Intersectional Feminist Memory Interventions in British Film and Literature of the 1980s and 1990s

(Roxane Dänner)

In a time of heated debates around migration and national identity, academic approaches to these subjects become more and more important for a critical understanding of diversity and mobility. However, gender as a category of analysis tends to be overlooked in this context. Therefore, my dissertation project is concerned with what I call intersectional feminist interventions into the filmic and literary canon: migrant women and women of colour inscribing themselves into a predominantly white discourse.

The premise of my dissertation is that memories of migration tend to be neglected in official discourses on national history, be it in the United Kingdom or in other European countries. Drawing on recent concepts from memory studies, the project presupposes that, in different forms of media interventions challenging the dominant regime of representation, migrant and diasporic communities develop counter strategies to address this neglect. Yet, these kinds of media interventions usually take the male perspective as a default. This is often based on the erroneous presumption that only men actively migrate (e.g. for better working conditions) and are merely accompanied by women. Therefore, from an intersectional research perspective, my project primarily aims to look at how women of the (Black and Asian) diasporas specifically create filmic or literary interventions.

Based on the premise that narratives play a central role in the production of cultural memory, the body of case studies will consist of fictional and documentary films and fictional literary texts. I will focus on the short films of Black British film-makers Ngozi Onwurah and Pratibha Parmar, and on the (short fiction and poetry) anthologies published by the Asian Women Writers Collective. Working within the specific cultural climate of Britain of the late 1980s and early 1990s, these artists have challenged mainstream representations of women of colour and Black women.