Spaces and Places in Motion
Spatial Concepts in Contemporary American Literature
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As a result of phenomena such as global migration and their various repercussions, theoretical re-considerations of culture, cultural identity as well as notions of home and homeland have become necessary. As a result, the more general concepts of space and place have become important paradigms in cultural and literary studies and are currently being re-examined as well. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this study looks at literary maps, topographies, and spatial productions and examines the ways in which places and spaces are functionalized as metaphors for the exploration of cultural identities in contemporary American literature. Based on a critical discussion of recent reconceptualizations of spatial concepts, focusing on the works of Michel de Certeau, Pierre Nora, and Henri Lefebvre among others, selected works of Joy Harjo, Garrett Hongo, Toni Morrison, and Michelle Cliff are analyzed. All four authors link their interest in space and place to the inquiry into processes of identity-making against different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. As the analysis can show, they use a wide range of spatial practices to map the intricate relations between inhabitants and "their" places, thus disrupting any simple and straightforward connections between space, place, culture, and identity. Spaces and places emerge as processual, performative, contested and contestable, they are actively created by their inhabitants and not merely static containers to be filled. In this way, the authors use them to question static and essentialist notions of identity while showing the complex entanglements of identity, origins, roots, and home as well as community and nationhood.