Haptic Aesthetics and Skin Diving: Touching on Diasporic Embodiment in the Works of Anne Michaels, Dionne Brand, and David Chariandy




Birch-Bayley, Nicole

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This thesis focuses on the aesthetics of the sense of touch – haptic aesthetics – in contemporary Canadian diasporic literature. My reading of diasporic embodiment will discuss three contemporary novels, Anne Michaels’s Fugitive Pieces (1996), Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For (2005), and David Chariandy’s Soucouyant (2007), for what these novels suggest about the incoherent nature of cultural boundaries and the alternative possibilities for embodiment and community formation through an analysis of the sense of touch. Set in the urban and suburban spaces of Toronto, Ontario, these narratives represent diasporic bodies and experiences less through concrete acts of social, historical, or biomedical identification, and more so through creative tactile and affective gestures of agency and community. I explore the ways in which diasporic subjects in these novels negotiate their biomedical, sociocultural, and geographic positions through haptic metaphoric processes of what I call “skin diving.”



touch, cultural boundaries, Toronto, Ont., diasporic