This paper analyzes the ways in which the novel, Sweetness in the Belly by the Canadian writer and scholar, Camilla Gibb achieves a double goal in her treatment of difference and complexities of human existence in trans-cultural encounters. The narrative successfully bridges the fields of academic knowledge and literature and thereby enlarges the scope of what constitutes valuable knowledge in the Humanities. Such knowledge, according to Gibb, needs to be “transformative” in the enabling sense of fueling a search for the self by empathically “affecting” people’s perception of differences. Inspired by “the ‘idea’ of Ethiopia” introduced by a friend and supported by her meticulous doctoral research, Gibb demonstrates a kind of “critical consciousness” that according to Edward Said, is a major feature of a socially responsible intellectual. Ironically, the credibility of this penetrating account is in spite of, or perhaps precisely because of, the author’s ethnic and religious differences with the people she portrays and thus complicates the idea of authenticity of representations accorded to exilic voices of the recently emerging popular autobiographical accounts of women writers from Muslim and/or Middle Eastern backgrounds. One of the most important challenges of our time, as Said has aptly pointed out, is “coexistence”. Gibb’s work conveys important implications about the role that the Humanities could perform in achieving this goal.
|Keywords:||Trans-cultural Encounters, Making Knowledge, Subjectivity and Objectivity, Diaspora and Refugees|
Graduate Student, Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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