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In-Between – Liminal Spaces in Canadian Literature and Cultures

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Stefan L. Brandt

In the past few years, the concept of «liminality» has become a kind of pet theme within the discipline of Cultural Studies, lending itself to phenomena of transgression and systemic demarcation. This anthology employs theories of liminality to discuss Canada’s geographic and symbolic boundaries, taking its point of departure from the observation that «Canada» itself, as a cultural, political, and geographic entity, encapsulates elements of the «liminal.» The essays comprised in this volume deal with fragmented and contradictory practices in Canada, real and imagined borders, as well as contact zones, thresholds, and transitions in Anglo-Canadian and French-Canadian texts, discussing topics such as the U.S./Canadian border, migration, French-English relations, and encounters between First Nations and settlers.

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Inhabiting Trishanku in Canada: Threshold Experience in the Oeuvre of M.G. Vassanji (Shilpa Daithota Bhat)

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Shilpa Daithota Bhat

Inhabiting Trishanku in Canada: Threshold Experience in the Oeuvre of M.G. Vassanji

Abstract: Cultural multiplicities in Canadian society gesture at acculturation and hybridization processes that seem inescapable. The mixing of cultures is necessarily preceded by liminality. This forms a space that inhabits the territory between hybridization and a state of supposed purity. This essay investigates themes of liminality represented in the works of Canadian novelist M.G. Vassanji, in which the characters are portrayed as straddling various cultures and countries. The concept of liminality, explored by Victor Turner, Bjørn Thomassen, and others revolves around the notion of the ‘in-between’ which is central in Vassanji’s narratives. Due to themes of migration across continents including North America (frequently the place where the protagonists settle down), Canada becomes a ground for the enactment of coalescing cultural energies. The characters adapt to their host society, yet remain connected, sometimes tenuously, to their homeland’s culture. Liminality becomes an unavoidable principle at this juncture. These ideas will be examined through the theoretical and conceptual frameworks of colonialism and diaspora as well as the connection between literature and hybridization suggested by Sten Pultz Moslund. His borrowing of Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of ‘difference,’ ‘sameness,’ and ‘fast and slow becomings’ are dealt with in depth. This essay will look at various theories of liminality in relation to the works of M.G. Vassanji.

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