Sharon Morgan Beckford is associate professor in the Department of Africana and American Studies at SUNY—University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY. Her research interests include Black Diaspora Studies, Caribbean literature, Postcolonial literatures, Black Cultural and Feminist Studies and Canadian literature.
Title: “Mapping A Way to Belonging.”
Abstract: This paper explores Dionne Brand‘s A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging as an archive, yet idealistically a poetic narrative map, beginning epically at the Door of No Return on the west coast of Africa and spreading out infinitely. I argue the main focus is a set of hyperlinks to tension-filled stories across time and space that collectively connect geography and/to history; its method is collecting and recording “conversations” (224) both spoken and unsaid about Black diasporic lives and encounters across time and space. In Map Brand interrogates and challenges selected old world maps, charts journeys, and, in narrative and poetry, re/calls and re/invents the past and actively re/imagines the present and future of new world African peoples. The result is a modern literary artifact: as memorial, Brand maps and builds a different (non-traditional) repository by recording selected experiences of Black people in the New World Diaspora—connecting paths forged from “a place emptied of beginnings” (6). Map charts the points on a journey to a special kind of belonging and future, one based on, as Brand describes it, “a life of conversations about a forgotten list of irretrievable selves” (224)—human dignity. Brand’s Map, then, for inspiration, preserves selected histories that might have otherwise remained unexplored. It makes future retrieval possible, and the possibility of forgetting impossible—and ultimately this is the ageless beauty of this provocative work/book.