Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek

Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek is a poet. Her 100 Days (University of Alberta 2016) a book of poetry that reflects on the meaning of memory two decades after the Rwanda genocide, was nominated for several writing prizes including the 2017 BC Book Prize, the Pat Lowther Award, the 2017 Alberta Book Awards and the 2017 Canadian Authors Award for Poetry. It won the 2017 IndieFab Book of the Year Award for poetry and the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. Otoniya’s poem “Migration: Salt Stories” was shortlisted for the 2017 National Magazine Awards for Poetry in Canada. Her poem “Gauntlet” was longlisted for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize and is the title of a chapbook with the same title from Nomados Press (2019). Otoniya is an assistant professor at Queen’s University, Kingston. 

Title: “Elsewhere: A Reflection on Notes to Belonging.” 

Abstract: It was from Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging that I first learned to connect my seemingly constant state of disorientation to maps that were never created to take me where I needed to go. Through the memory of a conversation with my father in which he tried to explain colonization, I reflect on “elsewhere”, a mapping term from Brand, to illustrate the centrality of the colonial narrative as the context from which we think about resistance and state power. I also acknowledge Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks which teaches me why, and how, our navigation in academic spaces is always complicated.