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Recap: Baraza with Dr. Tasiyana Javangwe

On Friday January 31, Dr. Tasiyana Javangwe gave a Baraza lecture titled, “‘Dis/eased Others’ – Identity and Agency in Literary Representations of Migrants of African Origin.” Dr. Javangwe is associate professor in the Department of English and Communication at Midlands State University. His publications include: “Colonial heterotopia as metanarrative in White Rhodesian writing: A post millennial reading of Peter Godwin’s Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa.Journal of Literary Studies (2016); “Mythicized selves: constructions of political self-identities in Joshua Nkomo’s The Story of My Life and Edgar Zivanai Tekere’s A Lifetime of Struggle.African Identities (2016); and Vulgar acts of entrenchment: The depiction of the Zimbabwean postcolony in Chenjerai Hove’s Palaver Finish.” Imbizo (2014). He is currently a visiting Fulbright scholar at the Center for African Studies.

Dr. Javangwe’s lecture centered on the concept of dis/easing–how it can be applied as a literary concept and the levels at which the concept is identifiable in existing literary representations. He began the lecture by discussing the development of the word dis/ease. In the past, dis/ease was used to indicate the literal absence of ease, and broadened to refer to the fitness of whole personality which determines ease or disease in adaptation. Contemporary uses of dis/ease refer to pathological conditions, but at no point in time have definitions of dis/ease excluded the socio-cultural and psychological dis/equilibrium between mankind and environment. Dr. Javangwe seeks to connect the two definitions of dis/ease to see how it can be used in the context of African migrants. He argues that to be in the condition of migrant is to be in a condition of dis/ease—in dis/equilibrium with the self, environment, and society.

His lecture analyzed the works of Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstone and Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers through the hierarchies of dis/ease in literary representation—the state of the nation of origin, general migrant neighborhoods, and migrant’s body as a space of dis/ease. The state of the nation of origin refers to the socio-economic and political development of a migrant’s original country and how these characteristics triggers a sense of dis/ease and discomfort in citizens, leading to migration as a desperate option for most. General migrant neighborhoods refer to neighborhoods in host countries occupied by people of a specific nationality, ethnicity and/or race. In these neighborhoods, migrants find themselves in dis/ease due to the poor conditions of these spaces. The conditions of neighborhoods impinge on identity projections that are critical to how migrants are viewed and named in the host society. Finally, Dr. Javangwe described the migrant’s body as a space of dis/ease. He noted that the migrant is always ‘ethnic’, and therefore seen as different physically, socially, and culturally. These differences are identified as qualities of ‘the other’, making the migrant uncomfortable with his/her body, with self, and thus dis/eased within their host country.