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Complicit Witnessing: Distant Suffering in Contemporary White Canadian Women’s Writing

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dc.contributor.advisor Kamboureli, Smaro McGregor, Hannah 2013-09-12T13:21:23Z 2014-08-23T05:00:13Z 2013-08 2013-08-23 2013-09-12
dc.description.abstract Complicit Witnessing: Distant Suffering in Contemporary White Canadian Women’s Writing examines twenty-first-century literature by white Canadian women that represents, or bears witness to, the lives of “distant others” (Boltanski). Camilla Gibb’s Sweetness in the Belly and The Beauty of Humanity Movement, Kim Echlin’s The Disappeared, and Karen Connelly’s The Border Surrounds Us, The Lizard Cage, and Burmese Lessons: A Love Story can be read as examples of Canadian literature gone “global” and situated within the tradition of literature of sentiment that works to educate Western readers about the lives of distant others while also forging transnational affective bonds. In the context of globalization and the commodification of transnational empathy via neoliberal civilizing regimes, however, care for distant others is irrevocably complicit with a fantasy of distance that would produce the white Western woman as an innocent, rather than implicated, subject. These texts demand a rethinking of complicity beyond accusations of representational guilt based in Orientalist paradigms of power/knowledge. Through an understanding of Canadian literature as a middlebrow institution of national pedagogy, this project questions the discursive production of Canada as a benevolent middle power characterized by humanitarian outreach and white civility, and asks how Gibb, Echlin, and Connelly’s work both endorses and complicates this view. Through the articulation of an ethics of complicity, this project argues for an expansion of the term beyond accusations of criminal collusion to include the sense of enfoldment, implication, and complex affiliation that takes the form, in these texts, of affectively charged transnational (usually romantic) relationships. This focus on sentimental narratives and border-crossing affiliations complicates the ethics of reading that champions textual resistance. Instead, this project explores the tension between resistance and veracity through a methodological approach that heeds both textual complexity and paratextual framing. Complicity is a grounds for neither celebration nor outright dismissal, but provides a way to engage with books that expand the problem of distant suffering and responsibility for the other in the context of how discourses new and old both curtail and over-determine the possibilities of caring for distant others. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.rights Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada *
dc.rights.uri *
dc.subject Canadian literature en_US
dc.subject contemporary literature en_US
dc.subject women's writing en_US
dc.subject fiction en_US
dc.subject poetry en_US
dc.subject life writing en_US
dc.subject complicity en_US
dc.subject witness en_US
dc.subject distant suffering en_US
dc.subject ethics en_US
dc.subject Camilla Gibb en_US
dc.subject Karen Connelly en_US
dc.subject Kim Echlin en_US
dc.subject whiteness en_US
dc.subject authority en_US
dc.subject authenticity en_US
dc.subject middlebrow en_US
dc.subject sentiment en_US
dc.subject sentimentality en_US
dc.subject commodification en_US
dc.subject consumption en_US
dc.subject tourism en_US
dc.subject foreign en_US
dc.subject representation en_US
dc.subject ethnography en_US
dc.subject Ethiopia en_US
dc.subject Burma en_US
dc.subject Cambodia en_US
dc.subject Vietnam en_US
dc.subject becoming other en_US
dc.subject focalization en_US
dc.subject reading en_US
dc.title Complicit Witnessing: Distant Suffering in Contemporary White Canadian Women’s Writing en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US Literary Studies / Theatre Studies in English en_US Doctor of Philosophy en_US School of English and Theatre Studies en_US
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