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Soma Text

Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Michelle La Flamme

Hardcover 295 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-77112-240-5

Release Date: Forthcoming January 2017

Online discount: 25%

$85.00  $63.75


Canada’s history is bicultural, Indigenous, and multilingual, and these characteristics have given risen to a number of strategies used by our writers to code racially mixed characters. This book examines contemporary Canadian literature and drama in order to tease out some of those strategies and the social and cultural factors that inform them. 

Racially hybrid characters in literature have served a matrix of needs. They are used as shorthand for interracial desire, signifiers of taboo love, images of impurity, symbols of degeneration, and examples of beauty and genetic perfection. Their fates have been used to suggest the futility of marrying across racial lines, or the revelation of their “one drop” signals a climactic downfall. Other narratives suggest mixed-race bodies are foundational to colonization and signify contact between colonial and Indigenous bodies. 

Author Michelle La Flamme approaches racial hybridity with a cross-generic and cross-racial approach, unusual in the field of hybridity studies, by analyzing characters with different racial mixes in autobiographies, fiction, and drama. Her analysis privileges literary texts and the voices of artists rather than sociological explanations of the mixed-race experience. The book suggests that the hyper-visualization of mixed-race bodies in mono-racial contexts creates a scopophilic interest in how those bodies look and perform race.

La Flamme’s term “soma text” draws attention to the constructed, performative aspects of this form of embodiment. The writers she examines witness that living in a racially hybrid and ambiguous body is a complex engagement that involves reading and decoding the body in sophisticated ways, involving both the multiracial body and the racialized gaze of the onlooker.

Michelle La Flamme is an educator and performer who is committed to social justice issues. She was born and raised in the unceded Coast Salish territory (also known as Vancouver, BC) and completed her PhD at UBC in 2006. Her teaching and research focuses on Canadian literature, hybridity theories, and Aboriginal theatre. An ardent Canadianist, she has travelled to Poland, The Netherlands, and Germany to lecture on Canadian literature and Aboriginal theatre praxis. She is currently an associate professor at the University of the Fraser Valley.