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August 06, 2010

CWWN Conference Panel: ďConstellations of Home GroundĒ.

Writing about web page http://cwwn.sdsu.edu/

Here are my notes on a panel on ideas of home at the CWWN conference . If you were there and I missed something, don’t be afraid to add a comment. It’s hard to remember all the details and I have terrible hand-writing in my notes!

The first speaker on this panel was Bonnie Kime Scott who discussed home as a domesticating term. The most memorable part of the talk for me was where Kime-Scott discussed Barbara Kingsolver’s book of non-fiction essays High Tide in Tucson, the title of which refers to a hermit crab that Kingsolver accidentally brings back with her from the Bahamas to her desert home. Kime Scott suggests that in writing about the transplanted crab, Kingsolver is articulating an ethics of care. Kime Scott also discussed a writer that I hadn’t come across before: Mary Lou Awiakta. Awiakta is a Native American author of the Cherokee tribe and Kime Scott explains that Awiakta presnts in her writing a sacred respect for the earth and for the “Earth mother”. Kime-Scott focuses though on an essay by Awiakta titled Baring the Atom’s Mother Heart , in which a history of Cherokee women is articulated through science: the quark, the atom’s mother heart, the eternal life-force that drives all human beings.

Nuclear energy is the nurturing energy of the universe. Except for stellar explosions, this energy works not by fission (splitting) but by fusion—attraction and melding. With the relational process, the atom creates and transforms life. Women are part of this life force. One of our natural and chosen purposes is to create sustain life—biological, mental and spiritual. (Nantahala Review )

This positive view of nuclear energy contrasts with the attitudes of many American writers, for example Terry Tempest Williams from Utah who wrote about the prevalence of cancer in her family after they were exposed to radiation during the nuclear testing in the Utah desert between 1951 and 1962. See her moving essay: The Clan of the One-Breasted Women .

Next was Pauline Newton who discussed home in relation to ideas of transplantation. Newton mentioned a few writers, but mainly talked about Jamaica Kincaid and her relationship with Wordsworth. Newton began though by discussing the symbolism of gardens in colonialism, noting the colonialist ideal of the garden/colony as a bounteous Eden. In her essay ‘Dances with Daffodils’ and her novel Lucy, Kincaid has described her feelings of disquiet about Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, in part because she associates the poem with the colonial education system. Reconciling herself to the poem, however, Kincaid describes how her own garden has thousands of daffodils and she uses that garden to think carefully and deeply about troubling moments or aspects in history.

Finally Nancy Srebro spoke about Gurinder Chadha and her film Bride and Prejudice focussing on the different spaces that appear in the movie, including Amritsar in India, Britain and LA in the States. Chadha works out of the heritage film tradition and its sentiment for countryside spaces (especially England). Chadha, however, uses the visual style of the heritage film to focus on India and Indian women. So, in reworking Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet family become the Bakshi family and Bollywood meets Hollywood. Srebro notes that in this meeting, a lush and visual India is contrasted against the homogeneity of LA, yet the India presented is a ‘Disneyland India’, which makes it all the more ironic that discovering an authentic India is one of the themes of the film.


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