and include Métis, Creek and African-American strains. Currently, she teaches Canadian literature, Academic Writing, Introduction to Fiction and Introduction to Poetry at UBC. She makes the time to write, perform and be involved in community activism when she has the energy.

There are many different definitions of Medicine. As a woman of mixed heritage (Métis, African-Canadian and Creek) I have been exposed to many Aboriginal teachings and ceremonies. My own definition of medicine is based on the teachings of traditional elders who have shared their cultural insight with me regarding the power and meaning of medicine. There are Medicine Wheel ceremonies that involve respect for the four directions and the balance between the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of an individual. Medicine can be understood in a psychological or philosophical way whereby individuals go through a form of catharsis when they are guided by the teachings. There is medicine involved in seeking advice from elders by way of offering them tobacco. There is participatory medicine involved in being a witness or participant in talking circles, and there is medicine that is physical in the form of tobacco, sweet grass, sage and cedar. There is medicine in ceremony whether these be sweat lodge ceremonies, moon lodge ceremonies, naming ceremonies or longhouse ceremonies. There is medicine in the practice of creating art whether that be carving, weaving or painting. Some traditional languages do not have a word for theatrical performance, so they use the closest word, which is ceremony. These cultural beliefs about medicine and practices which are referred to as medicinal reflect a belief in the power of performance and the possibility of the performance being medicinal for any and all of these cultural associations with medicine. The performances and plays that I examine in this essay can be understood as medicine in that they bring balance to the witnesses through honouring the deceased by way of naming rituals, they bring balance to communities by showing the humanity of Aboriginal women and they provide a cathartic ritual or ceremony for the release of trauma…

Read the entire article here.


Mixed Messages [Theatrical Play]

Posted in Arts, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations on 2010-02-14 19:38Z by Steven

Mixed Messages [Theatrical Play]

Written by
Michelle La Flamme
University of British Columbia

with help from

Minelle Mahtani, Associate Professor of Geography and Planning
University of Toronto

Burcu Ozdemir

Mixed Messages is a satirical look at the exclusive rules for membership in academic spaces and a jab at racial identity politics in the “mixed race” movement. It was first  performed as part of the monthly Transculturalisms series at UBC, Fall 2002.

Read the script here.

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