When author meets audience: The potentialities of literature to recreate identities, belonging, commons and (national) community
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores issues of self-identity, belonging and community in literature, commentaries, and real-life encounters at the public library. Its scope is the recent literary surge challenging majority perspectives by young Norwegian authors.
Paper long abstract:
New voices engaged in describing, questioning and enlarging notions of belonging and community have finally conquered the Norwegian literary scene with full force. Recently, several authors exposing and challenging majority perspectives in various ways have won highly prestigious awards and received substantial publicity. The most quoted sentence from the jury's verdict on the debut novel Our Street by political scientist and bureaucrat Zeshan Shakar (b. 1982) stresses how the protagonist "Jamal's way of expressing himself might give many readers a slightly different view of the Norwegian reality." By the publisher, the novel is given the neologism "homestead prose from the satellite town." Similarly, social commentator and feminist Sumaya Jirde Ali (b. 1997) says about her poetry collection Women who Hate Men that she wishes "to kick-start a more nuanced debate about being a young Muslim in Norway." Which she has certainly achieved. This paper explores expressions of self-identity, belonging and community in Shakar and Ali's work, in the public reception and in encounters with audiences at Meet the author events at public libraries in Oslo. What roles do these literary and real-life voices play in the recreation of belonging and imagined communities? How is art and commentary, literary critique and social debate intertwined in and around these works of fiction? Wherein lies their particular potentiality as cultural catalysts? And finally, how can we as anthropologists best grasp and analyse these processes at the levels of subjectivity, the social and the societal?
Roots, routes and rhizomes: narratives of staying, moving and settling in literature