Implanting Ethiopia: Camilla Gibb’s Sweetness in the Belly

By Katayoun Toossi.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 8, pp.163-176. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 632.466KB).

Katayoun Toossi

Graduate Student, Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Katayoun Toossi is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, Canada. Her areas of interest include postcolonial and diaspora studies as well as the semiotics of the veil. Her doctoral project examines literary representations of Muslim women in Muslim immigrant and diasporic narratives in English. She investigates the ways in which an emergent body of literature problematizes the popular and yet simplifying Orientalist conceptions about Muslim women, particularly, those produced by a rival trend called “the New Orientalist Narratives”. In particular, her project demonstrates the complex interplay of diverse elements that form and inform the experience of living in Islam as faith, belief and/or identity and thereby, complicate the idea of compliance with the religion as always a result of the imposition of outside forces that are either oppressive or politically charged in an attempt to move. Her research also seeks to demonstrate how these narratives negotiate boundaries of race, gender and religion that pit human beings against one another and thus foreground the need to move beyond the stale categories of East/ West, colonizer/colonized, self/other in cross-cultural relationships.

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